Friday, May 1, 2009

The Elevator Shaft

We finally skied the Elevator Shaft (Chaos Couloire) on Hallets peak in RMNP on Wednesday. We found perfect corn conditions for the outing after thinking we were hosed by warm weather. The temperature in Estes park was 48 degrees at 6am and we thought there was no way the snow would get a good freeze to give us the corn we needed. Boy were we wrong.

The group of John, Simon, Steve, and I headed out of Bear Lake parking lot a bit before 7am after a nice stop at Starbucks and MickyDonDons in town. I love spring skiing. The packs are light, the temps are kind, and the sun shines (if it is out) for a long time. You also get back to town in time to work half a day with a huge grin on your face.

The two options were the Elevator Shaft and the Otis Couloire. As we skied across lake Hayaha it became apparent the Elevator shaft was in prime condition so we made a beeline to the base. Besides John getting a bit lost in the moraine boulders the skin up to the true start of the couloire was uneventful. The sun was beginning to warm the snow just a bit, and a cool breeze kept us form overheating. Steve was kind enough to kick steps pretty much up the entire run and the rest of us enjoyed his great work.

At the top of the couloire where the angle lessons and the snow widens were were given a treat. Four mountain goats (or is it sheep?) greeted us at the summit ridge and watched us from a safe distance as we kicked the last few steps. The view into Tyndall Gorge was amazing and we decided to get skiing before the snow got too soft.

The run down was one of the best runs of the year. An inch or two of corn over a sturdy base after the initial low angle slopes proved to be great turning conditions for all. John led us down and Simon showed us how to be confident and just rip the slope.

As we looked back up the run we could not stop smiling and giving each other congratulations. I convinced the group to go up and over the shoulder of Hallets to ski a Dream Chute run and we skied out in perfect sunshine.

At the parking lot we changed into more comfortable cotton and flip flops, making plans to get out again next week. The cotton and flip flops are another aspect I love about spring skiing.

Happy Turns and I am looking forward to getting out on the rock as well.

-Mike Alkaits

Gear used on this outing by Mike Alkaitis:

Skis: K2 Combas
Bindings: Dynafit F12
Boots: Black Diamond Factor
Skins: Black Diamond STS Light
Beacon Shovel and Probe: Backcountry Access
Shell: Marmot Mica Jkt
Pants: Marmot Scree Pant
Poles: Black Diamond Whippet
Pack: BCA Alp 55

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