Saturday, June 11, 2011

Intermediate Snow Part 2-LMR

You may recall that last summer I sprained my shoulder. Yup, I remember! The injury not only prevented me from participating in the sprint triathlon last summer, but it also precluded me from going to the Intermediate Snow field trip with Dan. Well, today was my make-up day. The snow school director invited me to join this year's class, so I did.

We met in South Boulder at 3:30 this morning. We drove up to the Bear Lake trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a gorgeous, bluebird day from the start. We began hiking as dawn was breaking in the east. To everyone's surprise, there was a ton of snow everywhere! Not 30 minutes from the trailhead did we put our crampons on because the snow on the trail was ubiquitous and very icy.

We hiked up to a slope near Lake Helene. There we practiced crampon and self-arresting techniques for about an hour. Then we started hiking towards the couloir at the edge of the bowl. However, once we got past Lake Helene our instructors noticed huge cornices on both sides of our route that might break off in the hot sun. So, it was on to plan B.

There was another slope off to our left that we decided to try. The bottom 300 feet or so were at a 30-degree angle, and then what looked like the upper part was a steeper 35- to 40-angle. However, once we got past that section, the slope started to gradually flatten. So much so, that repeatedly I thought I was 20 steps from the top, but it was more like 400 steps. We stopped for lunch shy of the Flattop Mountain summit. Then, the plan was to hike the rest of the way up the mountain and take the neighboring Tyndall Glacier down back to Bear Lake. Unfortunately, 200 feet from the summit, we had a good look at the glacier and it was more corniced than the other side! It looked like some weather was rolling in, so we quickly turned around and glissaded down the slope we had just come up. Then we traced our route back to the parking lot.

Using crampons to attack snow slopes is so much fun! I really want my own pair of plastic boots and spikes to climb up all our snow! All in all, today was super fun and we were out hiking 10 hours. It's 6:30 and I'm ready for bed!

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