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TR: Murica, Winter Edition

9:02:08 PM
Wow, it's been so long since I logged on to chockstone that I had to try quite a few times to remember the password.

I haven't quite yet died as a climber and moved on completely to endurance sports (I even have a mountain bike now, sheesh, it's only a matter of time before a road bike and lycra in matching colours), but a ground fall a couple years back, followed by a chronic case of elbow tendinosis as I tried to get back to my previous level, got me off the mad keen climber train.

I went to the USA in March to ski, and stayed with a friend in BoulderColorado. Boulder is of course really a climbing town with a skiing problem, and not the other way around. (The marijuana problem goes without saying).

I hadn't climbed in five weeks or so, so the perfect reintroduction was a 200m free solo. Off to the Flatirons we went to do the 5.2 "Diagonal" route on The Slab in a group of four. There were a few necky moments.
At a seeping crux section complete with snow in the crack, I consolled myself with the thought I could "just escape off right". A few shakey moments I had to yell up at the others to slow down, but eventually we gained the ridge for a fine scramble to the summit.

Honestly free soloing in the Blue Mountains has always struck me as sandy hold-breaking death, but on those clean, solid, endless very-low-angle slabs of the Flatirons it's a nice outing. I went back a couple days later and did the popular (and easier) one on the Second Flatiron, properly solo except for the frat boys, sorority girls, and drones sweating around on the hiking trails below.

We also did some nice climbing in Boulder Canyon. Highlights were Bihedral, a 5.7 classic granite trad corner, and a sport multipitch linkup called Buried Alive. Plus a bit of sport climbing.

Everyone in Boulder is either a climber, or has just tried it and is super keen to get into it, You can alternate between spotting famous American climbers, and looking away from horrifying noob errors.

We tried to go to Eldorado Canyon, but we made the mistake of trying to go on the weekend, and it was so crowded they literally had cars queued outside the park gates like a nightclub, and would only let a new car in once another car had left. We left. After that weekend it stormed for the next week and we got a foot of snow on our front lawn in Boulder. so I went back to powder skiing.

We decided to go ski mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park, a mere 90 minutes from boulder. Unfortunately we effed up the "alpine" start in a comedy of errors, of which the climax was not realising we were in the completely wrong car park until we were about to click into skis, and having to jump back into the car and drive to the correct one.

On the bright side, it's Colorado and there are no seatbelt laws.

Say what you like about the US but damn they have a lot of very pretty landscapes.

We tried to take a "shortcut" cutting off a big switchback on the summer trail, and ended up on a horrible climb up a thickly treed slope, skins barely gripping. It was the usual miserable backcountry skiing sufferfest. We eventually re-found the summer trail, and it was hard-packed, easy to follow, and five times as fast.

Above the treeline, the snowpack was very thin and windblown. We had views out to the back of Longs Peak.

This is a pic of our object for the day, the Dragon's Tail Couloir.

When we got to the top, I had a feeling I very rarely get as a skier looking at the 50 degree crux, which was "I'm not sure I want to ski that" (or more specifically "that's f-ing impossible, if I try that there is even odds I end up as a pile of broken bones at the bottom").

There was some heated discussion about bailing and our other options. Quite a lot of tension and bad vibes had developed between the late start and the bushwhacking "shortcut".

Luckily, there was one surefire way to improve everyone's mood: booty. It appeared some winter climbers had gotten a brand new rope stuck trying to abseil off the top of the couloir. It was buried about a meter deep in the frozen cornice, but powered by booty-fever we put my mate on belay and he chipped away until we recovered a nice 30m section of new skinny rope.

Back on task, retreat seemed too boring so we pressed on, and continued scrambling up the ridge to the summit of the correctly-named Flattop Mountain. We chose another option to ski, the much more acheivable Corral Couloir.

Mountain goats! Well, ok, technically Bighorn sheep. Still, it's apparently quite rare to see them so good for us.

The avalanche forecast was Low to Moderate (of course...I'm not quite that pig-headed yet) but we were still skiing pretty big terrain, so it's vital to evaluate conditions on the ground and have an open discussion. I tied in and clicked in, and skied on belay out under the cornice at the top of the couloir to dig a snow pit and do some tests. I rushed and got sh!t results, but it was ok because 1) the latest studies show that basing decisions on results from a single snowpit is probably worthless superstition, and 2) our partner, a loveable stoner from Washington, skied in first, jumped around a bit, and yelled back "It totally feels super solid!" and feelings are important.

Well we got down to it and rode the thing.

Views into the Tyndall glacier were awesome.

Successfully at the bottom, we started making our way down the gorge, linking snowdrifts amongst the moraines with short hikes.

We enjoyed some last turns down to the blue ice of Bear Lake, and the waiting gawking tourists.

Return to the carpark along the frozen, narrow, twisting summer hiking trail was very fast and very terrifying.

We celebrated with burgers and local craft beer at Oskar Blues on the way back to Boulder.

12:34:07 PM
Welcome back!

Good trip report, though the (great) photos within it exceed my screen size and require my scrolling all over to see them!

It is also good to hear that you are still out and about sbm, and I still enjoy your writing style!
1:21:57 PM
Nice, thank you! Looks like a good adventure.

9:57:59 PM
Great write up. Glad you're having/had fun. If you get a chance, take your MTB to Fruita and play around out there...

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