We really like couloirs. I mean REALLY like steep, dark, technical, BIG couloirs. With some improving mid-pack stability in the Ruby Range and 5-8 inches of new light snow, we headed for the high peaks. We drove the snowmobile 10 miles West of Crested Butte to a zone that receives arguably the most snow in Colorado. The snow looked great, but unfortunately the winds were blowing and we knew that there would be fresh slabs off the ridge-tops
We summited with out much of an issue other than Arctic conditions that enveloped our faces with ice.
From the summit we took a peak in several couloirs. We entered one and it felt slabby, so we booted out and dropped a more protected one. The skiing was excellent. Blower powder. There was a bit of route finding to get around some cliff bands. The run was huge, certainly over 2000 feet.
We were now somewheres by the Dark Canyon on the Paonia side of the mountains and had to climb back over to the Crested Butte side.
We decided to re-summit via a complicated network of ridges and spines. The climb was world-class. steep rock/snow moves and wallowing on knife ridges/flutes in waist deep snow.
It was awesome. The North/West side of Mt. Owen is a ski mountaineers dream.
The climb took us hours but then we were on the summit again. With the sun getting low we decided to drop the South Face. The light was absolutely amazing.
We recognized that there would be fresh slabs right off the top. It was a tight chute so I just figured it would hold, or break at my feet. Wrong. I needed to make a hard cut and “dry-dock” it into the rocks but instead I hop turned. I did not want to smoke rocks with my skis(I do that enough as is). I was overconfident that I could hold my ground if it went, and went it did. It fractured a few feet above me and I had no speed to escape. I immediately set off on a ride down the chute so I jammed both of my whippets(ski poles with ice axe on handle) into the bed surface(smooth surface in which snow can avalanche on).
The weight above me was immense but my whippets dug deep and I came to a stop. I knew the danger, and I did not have a good escape plan. I usually play through in my head what I would do if it goes, and I did not think this one through.
The slab cleaned out, so we enjoyed fantastic powdery turns down the South Face.
It was a fantastic tour, possibly the best of the year. I love steep lines in the alpine. The require a lot of thought, and are very rewarding. If we are overconfident they will remind us that we are mere mortals.