Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Jan 21 - Crows Nest Ridge - Broken Binding

Its been mid-40's for two weeks now, with a rain storm predicted for tonight, so before the January corn snow is ruined, we thought we'd venture out to some new terrain. With a maceral sky all about and a storm expected we take care to pack and prepare carefully. Even though we'll ski in thin clothes our packs are stuffed with shells, sweaters, extra mittens and goggles.

After studying the map and wandering around here for 6 weeks straight now, we decided there was a great untracked ridge leading almost straight from our house to the summit of Crow's Nest, a peak on the ski boundary of the Sugabowl ski resort. Since it's mid-week and Royal Gorge is closed, we planned a route through National Forest land staying off any groomed trails.

Literally across the street from our house, we climb the steep snow bank at the roadside and enter the woods. Here in the sub-alpine at 7,000 feet, the trees are widely spaced and of a reasonable size. The forest is a mix of cedar, doug fir, and pines. There is sufficient snow coverage to bury all but the bigget windfalls. We look at the rise of the land, and point the ski track uphill trying to stay directly on the growing ridge, or just to one side or the other. In short order, we get a clear view of our destination, Crow's Nest Peak - some 1,500 feet higher and clear of any trees. A quick conference with the topo map confirms we can just ride (climb) the ridge upward and we should achieve our goal.

We slowly wander upwards through the thinning trees achieving the open ridge after about 20 minutes. Here the view is astounding - below us is the Van Norden Lake and surrounding meadow - and in the distance - snow peak and the Royal Gorge of the American River. Ahead and up the ridge we can see Mt. Lincoln, and the actual Donner Summit pass - opening to the mist and inverted haze clinging to Donner Lake far below. Then suddenly as Diane skied over a wind blown snow ridge, she felt a sudden liquidity about her boot and looked down. Her binding had ripped down a fold. You can see it here in the picture. This type of binding is known for failures like this. We had inspected the bindings just yesterday and they had shown no sign of fatigue then. Oh well....

We talked over our options, and the day still being young, Diane opted to tie the skis to her pack and head back down the tracks we had come up. I would continue up the ridge. The weather was holding off, so we were not so concerned. On the ridge the snow was well compacted, so she could walk easily without post holing. Once the slope became steeper, and faced more to the south west however, the going got a bit tougher. We stayed in phone contact every 30 minutes, and within an hour and a half, she was back at home sipping tea.

The snow is very well consolidated now, with over three weeks of warm weather, a week of heavy wind and no precipitation. These cornices along the ridge would otherwise present some risk, but today we could stomp right on the rim with no sign of weakness, or fracture.

This picture is looking back the way I had come up. The white opening is winding diagonally down left to right is the ridge I followed on my way up to Crow's Nest. The big white flat area to the rightof the ridge is Van Norden Lake and meadow another 800 feet below.

The south wind blown sides of the ridges are melted out and you can clearly see last fall's dried plants exposed at the snow's edge.

This picture is of Mt Rowton in th foreground, with Snow mountain in the far background - see posts from a few days ago for some pics from climbing Mt.Rowton. This is the south eastern face with some great ski runs down the left ridge and on two ribs that extend down separating the open slide paths. The approach can be made from the end of the Ice Lakes, at the termination of the unplowed county road, or from the State Forest approach we took today along the Crow's Nest Ridge.

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