Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mt. Muir East Couloir

April 23, 2010 The past couple weeks in the Sierra have provided ideal conditions for steep powder skiing. Following in the footsteps of our friends Chris Pondella, Ryan Boyer, and Chris Davenport, Glen and I set out to ski the East Couloir on Mt. Muir, a 14er just south of Mt. Whitney. With forecast temps for wind chill values of -15, the day started with a brutal North wind. The approach was cold and blustery. We skinned to the base and sat down for a bite to eat. A small slide came down the gully to the right, and we started to wonder about the potential for hang-fire taking us out on the climb. Glen wanted to skin around trail crest and deal w/ the hazard on the descent. I wanted to climb, but wasn't going to push the issue and told Glen if we approached via trail crest we had to climb to the summit before descending. As we skinned the snow face to trail crest, the wind began to ease, and all but died once we hit the ridge. The short rock climb to the summit was fun in ski boots and added a touch of spice to the day. As I made my way over to the top of the line, I kept thinking about Boyer's beta. 1st anchor skiers left, 2nd anchor skiers right, don't slip! The upper pitch was stripped of new snow and provided some quality steep ICY survival skiing. Yikes. As I lowered myself on the first rappel, I wondered how the next 2 pitches would be, and kinda wished we'd climbed the route to know. Fortunately, I dropped off the end of the rope into a foot plus of pow. The second pitch skied really well, sloughing a bit. The wind had somehow only affected the very top of the line. I pulled the rope out for the 2nd rap and again rapped into more pow. The bottom pitch was brilliant and we skied pow all the way back to the car. Thanks to Chris, Ryan and Chris for pioneering the line! It was epic. I really wanted to follow in the same style and climb it, but was happy the way things worked out. You've got to go with the flow!