Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pencil Chute, Fleur de Lis, and The Slopes Beyond

Ryan Murray dropping into The Pencil

Hemming and hawwing the night before, Ryan and I endlessly debated the what-ifs, in's, out's, pro's and con's, of a variety of lines, before finally deciding on a lift-accessed backcountry tour of the backside of Stevens Pass.

Ryan had been scoping a tight chute near the end of the Rooster Comb formation and Google Earth gave us enough optimism that the line would go.

From the top of the Tye Mill chair, Ryan Murray, myself, Joeseph Treftz, and Chris Petry made a rising traverse out to the power lines and from there a descending traverse to the basin below the south end of The Rooster Comb. 

We donned skins and Joey T pushed an ambitious skin track out the basin and up the "Could-a" chute near the Rooster Comb/Fleur-de-Lis saddle.
Skining up with End/Pencil Chute looming above Joe
Laying some mean track

Traversing below our intended line was quite intimidating. We could tell the top was steep and we couldn't make out a clear entrance. We could see a steep roll-over below the entrance and an exposed turn above the bordering cliffs midway down.  Nonetheless, we were psyched to check it out and slightly optimistic knowing that besides being quite tight, the line appeared continuous.

Visibility remined less than ideal as Ryan took over the skinning and continued pushing the track steeply up to the top of the ridge. Amazingly enough (and just as I had expected) the clouds parted as we topped out on the line, defining the couloir with sun and shadow, and projecting our shadows onto  the rare mountain/cloud phenomenon known as a Broken Spectre.

A Broken Spctre just visible above End Chute
Though steep, the entrance went. The slopes below appeared loaded so we began chopping away blocks of snow at the top of the entrance to try and get the chute to slide. Though we cleared the top we weren't able to get the chute to rip, thus began the classic hemming and hawwing on whether to ski the line.

Having seen some snow instabilities on the way up I was proabaly the most reluctant, Chris and Joe were basically silent, but Ryan seemed psyched and we continued discussing exactly how you could ski-it, safe zones, problem turns, etc. After about 10 minutes, Ryan sacked up and dropped in.

He cautiously skiied two tight turns off the entrance before making a hard ski-cut to the left, releasing the chute below, and ducking beneath a small rock outcropping to watch the chute empty. Ryan's background as a couloir crusher from Bridger Bowl was clearly evident, and he continued on, expertly jump turning through the steep rollover. He scrapped his way into position above the constriction/ cliff-turn, and skied out of sight. Moments later he came into view ripping turns in the bottom of the basin. Two poles in the air meant rip it, so we did.

Ryan giving us a clinic
First Chris, then myself, and finally Joey T followed. The psyche was high as we regrouped at the bottom and we started to ponder our second objective, the classic backside gawker, Fleur-de-Lis.

Joey T high in The Pencil

And fully commited further down above the constriction
A team of three skiiers had traversed below us as we were dropping the first chute and we gladly got into line on their freshly broken trail heading up to the top of Fleur-de-Lis. We caught up to the group on top, chatted for a bit, and got excited for the line as we watched them drop. Compared to The Pencil, Fleru-de-Lis seemed wide open and we slayed it, this time in reverse order.

Looking towards the Icicle from its headwaters at Lake Josephine

Grouped back together at the lift we determined that we had one more line in us and chose The Slopes Beyond as a fitting finish to our "Around the Backside," trifecta. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest as the Southern Cross chairlift took us back to the top. A great bootpack got us out to See-Yo and up to the top of Wenatchee Bowl.

Heading out See-Yo with Fleur-de-Lis above Ryan on the left and End Chute above Joe in the center
Fleur-de-Lis on the left, End Chute/The Pencil on the right
A short ski-down got us into position and we wrapped it up with the nice open glades of Pot of Gold/The Slopes Beyond to the road.

Skiing off the top of Wenatchee Bowl with Lichtenberg and Rock Mtn in the distance

Petry cheesin
Thanks for the great day out gentlemen, a fitting end to an exciting January!