Siberian Express – Failed Ski Mission
Two weeks back when high pressure was the only thing in site, Cheddar (Ian) Watson was up sled skiing off the flanks of Brohm Ridge when he looked across at Mt Atwell and thought, "Sweet Mother of Jesus, that couloir looks awesome, I’m going to go ski it!". Well nobody knows what he really thought, even him, but we do know what ensued for the rest of the weekend. No time was wasted, a few hours of sleep and a few phone calls later, Jonas, Cheddar and I found ourselves hopping off the snowmobile above Brohm Ridge and setting out for the day.
OK back tracking a bit, 2 hours earlier (aka 4:00am) Jonas was still skinning the whole way up, because there was no room for him on the sled. Oh, and what couloir had Cheddar spied? None other than the Siberian Express, the one that’s been taunting us for years. Lazy years in which we hadn’t bother to try skiing it, and now we were there with an hour of planning, some big ideas, and a friend who didn’t know the mountain’s name.
After some ridge hiking, fast traversing of Dalton Dome’s fat-ass slopes (three cheers for no avalanches), and some icy skiing down to Atwell’s main drainage, we finally got a close look at this sucker. 3000 ft of sweet lookin’ couloir ahead.
The climb started easy as cheese, if cheese is easy, with a mix of boot packing and toepointing in crampons, making good progress up to, and then up, the couloir.
And that’s when we hit the wall so to speak. A wall of rock, snow and bad ice that is. Sugar snow followed by not-so-solid steep ice followed by sugar snow wasn’t the dream we were hoping for, and even if we got up it we weren’t so keen on relying on an ice pick in sugar snow for a rapelling descent. Cheddar might have just double back-flipped the section on the way down, but we had to hold him back. DENIED!
So we turned around, skied the best bullet proof chalk we could have expected, followed by some falling rock dodging, schmoo skiing, and finally some north facing surface hoar so deep it skiied like pow! OK, maybe it was pow, but pretty funky.
Mission incomplete, but now we know where its at, everyone came back with 10 fingers and toes, and hey, we even made it in time for dinner! Whent’s the last time you could say that about a backcountry mission.
Mr Atwell, we’ll be back.