5:15am April 17th, my Iphone alarm sounded out the blues riff that I had chosen the night before, while hanging out at the campfire with friends Matt Berry, Glen Poulsen, and John Morrison after a great day of skiing Lone Pine Peak. 15 minutes later, while riding in the passenger seat of John Morrison’s truck, I tried to squeeze down some calories for this day’s ski, but found much of the food and drink landed on my lap as John floored it down rocky road at full tilt to make sure we were going to make our intended start time. The start of the hike was actually a slow jog and I realized that the next 7 hours was not going to be about relaxing in the sun.
In a couple hours we reached the bottom of Emerson peak and proceeded to trade off with one another making a boot pack up the North Couloir. Cresting out, we carried our skis close to the top of the peak and sat down to have a little food and drink. The ski off the peak involved an interesting side slip through a tight choke in some heavily baked south facing snow, and this made us look forward to the north facing powder in the couloir that waited below. John found a nice steep and exposed entrance into the couloir while I chose to down climb in a bit so I could live up to my personal “kids rule”, which came about after I became a family man several years ago. The North Couloir served up some awesome wind blown and part way down we stopped to chat with a guy named Zac, from Grass Valley, who was out there on a 2 day solo mission. When he acknowledged he was fatigued from the day before, we encouraged him to keep going to the top and throughout the rest of the day, we watched his progress from afar. What a great thing to see him pushing himself and making his way all the way up!
Back in the basin, we put the skins on the skis and headed up the south face of Peak 13,112, which was an easy straightforward way to regain the elevation we had just lost. Close to the top we peered down the Checkered Demon Couloir and found an icy rollover entrance into what appeared to be winter snow below. There was no air in, which was a great thing because it can sometimes be guarded by a cornice. We couldn’t see the whole couloir because it is pretty steep and drops out of view, but all signs pointed to it being ready to roll. With this realization, my “kids rule” meter vibrated upward a bit and considered the option of the gentle south facing corn back to the car, but this was as good that this couloir gets, and John and I were psyched.
Each turn had to be deliberate and I quickly fell back in love with steep skiing – it had been awhile since I had been on a run like this. Watching John below, before each turn, pausing, making a few pumps, and then finally executing the exact maneuver he was hoping for made me realize that we were skiing something that demanded technique. It felt great to test that part of skiing again. The middle of the couloir opened up and offered some smooth and lightly textured powder and the bottom transitioned into a slight surface crust. After exiting with a few wide turns, we pole clicked and began to hear a loud roar from somewhere in the basin below Mt. Humphreys.
We spotted a large group of people about a 1,000 feet above us and thought it must be the Glen Plake crew. Plake was up there with a group from Backcountry.com and POWDER Magazine for what sounded like a really fun 3 day backcountry mission. We skinned up to say hello and by the time we got there most of the crew was booting up the south facing couloir to access the north side of Humphreys. But the two guys who remained (Rob and ?), introduced themselves and quietly asked why we hadn’t pole whacked the cornice on top of the couloir. I didn’t quite catch on until I caught the smirk on one of the guy’s faces – ahh, he’d seen GNAR The Movie and was calling us out. We contemplated skinning up to join the rest of their crew but with no fluids left, my “kid rule” told me to head back to the car. So in good form, we shouted out a nice “Ego Claim” to the upper crew and proceeded to rip the @#$% out of the smooth, smooth corn back to the car.
What a day! I hadn’t skied with John M. in quite awhile and it was good to catch up. To put the icing on the weekend, Ryan Salm happened to be part of crew hiking up Humphrey’s, and emailed me the next day letting me know he got some pics. Thanks Ryan – glad you had a great time out there too!
The Line of the Week will be a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest athletes doing whatever we deem rad. We will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything resembling chutes, big airs, pointers or any general madness. All images are the property and copyright of Ryan Salm Photography. For more of Ryan’s work, check out http://ryansalmphotography.photoshelter.com