After five seconds I heard him shout “SLIDE!” I quickly descended to where he’d begun his ski cut hoping to get eyes on him and immediately found him skiing on the far right side of the ramp as a wet slab made slow progress down the center of the ramp.
The snow was soft and fun skiing. I arrived at the narrow section which I’d identified on the climb and had altogether too much fun making jump turns down the tight chute, both tips and tails landing on rocks with every turn.
Kevin eyed the gully for a second before deciding he didn’t want any of it and he too turned around to take a mellower route. I decided to take my chances but soon found my tails sliding out from under me and next thing I knew I was sliding downhill head first. Casey rounded the corner just in time to see me carom past a large pine at the outlet of the gully.
We clipped into our skis and I started down the steep snow field to see what the route entailed. After descending fifty feet I reached the rocks and was dismayed to see nothing but air on the other side. This was a dead end and a bad one.
After talking a big game all season, Rafee finally found himself a ski touring setup and was looking to break in his new equipment.
I peered over the backside of the couloir and was stunned. From my earlier visit to Whorl Mountain I knew that despite the severity of Matterhorn’s north face, its south slope was gentle class 2 talus. The guidebook even mentioned that the East Couloir was the easiest way to gain the summit, so I’d assumed that the West Couloir would be similar. Instead I was presented with a shear granite face.
First choice or second, the skiing was delightful. The slope was not as steep nor the snow as deep as I’d found the previous day in the Bloody Couloir, but perhaps it was all the more enjoyable!
The snow was soft and wintry and deep! I left my jacket open, but snow was flying up into my face and into my jacket — who would have guessed there were faceshots to be had in April!?
I had been leading the hike for the last two hours and when I crested this rise I jokingly shouted “oh no!” However, as I looked, I instantly regretted the joke. This was indeed a false summit, but the true summit was even further than I possibly could have guessed.
I had second thoughts about deciding to bring my “fat, fun” skis rather than my narrower “mountaineering” skis for which I have ski crampons. With ski crampons, I would probably easily maintain my initial pace of 1,500 vertical feet per hour. Instead, it would take me two hours to climb the next 1,000 ft.