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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    TR: To Hell and back!

    *skip the first 2 paragraphs if you don't want the background info/ prologue.

    Well I haven't really been that pumped this season, I sprained my ankle really bad over the summer and have not fully recovered, I'm pretty close now but not 100%. Instead of the pre-season pillaging that usually takes place I was scaring the shit out myself on some hard clean desert aid routes in Moab, then a trip to do independence chimney in Colorado Natn. Monument. Followed by a slot canyon and finally my first day out on snow since August (August being about a month after the sprain took place; didn't feel right, cut my run short). Took it pretty mellow that day and things never really felt bad. Followed up with a 4 mile (1600 vert) hike up to ride less then 500 vert but it was fun, followed by 4 miles down 2 of which were in the dark with no lamps. My legs hurt for the last 3 miles but not really my ankle. Pulled a couple semi mellow days on Berthoud riding powder and some steeper lines after that and was feeling pretty good.

    I pretty much skied just about everything I want to at Berthoud over the last couple of years, and my options are limited now as far as what I feel capable of doing (with the mending ankle) and what conditions will allow as I don't really want to repeat lines that much. I feel it's time to move on at this point and come back to nab a line or two from time to time, but not have Berthoud as my main go to spot. So it seems the best option is to start going exploring.

    Initially I wanted to check out the gore but checking the avy report indicated the front range was a better choice. West and South facing slopes were yellow even above tree line, so I started looking at topo's to see what areas had good looking terrain on those aspects. I was looking at putting in 4-6 miles and digging a snowcave in a drift once up high enough; spending the night, riding in the morning and hiking back out.

    I was surprised to find something that looked pretty cool so close to home. I sent all the information I could find to my buddy to see what he thought and he was in so off to Hell's Hole we went. The main attraction we were hoping to ride was the NW face of Grey Wolf mountain. Based on topo's there was a few gully's/ couloirs that run predominantly west facing. The mountain is a 13er near Evans (to the NW) so we figured by now there should be a decent amount of snow.

    We hiked in (from 9'500) stopping for some water and a bite to eat after about 2 miles. It was pretty nice as a lot of people snow-shoe up this trail so we really didn't even have to break trail until day 2. I was glad to have poles this time as our packs were heavy and my knees didn't like that. We continued up trail till just below tree line at about 2:30-3pm, where we first get a view of grey wolf.

    We started looking for drifts we could dig into but there just was not enough snow. Consistently no more then half pole depth to the ground. Fearing the worst as the forecasted temps that night were pretty cold, we dropped our packs and wandered a bit wondering what to do. I came across some boulders in some really low angle gladed trees. It seemed this might be our best option. We discussed the options, walking back out with full packs in the night (with lamps this time) didn't sound fun as both of us were beat. We had to make a good snow shelter otherwise as we had no tent and my bag is rated to 15 but I get a little more with a bag liner and bivy. Another friend warned my of negative double digits that night so it was the only option.

    We found a nice boulder that we could pack snow against, problem was the snow had no density. Super light sugar pow. and it was less then 3 feet deep in most spots. Luckily I had 2 tarps, 1 of which was for shuttling snow. We had limited time before it got dark and cold so we shoveled like mad. I occasionally packed down the pile with my snow shoes. Around 4:30 or so we had a pretty big pile that was packed down decently, and we decided my buddy should make some tea while we wait for the pile to compact well. Well we brought 2 stoves just incase 1 didn't work or to make things faster if both worked. Turns out we can't get either to work, should have known to bring a fucking pan or cookie sheet to cook on... Luckily we didn't consume much liquid on the way up and our meals were mostly non reliant on the stove. Around 5:15 or so it's getting dark and we decide to dig into the pile, we got lucky and things packed down pretty well. We were in the cave in our bags and pretty warm around 6. What a great test of ones ability to survive in bleak conditions.

    This gives a little perspective on size:

    Luckily we have paid our dues enough to know about staying dry and warm while winter camping so we did everything possibly to stay the course. We also knew to sleep with boot liners and liquids to keep them warm, as well as a dry-able core layer to sleep in and some dry warm gloves for the morning.
    Thankfully my friend brought a emergency blanket that we shared for extra warmth.

    We woke up feeling surprisingly good having stayed warm and dry through the night. The ground was a little bumpy though so we were both pretty sore, but took our time waking up and eating. We felt good enough to push on so we packed light and left everything not needed at the cave.

    This gives a little perspective on the size:

    We moved around 150 sq ft at least 1 but less then 3 feet in depth! Made for a long day.

    It was a nice morning outside of the cave and we watched the sun come over the ridge of grey wolf. To our delight it was snowing and a bluebird!

    Not a bad scene to wake up to:

    We then proceeded to break trail up to tree line:

    Some nice views along the way:

    Finally we found a spot that was deep enough to make some turns:

    So we proceeded to make the most of our 2 days in hell:

    One short run was enough for our tired asses as the snow was pretty wind buffed, so we took off down back to the cave to get our stuff and start the death march back down.

    On the way back:

    There is a nice large aspen grove you walk through that is pretty nice, would be really nice in the fall. We both hurt pretty bad back at the car, my knees hurt all night walking up or down the stairs at home. and most yesterday and occasionally today... maybe over did it a little I guess... It was great though.

    Enjoy! Sorry for being long winded.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Golden, CO!
    nice - snowcaves are tough enough even when you find a solid drift. good work!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Where the Butte is Crested
    2 days of hell? Sounds like 2 days of fun

    "Don't be afraid of the spaces between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so." - Belva Davis

    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle"--Albert Einstein

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    You might find this tool useful for understanding where the snow depths are good.

    Looks like you ended up doing a N/NE face after all.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Interesting place to stand below your buddy as he makes turns over a hard slab in mid winter on the N end of the compass.

    Caves are cool.
    You smell that?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    True points. I thought about both for sure though, cranked pretty hard when I went down and skipped at the bottom the slab was pretty hard. I figured just incase I would stay strapped in and go downhill around the trees out of the fall line should something move. Here I am the 1000 headed dragon winning as my ego trys to justify my irresponsibility Trust me though I do realize we were way on our own back there. It really didn't seem that bad though, but I see for sure how bad it could be if everything went wrong. I'm only human I make mistakes too, I'll try to learn from it. What more can I do at this point?

    Oh yea also MBSC it wasn't 2 days OF hell, but more like 2 days IN hell, (hell's hole that is) and yea it was a good time with a good friend, finding out what we are capable of in a pinch. Good learning and character building experience. But I guess at the same time being slightly loose cannons. you live you learn.

    Also anyone ever skied the face NW face? we ran into an older gentleman on the way out who was flagging the trail for everyone, I asked if the face ever filled in enough to ski and he told me he's never seen it. He even has a cabin near the trail head so I kinda believe him.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Denver, CO
    That's a hell of a trip (pun intended) and quite some background info about it as well. I've wondered what kind of snow Grey Wolf gets and it's nice now knowing that it doesn't.

    Glad to see you made the most of it and got a decent line in before taking off. It's fun to look back on adventures like that and understand how much you can punish yourself.
    Last edited by Nick Pappagiorgio; 12-31-2008 at 06:53 PM.

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