Friday, April 26, 2013

Mountain Town News

Duo ski North Face of the Grand Teton
    JACKSON, Wyo.—Just looking at the photos of the North Face of the Grand Teton that were published in the Jackson Hole News&Guide is enough to make the acrophobic feel queasy. It’s nearly vertical, a feat for only the most gifted climbers even in summer, included in the book “Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.”
    Now it’s been skied. The News&Guide reports that two mountaineering guides, Greg Collins and Brendan O’Neill, skied a route called the Direct North Face. Though unable to ski directly from the summit, they descended via crampons to ski a series of ledges. One of the ledges was only slightly wider than their skis and 2,000 above the highest point on the glacier below.
    O’Neill, who has skied mountains around the world, said the Direct North Face, while hard to compare with 7,000-meter mountains, is as “technical a ski descent as there probably is.”
    Miller N. Resort, the story’s author, dryly noted that the two men had “found powder stashes nobody had skied before” in their March 31 feat.

Once again, avalanche victims were experts
    I-70 CORRIDOR, Colo.—Early last week, the Aspen Skiing Co. reminded people who might climb the slopes of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass that the company wasn’t doing avalanche control on the slopes, and that with the wet, heavy snow that had been falling, there were risks.
    The Colorado Avalanche Information Center also issued a warning even as skiers and snowboarders prepared to gather on the east side of Loveland Pass for a fundraiser for the organization. A weak snow layer near the ground remained, making snowpacks above or near timberline weak.
    Yet despite the warnings, and reports of caution by the victims, five snow riders, on both split boards and skis, died on a slope of Mt. Sniktau, just east of Loveland Pass, about 55 miles west of Denver. They were at or above treeline.
    It was the most avalanche fatalities in any one incident Colorado since 1962. However, higher death tolls occurred several times during the mining era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    Earlier in the week, another snowboarder had died on Ptarmigan Mountain east of Red Cliff and a few miles from Vail Pass. That slab avalanche was reported by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to be 10 feet deep, and it broke trees 3 to 5 inches in diameter.
    After the two cases, avalanche forecaster Spencer Logan told The Denver Post that Colorado is seeing the worst avalanche danger in 30 years.
    Dale Atkins, president of the American Avalanche Association, helped in the rescue near Loveland Pass.
    “This would be a slope that looks like a lot of fun for good riders,” he told The Post. “But the conditions this spring are unusual, and unusual conditions result in unusual avalanches. You really need to dial it back this spring.”

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