Halls of the Gods Couloir, Indian Cliff Chutes (Angora Peak)
Saturday, March 6, 2009
Bob & Nick (UCL)
Nick (unless otherwise noted as Bob)
On Saturday a small Low system was moving through the Tahoe region. Skies were grey-bird, with light winds out of the E/SE. Around mid-afternoon, light snow showers quickly move in and out of the area (with little to no accumulation).
From the Sierra Avalanche Center: Avalanche danger is LOW for all elevations and aspects. Very isolated areas of instability may exist. Snowfall amounts greater than forecast expectations could create isolated areas of locally higher avalanche danger today.
On our approach up the Echo/Angora ridge line to Halls, we encountered a number of aspects and through informal tests (pole probes, hand shears, etc...), we did not encounter any instabilities. A party of 4 descended the Main Halls Couloir before us with no signs of instabilities. During both of our descents, neither of us found any instabilities. There was evidence towards the bottom of the Couloir that it had naturally slide earlier (likely during Wednesday’s storm).
As previously posted in the Tahoe conditions thread, during our skin up and around towards Angora, we witnessed from far away a member of that same party of 4 trigger a slide in Mini Halls of the Gods Couloir (which did not appear to have naturally slide on Wednesday).
Here is the 1st hand account of the slide:
Here is my observations and report (with videos of the debris):
Here is the S.A.C. inspection of the crown the day after:
I am glad the triggering party turned out OK (although missing the ride out sucked – more on that later).
After hitting Halls of the Gods Couloir last year with Frank and Colin in very good snow conditions ( http://www.thebackcountry.net/bb/viewtopic.php?t=1552
), I knew I had to get back during good snow conditions. Only this time, definitely better to take the appropriate route up the ridge between Angora and Echo Peaks. Shaved off a good amount of time (at least an hour and ½) off the approach time.
Our transportation. Note Bob’s setup is much heftier than mine. Add in the fact that he tours in Alpine boots (more on that later), his setup is weighing in at 137.32 lbs more! Photo: Bob
Bob skinning from Wintoon Road towards Echo Peak, with the remnants of the Echo Fire:
Echo Bowl looking pretty good.
Nick working his way up. Photo: Bob
Bob skinning up through the giant pines, rocking his essentially camo Arcteryx gear:
It was grey-bird throughout the day, but the views of Lake Tahoe were great nonetheless:
The lower portion of Angora Bowl. It appeared like this would be amazing skiing and it was our intention to ski Halls, then skin around the backside of Angora and descend this down the Angora Lake (followed by a skin over the ridge and back down to Wintoon). This was later derailed with a suffer-fest result for Bob (more on that later).
The crowns at the top of Echo Peak are getting enormous! Photo: Bob
A view of Ralston Peak from the backside of Echo Summit. We could barely make out the crown from the slide reported last week. New snow has mostly covered the runout. Photo: Bob
Standard skin-track stoke for a standard Nick TR:
The Summit of Indian Cliff Chutes in the foreground, with Angora Peak summit behind to the right, and the summit of Tallac off to the left. Falling Leaf Lake down below, before the big lake.
Nick on the summit. Photo: Bob
Every TR needs the “Look Away and Point Shot”. Insert here. Photo: Bob
The first member of the party of 4 before us dropping we. We all essentially summited at the same time (Bob and I via skinning around Echo Peak, the group of 4 booting up one of the Couloirs from Falling Leaf Lake):
Another member of that party dropping into left Halls:
Bob and I individually dropped into middle Halls. At the 1/3 way point, there is a safe zone that has a ramp that you can cut over to the right Halls. Bob eventually cut over.
Bob dropping into middle Halls:
Bob looking down ½ through Halls. Photo: Bob
Nick dropping into the upper portion. Photos: Bob
I am clearly pleased with Halls! Photos: Bob
Bob after cutting over to right Halls:
Bob getting closer to the choke-point on right Halls:
Bob looking down at the choke-point on right Halls. Photo: Bob
From my perch at the 1/3 point safe zone referenced above, I decided to continue down middle Halls. Looking down the line:
Bob on the lower portion of Halls (when all three entrances above converge):
Nothing like steep couloir skiing in great, fresh, cold pow!
Nick descending the lower exit. Photo: Bob
Bob opening up on the apron. The snow was phenomenal, untouched pow in the right lines.
Flat light doesn’t matter. Bob still manages to throw a pow spray for the camera!
Looking out towards Falling Leaf Lake from the base of Halls. Photo: Bob
Looking back at Halls (left and middle) and Mini Halls (to the right). Photo: Bob
Well, as noted above in my observations from the slide, we had scrapped our plans to skin back to Angora to help look for the triggering party’s missing ski. While I did find his goggles and hat, the ski was a lost cause. No one could find it as the debris pile ran for about 1,300 feet. It was getting late in the day and we did not feel comfortable skinning over to ski Angora Bowl at that point (and it was getting stormy).
I mentioned that we were parked at Wintoon Road (far away at that point), and a couple of members of the triggering party noted that they could give us a ride from Falling Leaf Lake. To their merit, although I noted that we could use the ride, as they headed off it may have appeared that we were skinning up higher. We were (only to the top of the apron) to ski a descent.
We arrived at Falling Leaf Lake about 5 minutes after them based on talking to someone there, but they were gone. It was noted that they asked about us at least. Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as needed that we were depending on that ride rather than skinning all the way around to Wintoon. Oh well – either way the walk out SUCKED.
For those of you that don’t know, Falling Leaf Lake Road is gated and you need a key. There was no one else at the base of the trailhead, other than another couple. They offered to give us a ride back to our car on Wintoon Road (which was very nice of them), but they were parked outside the gate b/c they did not have the code. The walk is 3 miles on cement to the gate!
I was completely fine in my AT boots, but Bob somehow manages to day tour in the World’s Heaviest Setup: (i) Megawatts, (ii) Marker Dukes and (iii) Alpine Boots. Needless to say, the walk for him was a complete Suffer-fest.
After about a mile in his boots, his feet were killing him so I offered to make him some shoes. Yet another use for a Sam Splint! I am taking orders for all those interested:
In retrospect, I should have adhered the Sam Splints to the bottoms of his liners so that his feet would stay dry and warm, but my Apprenticeship at Sam Splint Cobbling is only 2 days old!