Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ciochetti's Ribbon in May

Yesterday, Adam and I decided to try our luck on Friday the 13th.  Somehow, we ended up at Alta looking up at Devil's Castle and Ciochetti's Ribbon - the ultra thin uppermost strip of snow. 

Side view of the Devil's Castle and Ciochetti's Ribbon (upper snow ramp from right to left) 
We weren't sure how the conditions would be since it's been so hot lately with poor overnight freezes, but the skin up to the Castle was on firm consolidated snow.  We wondered if we might have to sit around to wait for a thaw but then realized it was going to be 80 degrees in the Valley and if anything, we'd be racing the massive impending thaw.

The Devil's Castle viewed head on.  The ribbon is the obvious upper strip of snow traversing from left to right. 
 The Ribbon is more like an alpine rock climb than a ski descent.  But, we had our skis on so...
Getting started, looking down the untracked Ribbon
My partner for the Day was Adam O.  He doesn't have much climbing experience so I got to go out in front and place all the protection and build the anchors.  Oh yea, we skied roped up.  I don't think it would be too unreasonable to ski it without a rope for 99.5 percent of the way, but there's this one section...
Here's what hundreds of feet of exposure look like.

Adam belaying as I take a break from trying to figure out  how to get around the "block".
Skiing around the "block" is probably the crux of the descent - or maybe just mentally wrapping one's mind around the constant exposure is.  Anyway,  I decided a 6 inch strip of snow on the very edge of the cliff to be "unskiable" and looked for an alternative way around on foot.
Still trying to figure out how to get around the "block" (photo courtesy of AO)
Eventually, I figured I brought crampons for a reason and just climbed across.  Just on the other side I had some difficulty finding a suitable anchor but reasoned 2 pins and 3 cams in iffy rock ought to do the trick.
Adam being forced into some rock moves that suited him just fine.  
Just after the block though, AO stated that he was at his wits' end.  He stretched em a bit further. 

Difficult anchors seemed to be the theme as one of them ended up being off both my skis buried as pickets and backed up by a shady cam.  I had heard there are numerous bolts along the traverse but only saw one.  Adam saw another after I already went by at ankle level.  Many were probably covered by snow.  Part of the dilemma was trying to find a protected area to belay as the day was warming up and the upper face was shedding small projectiles.  
I think this pick helps display the foolishness of the day
It felt like the Ribbon would never end because adding rope work to skiing makes the pace more akin to climbing.  We finally made it off the Ribbon and into the gully on the looker's left of the Castle.  I thought we'd be able to open it up and enjoy some turns but I only got in two.  A bit more side slipping and I was through the cliff bands, rewarded by slushy turns through old debris.  
Adam is the black dot, still high on the Castle with some cliff bands to negotiate.  Felt good to be back on the apron. 

Really good.
My ski days are numbered.  I predict only 4 more this season...

1 comment:

  1. You so crazy. I think I just myself a little. Love looking at ur crazy lines!