Ships Prow – Flying Dutchman Couloir – 11/11/2013 – A Sweet Second Tour in RMNP

So Wednesday I met up with Fred, Mark and Korinne and we skied a few laps at Butler. It was my first time skiing with any of them. While we were skiing Fred mentioned the idea of skiing Flying Dutchman up in the RMNP. That very day another friend had posted some sweet beta pics of that very line on Facebook. From our tour and from the word of a few trusted friends I was able to tell that Fred was strong and capable. It being early season and all, I knew we wouldn’t be perfectly sharp but I figured that if things didn’t end up going smoothly we could always bail.

So the alarm went off at 3am and I put on the clothes I’d laid out before bedtime. I didn’t want to wake up Allison making coffee so I just grabbed a few cokes and hit the road for Boulder. Fred was ready when I got there after a small navigation misstep. This was promising. We made decent time to the Long’s Trailhead and geared up. We started at 5:35 or Dark:30am. We made OK time up to Chasm Lake and opted for the safe route around the north side of the lake. This ate some time but allowed us to change over in the warming sun and get some sweet pics of our intended route.

We made our way to the base of the line and checked out the ice on the lake. It was rock hard and would make for an easier exit. At the base of the couloir we put on our crampons and I opened up my thumb. My ice tool clipped a blood blister I had on the tip of my thumb. It was a bloody mess but nothing a band-aid and some tape couldn’t fix. Then the upward progression began. There were multiple rock steps to deal with in the couloir but they were all pretty easy up until the last one. The last was a bit of a bear with minimal hands and the potential for a nasty fall. I thought it was spicy. But isn’t that why we venture into places such as these?

Once at the base of the ice cliff we got ready for more spiciness. I carried the rope up and have to say that it kicked my early season ass a bit. So Fred took the lead and did a fine job up the fat WI3 ice. Once he’d built an anchor, I followed and had a blast cleaning the line. It was good to sink in my tools and crampons. The ice up there is fat right now 🙂 The ski set up I had with me was the perfect weight for ice climbing and I didn’t even notice it on the ascent. At the top we rearranged the anchor and rappelled to the skiing section.

The snow in the couloir was really good and really bad. This isn’t a powder line by any means. If you got it in pow the sluff would really mess up your day, potentially dragging you over multiple cliffs. The snow was firm in places and soft in others with only one very short 10′ slabby section. It was all very edgeable. I was out on some new skis, taking my new Yetis for their second day on snow. They behaved exactly how I expected then to. Testing doesn’t get any better than this.

At the bottom we skied across the lake and then switched to shoes for the walk out. The light in the evening soon turned to blackness as the sun faded away. We finished the day with our headlamps lit just as it had begun in the morning. We emerged from the forest round about Dark:30pm happy with our second tour and already talking about what would be next.

Check out more of Fred’s pics at his website

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