NOVEMBER 28, 2020
Dan making his way up Crystal Peak. We had decided to boot up the last bit, as skinning conditions were a little funky.
lately, Dan and I have been...
Trying to write down our goals. This is a way for us to hold each-other accountable for what we want to do with our lives, but also it is a great way to remind ourselves what we are working towards! This season, we had wanted to ski a majority of the couloirs in the Crystal backcountry, and by the time we made our goal list, G-String was one of the major ones left that we hadn't done yet. After a great day of skiing Sheep Lake Couloir with friends, we decided that G-String had to be the next up on our list. G-String is a striking couloir that you can see from the top of Chair 6 when riding at Crystal. It is a stark line that drops from the top of Crystal Peak down 1,300ft of the North side. Being only really 45 degrees at it's steepest, it starts wide, narrows a lot (especially with it being early season!), and then widens a bit more but continues for a couple hundred more feet of fun turns before it ends at Crystal Creek. The night before our ski, Crystal had gotten a bit of wind, and we weren't entirely sure how much of it had blown around up on Crystal Peak. We took the skin cautiously, as we found that we were breaking off what looked like wind slab that had gathered on the skintrack.
After digging a bit and testing the slope itself, however, we found the slope itself it to be quite stable, but noted the strangeness of the skintrack for later in the day. We got to the summit of Crystal Peak, a peak that in the summer is usually covered in hikers, but today was completely empty. We peered down the North side, still unsure of the stability. With Dan's snow saw, we decided to cut a cornice to see if it triggered anything. Dan sliced and... Nothing. Awesome. We skied down the ridge a bit, and decided to make a ski cut to test it further. I dropped in this time, and again nothing but slough. We skied down to the entrance of the couloir and peered down. Oof - steep and narrow! It was what we wanted to challenge ourselves with today, and we were excited. We noted one constriction where we weren't entirely sure how or if we could ski around it. The only way to find out was to go check, so I took off down the couloir and we stopped at a safe spot so that Dan could have a visual on me as I skied down.
A stunning day looking over towards Upper Crystal lake from Crystal Peak.
Dan trying to get around the little constriction. Funky stuff with this little snowpack!
I took a couple of fun zippy turns, and slowed down as I approached the rocky constriction. Practicing my hop turn form, I positioned myself as narrow as my skis would allow, and found that the rocky constriction was too narrow to side-step down. Hmm. I peered below the bulge and found that the couloir stays quite narrow past it as well. Not much room for error if I were to straight-line it and turn to stop. The snow was powdery and forgiving, so I sat at the constriction for a bit, considered the possibility of straight-lining it, and ultimately, I wimped out. Instead, I down-stepped as low as I possibly could on the rocky outcrop, sat down on the snow, swung my skis around it, and stood up safely at the bottom of the bulge. Skiing down to our meeting spot, I felt a bit like a gumby having swung around in that way, but used that energy to make me determined to practice and get better at getting past narrow constrictions like that. I had done it safely, it just didn't look good. "All clear!" I said on the radio. "Okay, dropping!" replied Dan. He made a couple of nice turns down the couloir, and side stepped down to the constriction. He stood at the top like I did for a couple of minutes, and decided to try to straight line it. He sat down in the snow, dug the tails of his skis into the snow, and then leaned into it. He looked solid at first, but then, as he pushed into his turn, whoop! He went over the handlebars.
"Dang!" He said when he had stopped and shook off the snow, "I felt like I almost had it". Looks like we've both got some couloir skills to work on. We were thankful to be able to do this couloir in forgiving snow conditions, otherwise we might have had a long boot back up to get out. Neither of us would have wanted to attempt to get past that bulge in bad conditions. We squiggled down the rest of the couloir and once it ran into dense trees at the creek, we transitioned back to skins and made our way back up to Upper Crystal lake. The skin back up was borderline heinous, as it involved a lot of dense tree skinning, somehow a lot of downhill skinning (of which we both fell face-first, multiple times in the snow), and a lot of creek traversing. We finally made it up to the lake with beautiful sunlight beaming down on us, and went up to the col west of Three Way Peak to drop in to Silver Basin. Overall a great day exploring new terrain that probably (actually most certainly) would ski better with a higher snowpack. We'll have to come back and ski it later this winter!
Both of us are excited to come back to this chute, and try Shoestring while we're at it. We didn't head over there since it felt not quite worth it yet. Next time!
Dan making turns down the "lower section of the chute" which is really just the avy path that is created when big avalanches rip down the chute. Not something to be skiing in a high-danger day!
Total mileage of the day - 10.28 miles
Total elevation gain - 2,600ft (We did it lift accessed via Chair 6. It would have been closer to 5k without)
Total time - 5 hours 41 mins
Max slope angle of the couloir ~ 45 degrees, started wide, got very narrow, then stayed moderately narrow for the runout. Would be better with more snow.
GPS via Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/4404569849