Coleman Headwall FAIL

By:  Sam
June 23, 2010

Reed, approaching the saddle below the Roman Wall.

Me, nearing the summit. Photo: Drew Tabke

Drew (like the rest of us), nervous, cold, and ready to get this over with.

Our plan called for skiing down the rocky ridge close to the blue line in the earlier photo. Once we were confident in the edge-ability of the snow, we’d drop into the main face. If we never became comfortable with the snow quality, we’d either exit hard to lookers right, back to the Roman Wall, or try to pick a line down above the ice cliff that was shown collapsing in earlier photos.

As we carefully jump-turned and side slipped down the smoothly-rimed ridge, we became increasingly nervous. We were fully on the Blue line at that point and, despite a change in aspect and a lower elevation, the snow wasn’t getting any softer, it was getting harder.

Reed, carefully making his way down the ridge. I’d never seen a rollover that significant. You could only see the snow 20-30 feet ahead of you and then the toe of the Coleman Glacier 2000 feet below.

Drew, approaching the point of no return. From the snow patch just to the left of Drew, we would have to decide wether to commit to 2000 feet of unknown quality, 50 degree snow, or bail out onto more south facing slope above the ice cliff. The large crevasses above the ice cliff gave us pause, but we ultimately decided to try ski the steep, soft, crevasse exposed snow, rather than risk steep, hard, crevasse exposed snow. We obviously could have re-climbed our line, and descended the Roman wall, but we were confident enough, and felt it would be a worthwhile ski.

Reed, looking down our line.

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Read about the author:   Sam
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: Afterwork Vermont Whitewater Adventure


  1. christian
    wrote on June 23rd, 2010 at 8:10 pm  

    wow sam, glad to see you’re not wasting any time out there. i really like the 3rd to last shot of reed making schuss by the wobbly seracs, yikes. fedora as helmet…how debonair.

    • Sam
      wrote on June 23rd, 2010 at 8:43 pm  

      Time is a non-renewable resource, it’s not to be wasted.

  2. Greg
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 12:17 am  

    so did Reed poo those little red dots on the mountain in the last shot to leave a record of your descent? I’m confused. ;)

    JK man (and other men appearing in this TR). SOLID work. Almost too big for 17mm it seems… hard to get it all in. Keep it churnin out there. We’re eager to keep the flame burning back here.

    PS Reed skis like Zach from this tr

    PPS Question for Drew: What’s with that ice tool carry? Is there some reason behind that that I’m missing? From the comfort of my sofa in 80 degree VT it looks like a kidney-kabob maker…

    • Sam
      wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 12:28 am  

      Re: your question for Drew. He didn’t have a whippet. He was keeping the axe handy in case he wanted to ski with his axe out and ready to arrest (which he did for a brief while).

  3. Chris
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 9:41 am  

    That’s a pretty sweet looking fail.. Nice write up Sam and killer pics.

  4. Jay
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 10:03 am  

    Great TR!!

    I’m liking the Washington branch of FIS already…

  5. Harvey44
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 10:59 am  

    Sam … I got scared just reading it. Beautiful photos and a compelling story. While I haven’t attempted an bc ski of that scope, I can totally relate to the feeling of exhilaration that you get enjoying the hero snow at the end of an adventure, when the significant risk is all behind you.

  6. Adrian
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 11:05 am  

    Wow, this is very impressive even though you didn’t hit your target line.

    Also, it’s nice to see that there’s still cold somewhere on this continent. Dealing with 90°+ days for the past week (ugh!), it’s a refreshing reminder.

  7. Drew
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 12:14 pm  

    I had my axe-as-sidearm up top for sideslipping down 45°+ fall-you-die rime ice. I kept it available as I headed over snow bridges down into the serac ramp in case I needed it there for any reason. And then skiing the ramp proper, another very steep slope, we started to note glacial ice under the corn and if I found myself on something blue I wanted to be ready.

    But thanks for your concern for my kidneys, they appreciate it.

    • Greg
      wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 4:32 pm  

      thanks for the input. always like to hear the thinking behind mtn travel choices are…

      and make no mistake, I wasn’t critiquing in any way… hence the joke about me quarterbacking from my armchair. awesome to have you featured in a TR Drew. Here’s to many more!!

  8. Hannah
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 2:24 pm  

    I <3 Drew Tabke

    Also like photo #3 on page 4: all indications point to this being a serious ski line, but actually buckle one's boots? Nahhh.

  9. robrox
    wrote on June 24th, 2010 at 4:19 pm  

    Adrenal line choice! The crashing ice and numerous slide paths all!

    Great pix!

  10. Harvey44
    wrote on June 26th, 2010 at 10:18 am  

    Good catch Hannah! Eagle eye.

  11. powhounddd
    wrote on June 28th, 2010 at 9:16 pm  

    holey moley, June turns FTW!

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