The (Other) Winter Carnival Part I: Unconventional Terrain

By:  Greg
February 7, 2011

At this point our preparation for the descent truly began to show its value, when a quick check of the GPS and our visual bearings confirmed that a hard tack would be required to stay clear of a several hundred foot ice cliff. Confident in our bearing, we pushed through some dense trees toward the objective. As we emerged from the trees, we came upon the final navigational challenge. A powder field hanging precipitously above ice cliffs guarding the access to our anchor station. A surreal feeling set in as we realized all around us was sheer cliff face. Mountaineers and climbers speak of the feeling of “exposure” and it sounds trite when repeated, but every time I get the feeling of being “out there” I’m reminded how apropos the term “exposure” really is. We debated doing some sidestepping and bushwacking along the edges of the snowfield to minimize the risk of falling, but in the end Ben decided he wanted to nab a few turns in this completely improbable setting. I was not one to deny him an aesthetic ski descent, and he proceeded down and across the snowfield toward the anchor station. The black object behind him is the leash of his ice tool.
Exposure in ski mountaineering

I pulled out our rope, and we both harnessed up. After a quick anchor build by Ben, we hauled our skis upon our back, and proceeded with the descent via rappel.
The rappel

Thanks to the snow from Wednesday, which made the snowfield below that much bigger, our rope just got us to the bottom. We were prepared to set up a second rap station if need be, but were glad to avoid that hassle. I thought about tossing the rope, and just hitting this thing switch to the road… but I got cold feet and decided to rappel instead.
Greg rappels in

We made a brief congratulations to each other for safely reaching the snow once again, but we both knew plenty of challenges lay ahead. It was not time to relax yet. As I got my skis on, Ben graciously coiled the rope; we hoped to avoid using it for the remainder of the descent.
Ben coils the rope

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Read about the author:   Greg
Enjoy this TR? Read another: TR: A PNW Summer – Part 3


  1. Lionel Hutz
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 10:32 am  

    Dude…you two just straight are KILLING IT!

    • Kate B
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:44 pm  

      as I was reading your TR Backcountry magazine arrived in the mail
      compare the picture of Ben rappelling to this months cover from Chamonix:

      + New England shrubbery
      + one helmet
      – one electric yellow rope

    • Kate B
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:45 pm  

      that was supposed to be a new line
      I don’t know how to use the interwebs

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:46 pm  

      HA… good eye Kate!

      if you want me to edit… make another ocmment here which says what you want, and i’ll fix it for you.

      do we get an equals sign there?

    • Kate B
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 10:07 pm  

      = gnar heli-ski terrain?

      = a secret French colony located deep in the mountains? Don’t let Quebec find out or it will be overrun with elk

      I just meant it as a new thread instead of a reply. You can change it if you like, no big

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 10:53 pm  

      heh…. i like it how it is at this point

  2. Talbert
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 11:31 am  
  3. Adrian
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:01 pm  


    Easily TR of the year so far. And some amazing photos too. Very strong, all around!

  4. Roger Kappe
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:07 pm  

    Looked up at that cliff line from the pow-fields below last weekend thinking to myself you would have to be nuts to try and come down that. I was right. Great Pics, Glad I know now where the tracks are that i should be avoiding…

    We thoroughly enjoyed the “easier” access to the lower line last weekend hiking from the bottom, Must’ve been awesome after this weeks snow.

    See you guys out there.

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 3:31 pm  

      stuff is shaping up nicely Roger!! Glad you guys got it… between you and chris we were feeling pretty good on teh shape of the lower parts

  5. Porter Haney
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:26 pm  

    Excellent work, Gents.

    Any front flips?

  6. angry swede
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:30 pm  

    +1 for TR of the year/season. Faceshot pics not necessary(blasphemy?) when lines are this serious.

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 3:30 pm  

      Thanks Jackson! I guess the faceshot pic probably wasn’t necessary… I really have a weakness for them though.

  7. Peter
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:48 pm  

    high fives all around.

  8. Skimohr
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 12:57 pm  

    Awesome. Nice work guys! What snow!

  9. baconeater
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 1:10 pm  

    That there is some well-executed, no-mistake skiing. Way to make it happen, AND be calm enough to capture it so eloquently in pictures.

  10. Eric
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 1:51 pm  

    Awesome, just awesome.

  11. Scotty D
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:42 pm  

    Glad the trip to the hardware store worked out for Ben.

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 3:29 pm  

      HA! So true. almost forgot about that…

      who’d have thought “this TR was brought to you by a .99$ M5 button head from true value”?

  12. JJ
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:56 pm  

    This TR confirmed why Ben is the “other picture” on all our Stowe season’s passes

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 2:57 pm  

      in fact your season passes are all his ;)

  13. Marc
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 3:54 pm  

    BTW, you wrote:
    “…a rappel over a chaussy mixed climbing route;…”

    The climbing term is “chossy”.
    Chaussy is a commune in the Val-d’Oise department in Île-de-France in northern France.

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 3:58 pm  

      Thanks Marc! I have actually wondered about the spelling for a while. Kind of like, how to I spell “wuss”… w. h. u. s. .s? IDK…

      anyway, it’s fixed now. appreciate it.

    • Could Be Buggy
      wrote on February 8th, 2011 at 6:32 am  

      He was referring to the commune. The section stunk.

  14. Harvey44
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 4:41 pm  

    For some reason my interwebz won’t load page 4. Pages 1-3 = mind boggling. I’m betting even the “nervous bumbling” took courage. What is the pitch of that chute?

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 4:52 pm  

      Hey Harv. Thanks for reading! I looked into it, and our server did go down for a few minutes. Some power issue on their end. They promise it’s back up now though. If you still can’t read page 4, let me know so I can probe further.

      As to the nervous bumbling… yeah I had to focus to keep getting stuff done. I personally enjoy the feeling of “needing to execute,” but it is surely not for everyone.

      Not sure on the steepness. It’s similar to a chute Sam measured a few years back at the upper 40s (degrees). I’ll check with him and see if he has any measurements from in this chute as well.

      As a side note, since the snow was basically piled in at the top of the snow tongue (bottom of the rappel), it was as steep as it could hold itself in. Any more snow would pore over the ice bulge, and any less and it wouldnt’ have been skiable yet. I’m not a snow scientist by any means, but I’m sure based on the density and flake type of the snow, someone could tell you how steep the snow can possibly “sandpile (verb)” itself in a situation like we found it in…

  15. efoxx
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 5:05 pm  

    Awesome TR. Great form on that last huck. Did you stick the landing?

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 5:08 pm  

      I’ll out myself. I did NOT stick the landing. Had some…um…ski lamentation issues on impact, and as such ended up auguring in a little bit deep to pop out of it on my feet. I think I executed a perfect tuck and roll however :D

  16. Jesse
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 5:10 pm  

    Thanks for taking me along on that ride, Greg. Looked ballsy and wicked fun!

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 10:36 pm  

      thanks for reading Jesse! How are your mosaics comin?

  17. Allen
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 6:40 pm  

    I eyed up that line more than a few times back in the day, good work.

    • Greg
      wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 6:41 pm  

      so what you’re trying to say is: “I totally considered that first” right? ;) (end inside joke)

  18. Mom
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 7:00 pm  

    Glad you guys made it. Remember your mother–you too, Greg! We don’t crave excitement but we do like to see your pictures.

  19. christian
    wrote on February 7th, 2011 at 8:44 pm  

    the second to last shot is out of control

  20. Pete
    wrote on February 8th, 2011 at 3:43 pm  

    OK, I’m jealous but thoroughly enjoyed the ride along with you. Nice job!

  21. Hammerhead
    wrote on February 8th, 2011 at 6:54 pm  

    That kicks some serious cAss! Some seriously committing terrain. Did that runnel of ice at the top go top-to-bottom? Did it look protectable?

    • Greg
      wrote on February 9th, 2011 at 7:20 am  

      I assume you’re talking about the one that we rapped over?

      The ice under the rap did no go cleanly to the top. Became mixed and pretty chossy looking. I’m a wuss of a climber though, so I’m easily scared by that sorta stuff. I will say that little bit of ice that is visible seemed pretty strong. Not sure it’s worth the effort though

  22. powhounddd
    wrote on February 8th, 2011 at 9:40 pm  

    You guys rock!

  23. marc
    wrote on February 10th, 2011 at 9:44 pm  

    that looks hairball. well done

  24. Mark
    wrote on February 11th, 2011 at 7:11 pm  

    I was going to leave some snarky comment about how you just managed to do a boring ice route backwards, but instead: holy crap. Awesome, awesome skiing.

    • Greg
      wrote on February 11th, 2011 at 7:23 pm  

      ha… thanks Mark. It is a rather tame ice route i guess. ;)

      is this Ben’s friend Mark btw?

  25. sfmornay
    wrote on February 14th, 2011 at 12:07 pm  

    Hey Greg; Great huck! Recognized the rock on skier’s right. Like Roger Kappe, I hiked up to below that rock last Wednesday with Brendan, who was visiting from DC. It was his first off-piste experience – I lent him my AT gear and I walked. The climb up was a wallow in waist-deep snow, largely on all fours with skis in one hand and crossed poles in the other. Snow was stable and DEEP. I’ll post some pix on T4T when Brendan sends me his set. Maybe I’ll reverse the images to confound the haters :-)
    Cheers, Mike

    • Greg
      wrote on February 14th, 2011 at 4:28 pm  

      cool beans Mike. Looking forward to those pics. How’d Brandon like our BC?!

    • sfmornay
      wrote on February 15th, 2011 at 10:25 am  

      He was impressed by both the aesthetics and the hard work of the experience. I think he enjoyed Cabot cheese and Ben & Jerry’s on the way back almost as much :-)

  26. Ben C
    wrote on March 1st, 2011 at 7:37 pm  
  27. steve
    wrote on March 10th, 2011 at 11:51 pm  

    Just wondering…how come you guys didnt climb up the line? It would have been super fun and you would no exactly what you were getting yourselves into.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 11th, 2011 at 12:28 am  

      just what we felt like doing. this was plenty of fun. don’t worry about it.

  28. steve
    wrote on March 12th, 2011 at 8:54 pm  

    yeah, well awsome job guys…it’s stuff like this that gives me pride for the east coast!

    • Greg
      wrote on March 12th, 2011 at 10:15 pm  

      cool thanks for the comment.

      it is not uncommon for folks to climb up this gully from the bottom and stop below what we called “the boulder huck” and ski down from there. In fat years it’s not a big ordeal to get up to the bottom of the rappel… but when we did it I think it would have been a stiff 4th class climb, and more likely a 5.low to get up the boulder huck if one wanted to ascend…

      always a throw of the dice to figure out what one wishes to do in the mountains… this time we chose what we did for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was for several years we all had been saying “let’s do that one from the tippy top!”…

      thanks for checking in Steve

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