Riding the Laundry Chute

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

I love skiing peaks that I can see as I go about daily life — it is special to glance up and remember how it felt to slide down that mountain in the distance. I can see Mount Sopris as I eat breakfast every morning, so I try to ski the big white shining behemoth at least once a year. The Laundry Chutes (on Sopris’ small but technical nordwand) have always tempted me as I shovel down waffles and orange juice. Today I finally got to see what one of them is like, and it did not disappoint.

Anton scrambling up the base of the couloir.

Anton scrambling up the base of the couloir, actually, I guess we should call this climbing. Perhaps a cover shot for Alpinist Magazine? Photo by Louie, click image to enlarge to full glory.

We left the house at 2:45 AM, and fought side hills on our sleds (or at least I fought them, don’t know about Jordan) to the snowmobile boundary. Although the forecast had called for a freezing level at 11,000 feet, frozen snow made for easy skinning. We clocked good time to Thomas Lakes, where we veered left toward the basin below the east Sopris summit (it has twin summits). After booting a short headwall, we continued up the low angled rock glacier with our objective staring us in the face. There is always a line of massive cornices at the top of these chutes, but today there looked to be a few spots that were free of the intimidating frozen waves. We chose the left chute, as it looked to have the least corniced entrance, and the smallest cliff at the bottom. After speeding along frozen corn on the approach, we encountered ankle deep pow as we skinned up the apron. Corn on the approach, pow on the steep stuff, fine with me!

The morning sun hits the Laundry Chutes as we skin toward the base. We skied the couloir second from the left.

The morning sun hits the Laundry Chutes as we skin toward the base. Photo by Louie, click image to enlarge.

We were able to skin almost all the way to the base of the couloir, where we switched to crampons to negotiate the icy ramp that blocked the entrance. We wallowed to the base, and Jordan started up. The ice was centimeters thick, and shattered when you looked at it, so we tried to stay on the rock as much as possible. After a fun little climb, we encountered firmer snow in the chute. Perfect for booting. We made short work of the stair master, and turned our attention to getting out of the couloir. At the top all options looked equally rocky and loose, so we chose one and went for it (turned out to be a bit dicey). After gaining the ridge, I took a nice poo with a view, and continued toward the summit.

Anton smiling as he balances on loose rock, with me crouching below.

Anton smiling as he balances on loose rock, with me crouching below in missile avoidance posture. Photo by Jordan, click image to enlarge.

Every time I’ve been on top of Sopris the wind has nearly blown me off, but this time we enjoyed a light breeze. We skied the narrow margin between rocks and cornice on the summit ridge, then headed down toward our couloir. Thankfully, we found a steep mini-chute so we could avoid down climbing through the rocks of our ascent route. Fun chalky powder turns were had in the chute.

Anton starting down the main couloir

Anton starting down the main couloir. Photo by Jordan, click image to enlarge.

We paused just above the cliff blocking the exit. Although it was only five feet or so, the drop was low angled, with jagged rocks at the lip. Also, the landing was questionable as we’d encountered numerous holes and hollow snow as we were booting below it. Anton went first, sending it smoothly, and proceeded to shralp the pow on the apron. Next was Jordan, and then me. I hadn’t jumped off anything since my knee surgery, but there was no way around it, and I definitely didn’t want to down climb it. After a bit of sidestepping and poking around, I took a deep breath and pointed my skis at the rocks and went for it. The landing was feathery soft, it hardly even felt like I left the ground. Then there was the wide open apron full of powder.

Getting some pow below the couloir

Getting some pow below the couloir. Photo by Jordan, click to enlarge.

We skied smooth corn down to Thomas Lakes, where we encountered the dreaded snirt. This must be like skiing the sand dunes; downhill with skins on. After skating and slogging where you’d normally glide, we reached our sleds and motored back to our trucks. Anton had been talking about White House Pizza since 5:00 am, and he promptly speeded off in pursuit of some carbs. Jordan and I followed suit.

Comments

17 Responses to “Riding the Laundry Chute”

  1. Mark W April 19th, 2010 10:53 am

    These types of descents make it easy to forget about lift-served skiing.

  2. Zachary Winters April 19th, 2010 12:55 pm

    Louie, glad to see you’re taking drops again, regardless of whether or not it’s by choice. Looks like an awesome trip. HWY-20 opened this weekend. Booked you a flight, we’ll get you at Sea-Tac at 7:10 pm on Thursday.

  3. Anton April 19th, 2010 1:07 pm

    Alpinist would be lucky to have that shot grace their cover.

  4. Lou April 19th, 2010 2:04 pm

    Jordan’s photos are looking better and better — he might even be justifying that big camera he hauls around! (grin) See more at http://www.elksandbeyond.com

  5. Louie April 19th, 2010 2:11 pm

    Sounds good Zach, see you there. haha.

  6. Graeme April 19th, 2010 5:36 pm

    great TR

    one thing though – I tried licking that top image but nothing changed on my screen except there was a smudge on it:)

  7. Louie April 19th, 2010 5:41 pm

    Good eye, fixed it.

  8. Colin in CA April 19th, 2010 10:41 pm

    Rad TR, Louie.

  9. Mom April 20th, 2010 7:08 am

    Enjoyed your TR, Louie. I’m looking forward to our annual Mother’s Day ski up Mt. Sopris and the mellow shuss down the face. The Laundry Shutes are too scary for me!
    Love,
    Mom

  10. Matt Kinney April 20th, 2010 9:05 am

    Nice TR. Good go and get.
    Thanks louie.

    “poo with a view” :lol: classic

  11. Toby April 20th, 2010 10:41 pm

    Is it just me or is Anton just asking for trouble? Looks can be deceiving but he’s ready for a nasty fall.

  12. Marc April 21st, 2010 9:58 am

    ^^I agree ^^
    Anton looks GRIPPED! How about a belay?
    It pays to be a skier AND a climber when “ski mountaineering”.
    Nice line though, even better you can see it from mom and dad’s kitchen!
    Good job, boyz!

  13. Charlie MacArthur April 21st, 2010 10:34 am

    Anton,
    Super pics! Nice job buddy!

  14. Mike Traslin April 21st, 2010 4:31 pm

    Good one!

    Would like to get to an area like that sometime…..

    Cheers!

  15. Caleb Wray April 21st, 2010 8:01 pm

    That first pic is definitely a winner Louie. I warned you guys about hanging out with Jordan in the spring, el loco.

  16. Jordan April 24th, 2010 12:45 pm

    In Anton’s defense in the first picture, he had just dodged a rock that came flying down the couloir.

    Caleb… More crazy coming…

  17. Jeff Wolter April 26th, 2010 8:30 am

    Good stuff guys

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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