We settled on making a push for The Horn. We’d head due west for a few miles, make our way into the alpine and try our luck at the couloirs descending from Horn. We made breakfast, melted some snow to top off our Nalgenes, plotted a few waypoints on our GPS devices and hit the skin track.
Our route brought us down into Bob’s Hole, up and over Norway Ridge and due west along the southern face of Norway Ridge and straight into the alpine. Eventually we’d hit a steep face just beneath the floor of the bowl underneath the horn. We’d kick turn our way up the face, and transition for a boot-pack up one of the couloirs to the top of The Horn and commence the slaying of big lines! Check out the objective area below.
View Norway Basin in a larger map
View Norway Basin in a larger map
When we hit the trail, the whole place was totally socked in. It wasn’t really fog, just low cloud cover. Armed with map, compass, and GPS we hit the trail with confidence and determination. We kept spaced out for most of the skin track, but regrouped for route-finding discussions at islands of safety. For most of the skin we could really only see the person immediately in front of or behind us.
We emerged from the fog and cloud cover to discover that we were more or less where we wanted to be if not guilty of setting a ridiculous skin-track.
From here we had only a short climb into the floor of the bowl, where we could start our final ascent and get ready for the skiing! As we made our toward the last big push, the clouds totally clear out, and we start to get a good look at what we’ve gotten ourselves into. We can’t help but split ear to ear grins…
After having a good look around, eating some snacks, drinking some water and joking around, we put on our game faces. It was time to throw the skis on our backs, set a boot pack, and then ski! Until now, we hadn’t really done anything remarkable. Sure, we’d had a few good turns the previous afternoon, and we’d done some nice skinning in a relatively pristine wilderness, but this is what we were really here for. We were in the alpine, the sun was out, stability was excellent, and there were only a few precarious steps between us shredding couloirs and bowls! The planning, the, flying, the driving, the credit card bills, the labored breathing, and the sweat were all about to pay off…
After we’d had our fill of breathtaking scenery, we returned to the task at hand: slaying big mountain lines. After some debate, we decided to split up: Rob and Brad would ski the steep, narrow chute running northeast off of The Horn, and Ryan, Karl and I would take the wider, mellower chute off of the northwest flank of The Horn. We’d regroup in the floor of the bowl, then cross the floor, and ascend the south facing slope, traverse northeast along the ridge and drop in from somewhere near the top. Most of the best GoPro footage is from these two runs.
Mission Accomplished! Our first objective of the day was a resounding success, and armed with a powerful adrenaline rush, we concocted a route up the opposite face in search of our next conquest. The next climb was relatively short and totally non-technical – we took our time and enjoyed the climb. We were greeted by stunning views in practically every direction we turned.
Again, we were compelled to loiter around the top of the ridge admiring the scenery and contemplating the awesomeness of alpine touring. We lazily traversed across the ridge from the saddle toward the high end where we planned to drop in. It was mostly non-technical, with one brief steep section that simply required some deliberate movement. We stopped short of the absolute top of the ridge because the snow quality seemed to deteriorate close to the craggy top. There were certainly a few cool chutes dropping down from the top and emptying out into the wide-open run-out. However, in the afternoon sun the snow was warming up quickly. Lots of wet slough was running down from the craggy peak and ruining the snow surface. We kept our eyes open for rollerballs and planned to make this our last run for the day before heading back for Bob’s Hole and the yurt. We stuck to the middle of the slope for the best skiing and laid down some nice super-g turns.
After an epic day in the alpine, the yurt might as well have been the penthouse suite: we split some wood, stoked the fire, and made ourselves at home. The view from outside the yurt was nearly as good as the view from the alpine, and the yurt itself was like a haven of warmth and comfort in the midst of a vast wilderness. Truly, life was good!
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