Dual Coolies on Nez Perce – Sliver to East Hourglass: April 18, 2013

With April going by quickly and the snow showing no sign of stopping, I can’t bear to watch a sunny day pass without getting out into the Park somewhere.  I had only skied 1 of the 3 main couloirs on Nez Perce, but had a plan for today that would get us into both of the other ones.  We would ascend most of the way up Nez Perce via the Sliver Couloir, and drop off of the opposite side into the more technical East Hourglass Couloir for our descent.

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The Sliver Couloir, leading up to the obvious notch in Nez Perce

Instead of skinning up Shadow Peak first (as is normally done mid-winter), we chose to take Garnett Canyon almost all the way to the Meadows to avoid a potentially long, slippery skin.  Even so, we encountered a couple slick section in the gentler terrain of Garnett Canyon that forced me to take off my split and boot uphill for a couple minutes.  Kinda lame.  As the Meadows came into view, we veered off to boot up one of the Platforms Couloirs to Shadow Peak Cirque (the base of the Sliver).

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Mike cruising up one of the Platforms Couloirs

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Skinning through Shadow Peak Cirque on our way to the Sliver.  Had we taken the traditional route, we would have gained a little extra vert and dropped into the steep, shaded pow run on the left.

Up here the snow was soft and free of any noticeable buried crusts, so we decided to forgo crampons and just boot up with axe in hand.  Most of the time we were sinking in to our knees or so, but found a couple spots with nice firm, yet penetrable, snow.  The Sliver supposedly nears 50 degrees or so, but didn’t feel as steep as I had expected.  A couple crazies from Salt Lake ascended with us, but on skins….a tricky feat for sure!

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Mike coming up the Sliver

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Kevin getting close to the top

At the top, the two from Salt Lake dropped back into the Sliver, while we readied ourselves for the first rappel into the East Hourglass.  We weren’t sure what exactly to expect in terms of rappel distances and anchors, so ended up bringing a fair amount of gear/rope up with us.  We spotted an old piece of webbing around a sturdy rock flake, and built a simple rap anchor off of it using our own gear.

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Looking down the East Hourglass Couloir from where it meets the Sliver

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Slinging a rock flake for our first anchor

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Huckin’ rope

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Off rappel, at the start of the downclimb

After rappelling through a couple rocky sections, we unclipped from the rope and downclimbed (facing in) the roughly 55 degree “hanging” part of the couloir down to the next rappel station.  The snow was deep, supportable and well suited for kicking steps….but our axes still did a lot to help us feel secure.  At the bottom, we found 2 sturdy, well-equalized pitons, and an abandoned rope attached to it.  This is the rappel that we thought had the potential to be quite long, so having a fixed line was actually really convenient.  The rope had been buried by the most recent snowfall, so as I rappelled I had to keep pulling it up and out of the snow.  The rope looked solid for the most part, and I had gear with me to ascend it in case I ran into any sketchy sections.  Near the end about 10 feet off the ground, I encountered one section where the sheath was broken (but core intact), but simply unweighted my munter, passed it through, and continued downward.  A fall here, while probably not too fun, would have been unlikely to lead to serious injury, and the forces on the rope were low.

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Kevin coming down to the 2nd rap anchor.  So much for all the nuts and old “leaver” cams we brought….

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Partway down the 2nd rappel

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Skiable to the end, at last!

At the end of the 2nd rappel, we stomped out a ledge, took our skis/splits off our backs, and rode it out to the Meadows.  The snow here was soft and grippable, but nothing like the pow we had encountered in the hanging section.  Winds were constantly blowing up the couloir during our descent, and had clearly left its mark on the lower portion.  Still, the ski out was a fun one, and we were down to the Meadows by 2:00….pretty early for a day in the Park!

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