One of the perks of living on the Coast, is that my winter was filled with many steep lines. But I encountered amazing snow conditions all winter, so every descent was pretty mellow. Powder allows a lot of people with a wide range of abilities to enjoy steep skiing. Whereas the top of the couloir on Chatyn is a sheet of ice. You can’t fake it here. Technique has to be airtight.
Although my legs have decided to cramp on me and I can barely stand, I’m excited for the descent. Time to put the past winter’s experience into action. Besides, jedi steep techniques use mostly gravity and not much energy from the body.
A skiff of fresh snow sits on top of an ice crust that edges cannot penetrate. Things are very steep, but it’s hard to gauge since the visibility is so bad. I immediately lock in to the ‘French double pole plant’ turn. I love it for serious steeps. Turn after turn I realize I’m on my game. There are no missteps. Falling is impossible . . . feels good.
Except for the unrelenting steepness, the upper couloir goes smoothly. I reach the crux first and replace skis and poles with crampons and ice axes. After a seemingly long and careful transition, I start front-pointing my way down towards the steep ice wall. On the near vertical sidewall, a small sluff rips down the runnel. From above Peter gives the OK that the runnel will be clear, and I quickly scamper back down and up the other side. I soon have the skis back on, and making uber steep turns on the softer sun-affected sidewall of the couloir. I’d been eyeing this section on the way up and was itching to make turns on these confined slopes, past frozen waterfalls and debris spines.
As we got lower, the visibility improved and tensions began to release. Once out of the couloir, the turns were easy, but we still had to navigate all the ‘schrunds and down climb ‘schrund #3, with a short 10 foot drop into soft snow.
Once in camp, we collapsed. We ate a lot of our leftover food knowing our objective was completed and the trip was done. I emailed home on my Inreach, telling the good news.
This line was interesting. I’ve skied steeper, longer, and been more exhausted before. But combining the overall steepness, the length, the multitude of objective hazards, the icy conditions, and horrendous visibility, it’s certainly one of the most committing lines I’ve done. We believe that it’s a 1st descent. Peter was gracious in giving the ‘complete’ descent to me, as I made turns down as much of the line as possible. He also believes it to be the most technical descent done to date in the Caucasus Range. Very cool.