Sunday, March 27, 2011

West Slabs aka Medusa's Face: All You Ever Wanted, and More

The Straightchuter says this about the Medusa's Face:
Like Russian Roulette--more fun to watch than to play.  This is a good line to skip unless it's really been weighing on your mind.  The angle and settings are superb, but the approach, egress and snow conditions ruin a theoretically great line.  It all depends on the snow pack, but considering the geography, good skiable conditions are rare.  The underlying bed surface is a smooth, high angle rock slab that continually sheds snow, so the pack is never very deep. . . . About the only saving grace of this situation is that there are quite a few small trees that can be used as anchors if you choose to ski roped.  A fall would be graphic and fatal, and you're likely to end up at Einstein's Bagels if you do.
-- A. McLean, Chuting Gallery, p. 70
Mt. Olympus
The West Slabs have been weighing on my mind for a long time.  After a couple of aborted attempts, I thought it was time to give it another shot.  Andy Jacobsen who has actually skied the West Slabs said that he was able to do it in March in "fat" conditions.  So when we got some snow this week, in March, I was optimistic and resolved to give it a go.  When I mentioned it to Brother Sam, without hesitation, he was in.  And when Brother Sam mentioned it to Brother Aaron, without hesitation, he was in.  It appears that we all suffer from the same genetic defect.

Me and Sam on Olympus' summit ridge

So, did West Slabs meet and exceed our greatest expectations?  I guess, it depends.  We were disappointed to find out that we couldn't ski it from top to bottom, but all in all it was a one-stop shopping experience that provided a week's worth of adventure in one compact, exciting package, all within view of Einstein's Bagels.

Beneath her Nose

Everything you could ever want within a 5 minute Drive

This included:
  • Class 6 Buswhack
  • Mountain lion tracks
  • Alpine ascent of Olympus' backbone
  • A ski descent down Medusa's forehead, which was covered with 8 inches of powder, 8 inches of crust, and 8 inches of facets on top of top quality quartzite
  • Jump turns, free floating, hoping and praying what lies beneath is snow, crust, or facets, and not solid stone
  • Jump turning onto solid stone, sliding, skidding, sparks flying, hoping that the ski edges would just bite already
  • Sundog
  • Watching sluff reveal a cold, hard, icy, rocky, face from Medua's nose down
  • Crossing a rock spine covered with thin ice, slipping out, doing a dinner roll, and landing on edges with them biting hard
  • Skiing past rappel anchors
  • Having the actual thought cross my mind that I am about to go through Einstein's roof
  • Rapping off a particularly steep section
  • Downclimbing a rotten runnel with a tool and a whippet with a few rock moves thrown in for good measure
  • Skiing the chalky apron below Medusa's face and then transitioning onto a bowl of frozen debris
  • Trail skiing through the scrub oak
  • Laughing at and with and being scared with and for my brothers.

Sam, apologizing to his skis.


Andy said...

Dinner roll!!!!!????? Spicy! I looked up at the face a bit ago and thought of you after talking to you at the swap. It looked good. But oh how deceiving that face can be. Didn't look so good in your photos. Nice work!

Jared said...

Dinner roll, yes. Intentional, no.

jun said...

Sick. Seriously.

old school said...

I wish you woulda told me you were doin this. I woulda watched you from my living room window.

brian p. harder said...

Nice as a concept. Utterly hideous in execution. Glad you guys survived. Yikes!