Spring Transition

It is now spring. Earl, the god of weather, announced this 3 days ago with a bout of rain. Thankfully, Taylor and I managed to sneak in some great days of April powder skiing before the rain came. She’s 7+ months pregnant, and while she only fits my jackets now, she’s still going strong and touring weekly. She’s got more ski days that I, by a solid margin.

Tay still doing it.

For lack of a partner on my day off, I decided to make use of the ski pass that I bough and haven’t used to tick off some of the “forbidden fruits” lines from the Chuting Gallery, so called because they’re within resorts and access to them is at the whim of these corporate beasts. Alta has the most lines of note, so I went there to finish off as many as I could by myself. I started with the Devil’s Castle couloir, which was pleasantly untracked. I’d heard that locals had skied it the day prior, but tracks told the full story– they didn’t go to the top.

Devil’s Castle couloir begins on the sliver of snow in the central saddle. An Alta Ski patroller ‘on break’ is standing mid-line.

I followed a gent up a booter from the apron who turned out to be Alta Ski Patrol. He stopped his climb halfway for lack of crampons, and I continued to the top, where the angle was quite steep. I had to pull out my shovel while holding onto an ice axe self-belay to chop a ledge for my transition. It was more work than I’d planned.

Um, that’s steep and skinny.
Top o’ the Devil’s Castle couloir.

The couloir skied great once out of the narrow choke at the top, with chalky pow and some nice cliff exposure. The apron also made for some nice powder turns before a sudden sun crust changed the vibe and I carefully snuck back down to the lift.

Mid-couloir, with some nice snow and exposure.

The two remaining lines for the day were Little Chute and Dog Leg off of the North side of Mt Baldy. These are much more trafficked and were downright casual given how filled in they are now. That closed out my list for Alta with the exception of Ciochetti’s Ribbon, which is a topic for another time (not a good solo line).

Little Chute.

This morning, after working some mediocre warm weather days at the Alta ski clinic, I was jonesing for another outing. Thinking it possible to find corn on a low altitude line, I left just before sunrise to jog up Maybird Couloir. Progress was fast on a punchy crust, but the couloir was full of avy debris almost continuously, and hadn’t benefited from adequate consolidation to make it anything less than horrible to ski.

Maybird Couloir

Still, I needed the training. Up to the top and back down in 2:10, and I’m proud to say that I basically side-slipped the top 1500′ and made kick turns down the rest. One of the ugliest bits of skiing that I’ve done. A three star line skied in zero star conditions. Another line off the list but worth revisiting in skiable conditions.

This is going to be rough.

My legs took a beating, but I made it to Alta Clinic in time for my 9:30 shift. Luna, the clinic dog, showed sympathy for my knees.

Luna was sorry for my pain.

Category: Adventures, Travel, & WritingSkiing



  1. Thanks Patrick for the post. Looks like skiing for the season is about over. I’m making a sad face for you and Taylor actually looks pregnant in your photo!

  2. Good on you for the continued chuting gallery progress, low-altitude corn or not. Interested to hear your thoughts on the Devil’s Castle line which got prominent billing in gleich’s film. Enjoy the late season pow too!

    1. I’m guessing that you’re talking about Ciochetti’s Ribbon, which is the one line at alta that I haven’t skied. It’s not really a ski route per say– more of a twisted outing on skis dreamed up by Andrew MacClean, in the same mischievous style as deciding to ski the great white icicle. It’ll never be good, but you will be able to look at it afterwards and laugh about having skied it. It’s not a hard route to ski, nor is it unsafe provided that you take a rope and place protection/clip old pitons. It’s just rare that people bother to do it and subject themselves to that kind of exposure for some truly bad skiing. Now the Medusa face on the other hand…

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