Leconte couloir descent


1000m vertical right in our backyard (sort of)

I've been eyeing the Leconte couloir for quite some time, but I never took the time to hike up and see if it was really skiable. It's hard to get a decent look at it from the bottom, but yesterday I finally strapped my skis on my back and humped up it. It's too steep to easily skin up, so I just kicked steps most of the way up. Once you exit the gully, it flattens out a bit, but by the time I got there I realized that I had forgotten my skins. I continued on to Glacier Point, trudging through snow sometimes up to my thighs, but usually only about shin high. Arriving at Glacier Point, there was not a soul there, which is a big change from the scene in the summer. Very peaceful with beautiful views of Half Dome and the Merced river Valley. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera with me because Theresa had taken it climbing (I did get a couple shots of the couloir from a distance after I got down).

The snow was terrible. Since it was late in the day, it was mostly overly soft corn snow. It's also pretty rough since the couloir is full of avalanche debris. There are a couple of short sections of about 45 degrees (based on measurements with my inclinometer, which is not exactly a scientific instrument, but probably good to about plus or minus a degree). Mostly, however, there are long sections of 40 degrees and 35 degrees. From base to summit is about 3300 feet and the actual steep skiing part is probably about 2500 feet.

In all, it's a lot less steep and desperate than I expected. Looking from the ground, since part disappears behind a foreground ridge, I was afraid that some parts might require rappels or might be outrageously steep. In point of fact, it's a good descent for a competent skier. Let's say that if you get a bit bored skiing double black diamonds at ski areas, it's probably a good ride. If you're challenged by double black diamonds at ski areas, it's probably going to be a bit much.

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