December 19, 2009

Roped into Rusty

Rusty's approach, grueling as it was with knee deep snow and 10 below ambient (Farhenheit), was even tougher for Eruk when his Voile binding broke, but more on that later. Rusty's exceptional and unique line down a narrow gully holds great snow. Starting from an alpine bowl and funneling into a gully, the line is a terrain trap that could be deadly if you choose the wrong day. Eruk, Lucy and yours truly are living proof that is was stable enough yesterday. But, Rusty is not recommended for those unfamiliar with the snow pack.

The present snow pack is not yet settled, and breaking trail was slow going. The exceptional descent down the gulley was worth the pain. The gully alders out, and moose trails are the ticket through the alder thickets covering most of the lower part of the hill. Of course, moose trails meander a bit, occasionally deadend. But, following tracks of the big ungulates finally, after a couple of backtracks, leads to the Middle Fork Trail.

Middle Fork Trail from the bottom of Rusty back to the Near Point Trail is a touring dream, slightly downhill almost always with a ski track. We were lucky and a nice track was already set in the trail for us.

More on Eruk's broken Voile. I hate to be a hater, but I've witnessed and experienced too many Voile binding failures. On a Crow Pass trip after hiking on foot for 2000 ft vertical, I broke a Voile binding bail on the first ascent after less than 500 ft of skinning. Fixed it up with repair kit wire, and 4 hours later, broke the other one on what turned out to be my last ascent of the day, more wire got me down the mountain just fine. Maybe I'm too harsh with Voile because Eruk's Voile was an old vintage, some might say antique, at least of classic age. I say Voile in the singular because Eruk's front range touring setup consists of a pair mismatched skis with Voile (broken) on the left ski, his 1980's Toute Neige (snow of any kind), coupled with what originally was a downhill ski of similar dimension and Pitbull binding on the right. With his old Asolo double boots, the true telemarker throw-back is complete. The system works, or worked until the Voile failed.

At least Eruk's toeplate remained in tact. He was able to lash his boot to the toeplate with some rope. He made it down Rusty roped into his binding. I was awed by the boot-ski connection Eruk improvised; he stayed in it on a steep, narrow pitch with some bushwacking, and then more than a mile on the Middle Fork Trail.

Eruk and Lucy launched from Prospect Heights, and I started from Roger's Lake. We met up at the junction of the Near Point and Wolverine Trails, skied up and over Rusty's saddle, and back down the Middle Fork Trail. Lucy led Eruk back to Prospect, and I trudged home. Arriving late after some trail breaking on Backdoor Trail, I was in big trouble with my beautiful better half for arriving way after dark.

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