Friday, March 1, 2013

Bailing on the Zeus Chute - Why'd it take so long?

After skiing the Triangle in primo conditions I was jones'n for some more. I knew Shaneen had just skied the Y in those same conditions so I figured he'd want a little more of the goods too.  He did.  We met at 7:30 and after I drove back home to get the skins I'd forgotten we started skinning around 8.  Down low it felt like summer.  It was sweltering and we even noticed a few roller balls falling as we were coming out of the trees.  No matter right?  We figured it'd be colder the higher up we go.  
Shaneen heading up a debris-less main chute (all photos of Shaneen)
Just after the branch point, the beginning of  the West Slabs just behind Shaneen
We made it to the base of the West Slabs and reevaluated.  It sure did feel colder. The skis were overcast, there was a slight breeze. I even had to put on big gloves and a hat.  At that point I figured wind slabs would be more of a problem than wet slides.  We dug a few hand pits and were both satisfied with the results.  Up we went.

If you're wondering, the turn off to the Zeus is pretty close after the ducking left under the West Slabs.  We weren't sure and ended up looking into a few other turn offs higher up before skiing back down to the entrance of the Zeus.  Google Earth helped again and once in the chute proper we found a little bit of breakable mixed with rocks and bushes.  The skiing wasn't going to be great but the location was new and quite scenic.  We dug another hand pit, felt good about it, and kept moving upward.
The crux, pull on the branch to get past a few rocks, move
We made it 800-1000' before we saw a couple roller balls coming at us.  They were tiny and no threat but a pretty good warning of things to come.  We talked about turning around and decided we should but just wanted to peek around the corner and see where we were.  Five or so minutes later we looked down and saw sizable wet debris pouring off the side walls of the main chute.  Once again we decided we really should get out but before we did, we took a few steps more.  Not more than a handful of steps, but we took them before the final decision was made.  As we were transitioning, the sun started coming out.  We had already decided to bail but now there was a little sense of urgency.

From there, all of the skiing save a few turns was poor to quite poor.  Breakable with random bushes and rocks thrown in the mix.  The location was the redeeming factor and in better conditions I'm sure the line is worth more than the one star it gets in the Chuting Gallery.
Shaneen skiing the breakable mank
More breakable down to the city
The start of the good turns
The end of the good turns
The lowest of the debris piles
After entering main chute we were greeted with mounds of wet debris.  All the mini chute-lets that feed into main chute had dumped their loads all over our skinner.  I don't know if the upper mountain has rained debris down the Zeus yet but I'm guessing it did, or it will at some point today. Regardless, we got out before it did (and I'm glad it didn't take the blazing hot sun to make to turn around) but the question in my mind stands; why didn't we turn around at the first sign of roller balls down low? Or the second? Or the immediately after the third? I guess it's easy to rationalize why the warning signs are no big deal - it'll get colder, we're on sun protected terrain, it'll take two seconds to look around the corner, blah blah blah.  But given the consequences of a bad choice shouldn't it be easier to rationalize turning around early than continuing on?  I guess we got lucky, lesson learned, again.


  1. Because turning around is the hardest thing to do.

  2. when i showed saloni this she read "why did it take so long?" and she said "because you were with shaneen." ha. thanks for the adventure. the snow in Terminal Cancer was much better. Spring Corn. Delicious!