''Lions, and Leopards, and Corn Snow!''
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I went back 2 weeks later, starting 2 hours earlier because of the warm weather in town (90+F all week). It was fantastic!!! There was PERFECT corn snow when i was glissading down - wished i'd brought my AT skis. The snow underneath had consolidated considerably after 2 weeks. It was solid before the am melt in the sun. No evidence of layers at least maxing out my ice axe.
The couloir is not a particularly big one (1,081' gain). But quite scenic destination! It starts out at a 30 degree angle at the base; is 35 degrees at the rock (1st jog to the right in the green route in IMG_9315); is 45 degrees in the runnel (maybe slightly less in the steepest section of the Snow Lion itself); is 40 degrees at the top of Gatorade (perfect for glissading).
Started from TH 4 am (HOT weather this week and day of).
(6am seemed good from last time for Skywalker, with a shorter approach).
Started from base of (cache) couloir at 7:15 (great solid snow!)
At false summit 8:15 am
Back at car 2:15pm.
From my previous visit, 2 weeks earlier:
We tried to get Mt. Jasper's Snow Lion couloir described in Dave Cooper's 'Colorado Snow Climbs' book. Essentially started too late though for the persisting early season conditions.
We found it easy to drive all the way to 4th of July TH. The snow was surprisingly solid in the morning (it was barely supposed to freeze overnight). Partial snow coverage low on the trail (before the turn off to Diamond lake). Snowshoes were key from then on. The snow in the north facing Middle Boulder creek valley was soft, particularly coming back. The path was tenuous from the Diamond lake spur. Waypoint the bridge over Middle Boulder creek. You can sort of follow a cluster of tracks to near the bridge. The trail was nonexistent after the bridge. I went up steeply right after crossing the bridge then loosely paralleled above the track of the path on my gps. If you cut up the (snow covered today) ridge NW of Diamond lake without actually reaching Diamond lake, it saves a bunch of time. There was lots of snow up high that made it easy to travel there. So similarly, if you cut across the large snowfilled meadow SE of Peak 12857, it saves a bunch of time (vs. the summer route, farther south). I got about 2/3 of the way up the short couloir (to 400' from the top), when i saw a big wet slide across from me. By that time it was 11am. I did not push my luck, just glissaded from there. There was at least 4''-6'' of corn snow with every step by the time i stopped (maybe from the past few days even). You could also still fill discrete layers plunging the ice axe into the couloir. There is a change in grade above the rock, that you might feel more comfortable bringing an ice tool. This one is early season this year, but should be prime in 2-3 weeks.
While the Snow Lion route to the top of Jasper was open, there still were many cornices on the surrounding ridges. So, the Snow Leopard route is not open yet.
A couple groups successfully climbed Skywalker couloir on South Arapahoe peak. That one is full of snow and looks to be prime for another 2-3 weeks.
Woke up 3:45.
Left Arvada at 4:30.
Arrived at TH 5:30
Hiking at 6 am
Base of couloir at 10 am
Stopped at 11 am.
Back at car 2:30 pm.
We goofed around (too much last minute packing) before leaving home.
Also Emily got sick for a bit at the start.
Next time i would try to start hiking by 4 to have a comfortable climb on the snow (in case you want to downclimb the same route instead of the 'Gatorade' snow field).