Patagonia Backcountry Report: Wild, Sharky, Powder Gambling Down Chutes & Spires

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report

Report from August 25, 2023

After two terrific and terrifically weird powder days this week, we decided to take a gamble on Friday.

We gambled on timing, location, snow, and sharkiness…

We decided to go for “High Tower Chute Alternate.”

This is a south-facing zone that doesn’t get sun until about 3 p.m.

So we slept in and lazed up to the mountain late.

We zipped up timing our arrival at the top around 2:30 pm.

We were a bit late, but it worked out.

High Tower Chute. image: snowbrains

By the time we dropped in, the line was bathed in nothing but sun.

It wasn’t even that windy, which is weird and off-putting here…

We’ve only ever seen this alternate line skied once and it was by us last season.

Last season held a fat snowpack and this season isn’t anywhere near its adiposity.

The reason no one skis this line is that it’s very sharky, is graced with a terminally thin snowpack, the bottom doesn’t exactly “go,” and if you do end up in a slide here, it would be a jarringly rocky ride.

All that said, we’d heavily scoped the line out recently and felt good about the avalanche conditions.

The rockiness?

Light play. image: snowbrains

Yeah, we definitely woke up thinking about it at one point in the night.

This line has to be skied fast for sluff reasons and if you hit an unseen rock at that speed, it’s going to simply explode your skis and maybe a bit of you in the process.

My first turns were cautious.

Fear rolled through my belly distilled via thoughts of clubbing a rock at high speed…

3 turns in, I felt very good about it and let gravity throw me into high gear.

The snow was perfect for this run.

Towers. image: snowbrains

Instead of a minefield, it was almost all recrystallized powder with a delightfully smooth, buttery taste.

I made it all the way down through the choke with only one or two turns of bad, wind-pressed snow.

Just after pulling over, my sluff came bulldozing down the choke and burst out over the cliffs below.

I know that sluff can be an issue on this run, but to be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about sluff on this day.

It just didn’t seem deep enough.

Boy was I wrong.

Can you believe how big my sluff was at the end of the video?

I was surprised…

Rock tower. image: snowbrains

As I was hiking back up, the moon rose right out of the towers I just passed between.

Gratefulness washed over me like a warm waterfall.

We don’t get many cycles like this with good snow and sunshine very often here so you damn well better take advantage of every photon and fluffy snow crystal!

Thanks, Patagonia ☺️

2023 Patagonia Backcountry Reports

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