January 21, 2016


Front Range: Ramp & O’Malley

Red Flags (Obvious Signs of Instability):

  • Cracking (slabbing off) pieces of recently formed wind slab at the surface, but no release/propagation, while skiing some areas of lee terrain steeper than 35 degrees


  • Partly cloudy
  • Temps in the 20s
  • Calm-light wind

Surface conditions:

  • Pleasant, soft powder in sheltered, lee areas
  • Variable in more exposed, but leeward, areas: supportable-breakable wind slab, wind-buffed powder, light sastrugi
  • Windward terrain blasted to boilerplate wind slab and sastrugi or scoured to bare tundra, rocks, etc.


Handpits (on belay) in the Ramp NW couloir revealed recently formed wind slab and soft surface snow that failed at variable depths 1-3′ down on older faceted layer; this layer was not reactive to ski cuts and stomping (on belay, of course) likely due to current conditions conducive to bonding (relatively warm temps, deep snowpack for this terrain feature), low energy, and terrain feature relatively conducive to stability if managed appropriately.

On terrain features less prone to stability (broader, more open slopes), we observed patchy wind slabs that could prove reactive to human triggers and produce D1-2 avalanches if terrain not managed with utmost caution.

We also climbed O’Malley Falls and found wonderful, deep blue ice: not too brittle with the typically rewarding ambiance of the area.

Conditions made for relatively fast travel and skiing from/to car at Glen Alps trailhead.  We were able to skate to German Bridge, skin all the way to the top of the Ramp, descend on skis all the way to O’Malley Falls, booted N ridge of O’Malley to summit, descended gully between O’Malley and Hidden back to Powerline near German Bridge, skate-able back to trailhead (but we skinned the last gradual uphill due to exhaustion).

sam heading to ramp 1:16sam heading to ship lake pass 1:16sam skinning ramp 1:16ramp couloir 1:16ramp couloir on belay 1:16sam ramp couloir 1:16omalley falls 1:16omalley falls zoom 1:16sam omalley falls 1:16 first pitchsam omalley falls pitch 1 zoom 1:16sam omalley falls pitch 3 1:16