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Rampart Ridge, February 22, 2009

There's a chute that we see looking out the window from Kevin and Francine's house that descends an unnamed peak at the south end of the Rampart Ridge group. Not really Rampart Ridge proper, and not Alta Peak, but it looked nice and steep and seemed to have enought snow on it to be skiable. Surprisingly, Kevin had never skied it, though he went part way up a few weeks previous.

Apparently I had failed to communicate my plans to ski today, as Kevin was eating a leisurely breakfast and Francine was still in her PJ's when I pulled into their driveway (sorry), but I had a nice cup of coffee as Kevin got dressed and we talked Francine into dropping us off down the road at the trailhead.

We joined a motley crew of mostly snowmobilers and snowshoers (it always cracks me up to see people with big snowshoes and ice axes heading out on a flat trail that's hard enough for Tevas when it hasn't snowed in weeks, but each to their own) and set off up the logging road. With this year's sparse snowcover, several of the stream crossings called for a little hopping or extra effort to cross, but this wouldn't be a problem in a normal year. The skinning went easily until we saw the run we had been eyeing from the house, and headed up through rolling terrain with chunks of avalanche debris.

The chute alternated between wide faces and narrow constrictions several times, with a bit of booting required mid-run for a few hundred vertical feet. Toward the top, the surface snow wanted to separate from the underlying frozen layer in sheets, making for some difficult skinning, but we were in no hurry.

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We took a hot beverage and sandwich break at the top, moving down the hill on the west side a bit to stay out of the wind, then clicked in and got ready to ski. A strange crust at the top which wanted to slide if too much force was applied made for a few interesting turns, then we found some decent older untracked by sticking close to the trees at skier's left. The narrow portions called for controlled skiing on some (thankfully) sun-softened debris, then a little side slipping around the single rock at the narrowest point. The lower portion had some nice skiing as well, as long as you avoided the larger chunks of avy debris.

After-ski festivities included pork sandwiches and soda, and watching the final stage of the Tour of California. Pretty cool to finally see most of the top pro bike riders in the world racing on American soil . . .

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