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NE Face of the Pfeifferhorn

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Published by Noah Howell

When the powder snow settles out or blows away and we aren’t filming for the movies, I’ve been turning my attention to some of the steep and exposed lines in the Wasatch.

On April 1st 2011 I skied the NE Face of the Pfeifferhorn with Andy Jacobsen and Andrew McLean. This closes the book on a 13 year project to ski all the lines in Andrew’s skiing guidebook ‘The Chuting Gallery’.

I wouldn’t say I saved the best for last, but this is a pretty cool line. And a very elusive one to ‘tick’ with it’s fall and you die exposure on a face that rarely seems to be in great condition. I’ve tried three times in the past two years and no other descent in ‘The Chuting Gallery’ required so many attempts. All the failed efforts and the weight of possibly finishing this mad obsession made it more daunting and heightened the anxiety for the day.

The massive exposure doesn’t exactly bring peace of mind. We skied the right hand ridge, traversed to and side steeped the center spine and rappelled from there.
I suggested Andrew could republish the book excluding this line and we could avoid this nonsense altogether.
His answer was ‘no’.
The approach gives you plenty of time to get a good look at what lies ahead.
The breakable rime crust wasn’t confidence inspiring for what we might find.
Andrew said we were taking it too far by wearing matching outfits. He was wrong of course.
Before we knew it Andrew was dropping out of site.
The ridge was pretty good after working through a little rocky patch. We actually made several turns!
A really firm patch of snow made a spicy crossing from the ridge to the face.
A short traverse led to the STEEP spine. Luckily the snow was perfect.
We hung tight, really tight while Andrew placed the bolts. Here is Andy reaching for the rope and happily clipping in to the bomber protection.
It had been 12 years since Andrew had last been dangling from a rope here. He said it was just as exciting back then.
It felt good to be on the rope looking down at the apron finally! Especially after the small slip I had while clicking out of my bindings. Andy saved my ski from taking the shortcut to the bottom.

Andrew and his book opened my mind to a broader definition of what ‘skiing’ is.
On almost any other day I would have said the skiing on the apron sucked. But it didn’t, even though the snow was terrible.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe, even with the tracks to prove it.
Here is to following what excites you, running towards your fears and being lucky enough to survive it all. Cheers!

Thanks to Andy Jacobsen for all the great images captured that day!

Find all the gear you need for your adventures here.

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