We went up into RMNP yesterday (Feb 18) and skinned to the top of the “Otis Redding Couloir“, at the base of Otis Peak on the south side of Chaos Canyon. I am not an avalanche expert, but we are definitely wary and keep an eye on things. It wasn’t pretty, and we bailed. Here’s the report I sent to CAIC.
We approached from the south (Loch Vale) and emerged just below the top of the gully. Decided to skin up and check out the steeper slopes. We noticed significant fracturing and set off a few small slides (~6-10″ deep) especially when cutting switchbacks near the top of the gully, north and northeast aspects. Dug a pit and found about four inches of powder with a 6″ thick soft slab below it. There were some crusty layers below, and then the rest of the snowpack below (4′?) was facets. The slab layer on top failed easily and cleanly after three or four thumps on an isolated column, AND we observed a natural slide (more of a slough) on a steep slope west of the couloir, and a big crown on a south-east aspect across Chaos Canyon.
We didn’t ski the gully due to conditions, but rather descended through trees and set off sloughs on most steeper slopes. Throughout much of the descent there was an obvious slab layer just below the recent snow with facets below.
It’s been snowing on and off since in Estes, and we’ve gotten 3-5 inches here in town since we got down…and it’s still coming down hard. Things are looking up for the early spring backcountry ski season!