The north face of Hallets Peak dominates a postcard canyon that holds the appropriately-titled Dream Lake.
For a cliff that contains a Fifty Classics alpine rock route, the approach is quite reasonable. The other side of Hallets, the gentle south side, is not nearly so popular, partly because it is has a nasty approach: up the jumble of house size boulders that fills the also appropriately-named Chaos Canyon.
But in a good spring for snow like this year, the boulders are mostly covered and you can waltz up Chaos Canyon on skis or splitboard. The south side of Hallets contains a 30-45 degree slope that is a ski mountaineering descent in a superb location.
Ed and I went up with this goal last Sunday, but a warm spell had come in Saturday and the temperatures were rising. The forecast called for 39 degrees at night in Estes Park , but we figured it had to be a lot colder up high, so we drove up to the Park and started up. The avalanche danger at this time of year is that the notoriously unstable Colorado snow pack has not yet consolidated with a regular freeze/thaw cycle; freezing nights are necessary for safe travel.
At Dream, the trail switchbacks up and around a buttress into the southern cirque and more jaw dropping views.
We got to the base of the route in a safe zone mid-morning and things were not looking good. My pole would regularly plunge a foot or two through soft wet snow to a hard base. When Ed proposed that we shouldn’t go any farther because of the danger, I had just come to the same conclusion. So we decided to have a bite to eat and head down.
We were having a leisurely breakfast when a ripping sound akin to a rock fall made us turn our heads to the ascent route behind me. We watched as a slab of snow fell off a rock slab underlying it and hit the main ski descent path, a shallow gully. In seconds, the wet snow liquified before our eyes into a river of concrete, moving with surprising speed. What is hard to describe is the noise. There was not a sound before the slab let loose: no wind, no birds, nothing. Then the whole cirque was filled with a roaring akin to being on the banks of the Colorado during spring runoff.
When the silence returned, Debris three or four feet high poked out of a concrete channel as can seen here.
The snow was slow and catchy on the way down, so the ride down was forgettable, but Ed and I were quite happy. A nice day in the mountains, and while falling far short of a summit, we found satisfaction that this time at least, our decision-making had been tested and found to be sound.