Local skiers complete descent of Boulder's First Flatiron
After near-record snowfall and a cold spell left Boulder’s flatirons covered in a coat of fresh snow, local ski mountaineers Austin Porzak and Alex Krull completed a bold ski descent of the First Flatiron. Following the gully of the ice climb The Silk Road on the Flatiron’s east face, the party skied the line early Sunday morning. “It’s definitely a dream finally come true, after making several attempts in the past, I can finally tick this one off my list,” says Porzak, who first skied the face in winter 2012 after conditions came together for a rare weather window.
“This line is just as much about doing your homework than it is actually skiing it,” says Porzak, who spent months doing recon missions to establish the best entrance to the line and ensure conditions were perfect. During the first descent in 2012, only the top 200 feet of the line were skied, followed by several rappels to the ground due to unsafe conditions. In order to preserve the quality of the snow, the team climbed the back of the First Flatiron to its North ridge and built a rock anchor to rappel into the gully.
“We took every piece of gear imaginable up there,” says Daniel Sohner, the third member of the party who belayed Porzak and Krull, but did not ski the line himself. Beyond personal ski gear, the team carried two 60m ropes, a snow picket, ice screws, a full rock rack, and enough slings to build anchors in case the whole face needed to be rappelled.
The face averages 60 degrees, with dangerously unconsolidated snow and ice covering the rock surface. At the top of the gully, Porzak estimated the snow to be nearly a foot and a half deep.
“Obviously, the whole line is a true no-fall zone, so we skied the whole thing on belay,” says Porzak. The line went in three 60m pitches before the skiers were able to unclip from the rope and ski the last section off belay.
While at their first anchor, the group realized that two parties of ice climbers were ascending the gully, and were forced to share an anchor.
“When you have five guys hanging off a tree with one guy making jump turns a hundred feet below you, it never really feels safe,” says Sohner.
Porzak is a professional ski mountaineer who is attempting to ski all 58 Colorado fourteeners. He has skied 54, and plans on finishing the final four this spring.