Life – as it tends to do – has thrown some curve balls my way. A lot of times, that means any plans for fun and adventure go out the window. That’s happened a little these past few weeks, but I’m trying to balance that with some time in the mountains to burn off stress and keep sane. John kept trying to convince me to take off Thursday and go ski a peak. Things were semi-busy and I had a couple things I’d have to move around, but I decided I wouldn’t regret going for a good day in the mountains. The Sawatch – along with most of the state – so we settled on Columbia figuring it would be a big day but straightforward and uncomplicated.
The day started with the typical 2am alarm, forcing myself to eat breakfast, and all the usual pre-Spring 14er preparation. Less-ordinary was John getting pulled over in Leadville for accelerating past a cop to 10-over at 4:30 in the morning; fortunately the officer seemed more concerned in making sure we weren’t drunk idiots and sent us on our way with a warning.
Eventually we made it as far up the road to the trailhead as snow allowed, and were hiking at about ten after six in the morning – much later than I’m used to for this time of year.
Yesterday was about as good as it gets. Despite a forecast for particularly unpleasant weather, Hans and I went out as we were in need of a training day at altitude. We chose a low-angle, somewhat wind-sheltered area up at Berthoud Pass with the intent of cranking out 3,000′ or so of skinning, plus the ability to test out a couple things. It started out gray, snowy, and windy; we weren’t sure how long we would stick around, but at least we were out.
After breaking trail for 1,000′ from the car, we were treated to a decent (if not wind-affected) ski down to our chosen transition spot. Despite keeping one ski on to avoid sinking in, Hans punched in pretty deep and was forced to take both skis off to climb out of a hole.
This video is absolutely horrifying. It started off alright – they kept an eye on the person caught in the slide and knew about where to start looking. From there, it turns in to an absolute junk show. Know your gear, know your search procedures, and most importantly, know your parters. It’s a miracle this man survived.
This past weekend was a busy one, as it was time for the Friends of Berthoud Pass on-snow days. I was again lucky to have groups full of enthusiastic, competent people who were ready to learn a bit of snow safety.
Things started off with breaking out in to groups and going over gear for an hour, before watching a staged burial scenario put on by a couple more-senior FOBP members.
I don’t usually post anything for failed summit attempts, but I’m making another exception for this one. Some friends drove down to Lake City on Friday night, nine of us in all with myself, Marc, Baba, Carl, Eric, Rob, Rob, Fritz, and Sarah. After a couple hours of poor-quality sleep, we woke up for a 2:15am start. We knew going in that avalanche conditions were going to be a concern, and it was worse than expected.
We covered the four miles to the summer trailhead in about two and a half hours. The entire way, the snowpack was collapsing, whoomphing, and cracking. Given that, we had to make reroutes even while simply skinning up the road. As we gained more elevation, the failures became less frequent but more intense.
It’s not often that I’ll put up a post about an unsuccessful summit bid, but last Saturday was such an enjoyable and educational day in the mountains that I have to. It was an ambitious plan – drive from Denver, hike all the way in up East Maroon Creek to the base of Pyramid, climb it, and ski back, all in one continuous push. We were moving at 1:45am, covered the first few miles very quickly, and started running in to difficulties involving creek crossings and bushwhacking by 3.
This past weekend, I joined Friends of Berthoud Pass on a trip to Silverton for SAS‘ Level 2 avalanche course. I wasn’t planning on joining them for this trip, but someone else had to drop out and I filled their spot on short-ish notice. Chris, Gary, and I left Denver late morning on Wednesday, planning to get over Red Mountain Pass with a little daylight left, and get settled in Silverton in time to get a decent night’s sleep. We made it, and beat all but one of the eight others joining us.
This past weekend, Friends of Berthoud Pass held the on-snow portion of their grassroots avalanche education program. I volunteered to facilitate groups both days, and I’m exhausted after two ten-hour days up at the pass. Tempted by breakfast burritos at the instructor refresher, Lauren and I signed up to show up at 6am Saturday morning to prepare the beacon-rescue scenarios. When the 4am wakeup call is three weeks away, a free breakfast burrito sounds like a great deal. At 4am, it’s suddenly a much-worse bargain. Nonetheless, we dragged ourselves up there way too early. Continue reading →
As most of you are aware, I’ve been skiing and climbing in the backcountry for a few years. At first I didn’t know all that much about snow and avalanches, and looking back I’m fortunate that I didn’t do anything TOO stupid. As time went on I’ve learned more about avalanches, largely thanks to Friends of Berthoud Pass with their very inexpensive avalanche safety class. Despite hearing that it would be mostly review given my level of experience, I decided it was finally time to take an AIARE Level I course. Lauren and I settled on a three-day class with Crested Butte Mountain Guides in Crested Butte over this past weekend. I only took photos during the field sessions for obvious reasons, and if you want a full-course synopsis you can look here, as I won’t be going over the whole thing.
Friday’s field sesion consisted of checking beacon function, followed by performing beacon searches. As you can see, it was snowing. Jayson (lead guide and owner of CBMG) would later inform us that according to remote instruments, every time we went out into the field it was snowing at a rate of 3″ per hour. Continue reading →