It’s been a tough spring in Colorado for weekend warriors. It finally started snowing after a dry winter, but weekend storms have been pretty typical. We’re late in to the season and I’ve been trying to convince anyone I could to take advantage of expected weather windows. Fortunately, Jeff is on the same page, and was eager to get out. We agreed there was an early-morning weather window worth taking advantage of, so I packed, set my alarm for 1:30, and got ready for a quick morning in the mountains.
Less than two weeks ago, Markus found himself in need of a cook with strong backcountry skiing abilities and the ability to cook for a group of 20 day-in and day-out, and who could leave the country and be out of cell and email range for a week on almost no notice. Miraculously, I was able to get out of work and other obligations last-minute and head to Canada. Unfortunately, the late booking meant I had to fly from Denver to Vancouver, spend the night, and fly to Calgary in the morning before shuttling out to Golden, B.C. Even worse, the Vancouver airport seems designed to discourage overnight stays, and this was where I settled in for the evening.
After a very long travel day (including overloaded minivans, rockslide-induced highway delays, and a very slow dinner) we finally got to Golden, I caught a few hours of sleep, then it was time to pack up from the hotel.
Two months ago, today, Hans, Tracy, Markus, Lauren, and myself all gathered in Argentiere, just a short bus ride up the valley from Chamonix near the base of the Grand Montet ski area. Our goal: ski the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, by way of Verbier. It’s a trip we’ve all been thinking about for a long time, and this April it finally became a reality. All said and done, we spent a week in the alps, covering 42 miles and 20-something thousand feet of elevation gain. We came out with several hundred great photos; fortunately, Google just came out with a slick automatic story creator, which put this together:
This is the story of my trip to climb and ski Denali in the spring of 2014. Continue reading
La Plata is a peak I’ve been wanting to ski for years, but one thing or another always got in the way. This time the stars aligned though, and I got to enjoy one of my most enjoyable 14er ski days ever. Though the roads were dry, the drive was made interesting by a couple people who clearly should not have been driving at 4:00 in the morning. Matt and I met at the trailhead and were skinning at 5:30 sharp.
A couple weeks ago, Hans and I decided to get out to ski. Hagar worked well thanks to how close to town it is, and how quickly it can be done. This was good for me since I was still tired from Humboldt a few days prior, and for Hans because he was moving to Wyoming the following day. The half-mile downhill skin went quickly enough, and then we were headed up in to Dry Gulch.
There are days when everything goes right; this was not one such day. Tuesday was remarkable in that almost everything unpleasant about Colorado ski mountaineering wrapped itself up in a single day. I set my alarm before going to bed for 2:45am; my eyes opened at 1:55am and I was pleased to see that I had another hour to sleep. Next thing I know, it’s 3:50am. Fortunatley I’d completely packed up the night before, and was able to be on the road in record time with wheels rolling at 4am sharp. I made good time and met Matt at the trailhead just prior to 7am, only half an hour late.
Though I’d hoped to be getting on a few more 14ers by now, Saturday’s trip up a high 13er was a great way to spend a spring day. Hans and I started skinning up the road at about 8:30, with Jeff and Sam running a bit late.
I’ve been itching for ski mountaineering season to roll back around, and we’re finally getting there. Much of the state isn’t ready yet, but with its thinner snowpack and warm, sunny weather, the Sangres are rapidly coming in to condition. The timing on this climb was a bit unusual, with Eric and I heading straight down for the climb after a full day of work on Thursday and skipping the couple hours of poor sleep that these days typically start with.
We made it up to 9,800′ on the Lake Como road before being stopped by snow, and were moving at 1am. Despite a relaxed-feeling pace, we made quick work of the road and hit the base of a north-facing couloir at 2:30am. This was our one point of concern in regards to snowpack stability, and we spent a full 90 minutes digging pits, poking around, discussing, and slowly working our way in to the line before making the call to continue upwards.
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.