This has been the season that just keeps on going. A couple weeks prior we saw a report from someone else who’d been up on North Maroon, and figured it’d still be in acceptable shape when we were able to make it. And so John, Terrence, and myself drove up after getting the kids down for the evening on a Tuesday night. We were able to get a few hours of sleep – all of us sleeping remarkably well for being at a trailhead – and were hiking at 2:45am.
We made quick progress the first couple of miles, until we hit the first debris path left behind by March’s historic avalanche cycle. We got around/through it, continued on, and…had to cross another one. Between the snow and avalanche debris, we found ourselves off-trail for a while and lost a little time – and energy. At 4:45 we were finally at treeline and switched from hiking shoes to ski boots and crampons, and before we knew it the sun was up.
This season is truly one that just won’t quit. Storms keep bringing in more snow every week, and this week was no exception. A couple days prior, several inches of new snow blanketed the Sawatch. I’ve been wanting to ski Shavano this year, since even in decent years it often isn’t in from the top and reports suggested it was good to go. Despite having a newborn at home, leading to chronic sleep deprivation, I planned for a 1am alarm to go ski this pair of peaks with John. Getting to bed at 9:30 meant I had a solid 3.5 hours of sleep in store before another big day in the mountains – less than I’d like but entirely doable.
Of course, infants have their own schedule. James decided he was hungry at 11:30, and so I was out of bed with a rock-solid two hours of sleep. Since John and I weren’t meeting until 2 to head out, I had plenty of time for a midnight feeding, and watched some cooking videos on youtube with James to pass the time. 2 eventually came around, and we got on the road.
We were on-trail at 5:30, hiking in shoes for the first mile and a half or so. When we reached the bottom of the Angel of Shavano, we switched over to ski gear and got on our way up.
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.
It’s hard to believe, but when I look back I see that I haven’t skied any new 14ers in a while. Harvard was two years ago now, and before that was prior to Denali – a full five years ago. There are a lot of reasons why – time has been tight, along with poor snowpacks and stability, capped off with a lack of motivation to wake up entirely too early to drive and climb all day. This season’s incredible snowpack, combined with an impending deadline that will likely cut off my season mid-May, have me excited to get out again. This was the first weekend that held a pleasant forecast after the snowpack stabilized to my liking, so I had to take advantage of it with a big day out.
Saturday’s outing started like most do – packing up Friday afternoon, setting the alarm for 2am, and going to bed early. Lucky for me, I was wide awake at 1am and didn’t need the alarm. I tried to go back to sleep but gave up about 1:30, got out of bed, and fired up the coffee maker. Several cups later, John arrived and we got on the road.
We pulled up to the lower Princeton trailhead just after 5am and decided to see how the road went. Half a mile in we encountered enough snow to make the road impassable, saving us a mile of walking on a dirt road in ski boots. No complaints here.
We made our way up the road for a while, until we came to a switchback around 10,500′ that butted up against a SE-facing slidepath on Tigger Peak, the 13er you have to traverse to get over to Princeton. It seemed solid and supportive, so we started going straight up.
Earlier this year, the Rodeo guys posted up a trip they were planning through the Flat Tops Wilderness. It looked ridiculous – three days to cover 265 miles and nearly 20,000′ of climbing over mixed terrain in places bicycles are rarely seen. I didn’t know what bike would be appropriate, or if I’d even have an appropriate bike for the trip. I did know, however, that it would be perfect training for the Leadville 100 bike race. So I signed up, knowing I had a lot of work to put in before mid-July rolled around.
Working nights most of the summer on top of raising a family got in the way of a lot of training time, but preparing for this trip and the Leadman series were a big enough priority that I fit in what I could; even so, I was nervous in the days leading in to the weekend. The day the trip finally rolled around, I woke up to my alarm at 3, had a small breakfast and coffee, and hit the road. I got to Steamboat a bit early, but before I knew it we were loading up the support van and getting ready to roll out.
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. Continue reading →