Haute Route, Spring 2015

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:

April 2015 Haute Route

Enjoy!

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2014-04-25 – La Plata Peak ski

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.

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Hagar Mountain – 2014-04-11

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.

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Humboldt Peak – 2014-04-08

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.

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Starting off the season right – Little Bear Peak Ski Descent – 2014-03-21

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.

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Belford and Oxford Ski

After skiing the Needle on Friday, Marc was down to only four peaks left to finish his 14er project. Thanks to some photos posted a week prior, we were fairly confident that Belford and Oxford would be in shape for a descent. Early Saturday afternoon Marc sent a text to let me know he was going for it, and I agreed to join him despite still being fatigued from Friday.

It was an early drive down to Winfield, and we were moving along the trail by 5:30am. Worried that the trail would be dry for a few miles, we carried flip flops until we hit mostly-continuous snow and stashed them in a tree.

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Crestone Needle Ski Descent – Carl’s Finisher

Carl put together an outstanding video from the day, and it’s highly recommended viewing: Carl’s Crestone Needle video
He also posted a trip report over on 14ers.com: Carl’s 14ers.com TR
 

A few weeks later, more snow, and a fair amount of melting later and we were back, slogging up the snow-covered road to South Colony Lake at four in the morning. We came armed with ropes, slings, and plenty of gear this time, doing everything we could to ensure success.

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