About a week ago from right now, I was flying off the Kahiltna after successfully skiing off the summit of Denali. I may put some words to these later but if you want to hear the whole story, you’ll have to sit down with me over a beer or two. Enjoy!
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.
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.
Marc had some trouble with a pole, but was able to retrieve it thanks to his incredibly useful whippet. Continue reading
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.
I sometimes wonder why I do this to myself. Out of bed at 2am. Driving at 2:45. Hiking at 5:20. Questionable snow conditions. Horrible winds, well above the forecast. I managed to convince Nate to come, while Marc and Eric actually wanted to go. Sophie will follow me to the ends of the earth, though I wouldn’t have brought her had I expected the ground blizzard she put up with.
I’d hoped to do this last summer, but schedules just never worked out. Everything came together this past weekend though – no one was busy with other plans, good weather was in the forecast (save a bit of wind), and there was a mostly-full moon.
Originally, we were going to start pretty early in the morning and finish up mid-day. I half-jokingly suggested to Andrew that we just do it overnight, summit at sunrise, and finish up early. After thinking about it for a minute, the overnight plan made a lot of sense – not having to wake up at 2am is always nice, and we’d miss the hordes of mid-day hikers by being off the mountain before most of them even started.