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.
First off, the lack of posts lately is due to some technical difficulties that have finally been resolved. I’ll be catching up over the next week or two, but for now, a few shots from today. Lauren, Kendall, Sophie, and I headed up early to get some exercise in, and got a few nice turns to boot. Two laps up the East side, two laps up the West side, then out of the lot at noon to still get stuck in I-70 traffic.
Lauren was getting started slowly so Kendall, Sophie, and I headed up to treeline on the East side of the pass for a quick warmup.
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.
After taking a year off from the annual Eiseman trip, we went back to the Ben Eiseman hut with a dozen friends, lots of food, and – new this time – a keg of beer. Thanks to clear weather, an empty hut, and some vacation time to use, Chris and Gary decided to spend an extra night at the hut and head in Thursday afternoon, a handful of us went in late Thursday night to arrive early on Friday, and the rest came in two more separate groups later on Friday. This is sometimes a recipe for disaster, but any major incidents were avoided this time.
While some parts of the state have been absolutely hammered with early-season snow – Crested Butte for example – the Front Range has has a bit slower start. I finally got my backcountry season kicked off this past weekend, and was pleasantly surprised.