A little cold front came through yesterday producing a few inches of snow with the white stuff falling down all the way to 7500ft. Time to search for some pow turns! Gary was looking to get out today for some birthday turns and so along with Eric, Fritz, and Allison we decided to head up to a perfect zone for some early season pow turns! And boy did it not disappoint!!
We ended up the day with 3 laps and almost 3k vert. And smiles on our faces from ear to ear! Finally, some good snow!!
The first lap we skied from the saddle and then headed over to Pt 12,700 for the rest of the day which held about a 1k ft line of fresh.
It felt great to finally lay in some deep turns today. First face shots of the season and a Happy Birthday to Old Man Fondl!! :)
So we weren't able to put in as big of a day in Montezuma basin yesterday as we had planned. Time to get out again. After getting into contact with Greg Dumas we set plans on a mission for the day. I am still driving the I70 corridor to Idaho Springs and back 4-5x a week and catch a glimpse of this guy on Kelso daily. Nothing crazy but it looked like we could get some turns in. We were actually able to get in about 1000ft of turns as we dropped in off the ridge and linked our way down. It was only about a 10ft wide chute most of the way but we'll take it!
So the 2014/2015 season is officially here and along with it comes the never ending itch. I've been able to get out locally a good amount to take advantage of the early season snow but now it was time to drive elsewhere. Last weeks storm brought a good amount of snow and after talking with Joel Paula about a recent waist-deep venture he had last Monday, I had a pretty good idea of where I needed to head. And so the plans set in motion for Joel, Mark Koob, and myself to head up into Montezuma basin just outside of Aspen/Ashcroft. A well known early/late skiing destination I was stoked to get out for my first Elks mission.
High hopes were stirred as we were planning on a big day. We were hoping to be able to get in a double-whammy and ski both Conundrum Couloir as well as the North face of Castle Peak. We kept our fingers crossed that the week of high pressure and melt/freeze on the snow would possibly grant us with some fall corn but not quite how it worked out.
Mark and I left Summit at about 7pm on Sunday night and drove up to where Joel met us on Castle Creek Rd up towards Montezuma mine nearing about 11k feet. From there we enjoyed about 4 hours of sleep and woke up to our watch and phone alarms a little before 3am. On went the headlamps which we would not turn off again until we were above 14k ft. A clear and warm night we quickly gather our gear and off and up we went. We walked up the road until we reached the lower headwall of the basin at 12.8k ft and from there switched to skin mode. Up the lower headwall and eventually we made it to the base of our couloir where we transitioned into crampons, donned our axes, and commenced booting. I have to admit that it was a blast booting up a 47 degree couloir by headlamp!
Conditions seemed to be ok during our ascent of the bottom portion and apron but quickly changed as we neared the bottom choke where we encountered bulletproof snow. Front-pointing and picking our way up we continued encountering a mix of conditions with a lot of hard pack. At this point we figured we were going to definitely have to wait on the saddle/summit for the sun to hopefully do some warming and so up we went hoping for a gorgeous sunrise at 14k ft. Little behold as we near our top-out the clouds roll through and sock us in.
So much for a summit sunrise! Within 5 minutes of us topping out we were completely engulfed with clouds. Hoping that the sun would eventually burn off the clouds and warm up our descent we hunkered down behind some rocks to help stay out of the cold wind. Here we waited over 2.5 hours in hopes of a warm up. While the sun did eventually burn off clouds, it did so everywhere else but around us. Eventually we had to make a call, and the call was to bail and find an alternate route down.
So eventually we took a stroll up the ridge to scope out a way down from the saddle of Castle/Conundrum.
After scoping a line down from the saddle we went back, grabbed our gear, and headed down ridge until we found ourselves on top of our line. The snow ended up being much better than what we had ascended in the couloir and included a short downclimb through the cliff band.
From the saddle we enjoyed about 1000ft of skiing back onto the road. The clouds still seemed to never dissipate around the upper basin but once we reached the bottom of the lower headwall the sun was in full blare. Imagine that.
So we didn't get to ski either of the lines we wanted but; we had an awesome headlamp couloir booter to 14k ft, it was my first ski in the Elks, and we all made it home safely. Chalk that one up as a successful mission! Oh yea, its only October 20th!!
3,350ft gained, about 9miles RT, and 6 hours car to car. Mt Baldy East chutes. (Bald Mountain) I was originally going to venture around Kelso Mt with Brennan Metzler but plans fell through and last minute I got ahold of Frank Bowman and locked in some plans to head up to Baldy. We met up at Blue Moon at 630 with Frank's new coworker Dan, and headed en route to French Gulch. Onward and upward we went up the Gulch Rd passing beautiful cabins and getting glimpses of our intended route and line.
We reached treeline within about an hour and a half. We then hiked up the trail until about 1/2 a mile from the pass and cut up and right to gain the ridge. From there we hiked up the ridge until we contoured back north and eventually found ourselves on the summit at 13,700ft.
Three and a half hours after leaving the car we found ourselves standing atop Mt Baldy. After a quick refuel and transition we hiked down about 100ft or so to the top of our line. The top portion of the line was decent with the middle choke pretty variable but once in the chute proper we enjoyed some great turns down.
We ended up skiing about 1700ft vertical until we transitioned once more and started our hike back out. Another great day in the hills!! Let it snow, let it snow!!
I sent out messages to friends looking for a ski partner for the day. The weekends cold front brought us some new snow and today was the first day I was able to take advantage of it before the sun does its work. No dice on finding a partner, which leads me to the truthful saying of "you can never have too many ski partners." Now there was a time when this would have deterred me from going out on a tour but it seems that this feeling just keeps fading further and further away. I don't know if its me getting more comfortable being in the mountains alone, if its the solitude with the mountains that now draws me, or if I just don't want to let that be my decision factor in enjoying a day in the mountains. Either way, it was a perfect day to get out and play in the backyard.
And a great way to start Gore season. A solo 5k vert Gore Range summit ski! I was on the trail by 7am enjoying the light as the sun creeped up. Although a warm and sunny day in the forecast I decided to load up my pack into full winter mode bringing pretty much everything but rope and harness. I figured the extra weight wouldn't hurt as it's good prep for the winter to come!
What a day! Beautiful and bluebird with little to no wind. Once on the summit I hung out for a bit and then explored off the ridge. Amazing views as always. Eventually I transitioned, strapped in, and enjoyed some nice turns back down near the bottom of the basin. Good enough for round 2! Slapped the skins back on and found myself again on the summit for my second lap, Hardy Boys style haha! Sigh* it's a beautiful word we live in! Shortly after I found myself back at the truck where I had a nice cold PBR ready for me. Holy shit, it's only October 14th!!
"Give it a rest bro, and come back when there is actually some snow to ski"
A couple inches of new snow fell last night before the storm moves on. Time for some more turns! I get ahold of Frank Bowman and Gary Fondl and we head out from Summit at about 9am. Gary had an idea of a good zone for some early season turns and it sure didn't disappoint! The clouds and wind stuck around for the better part of the morning, eventually burning off and letting down at around 1pm.
Cornice jumping and fresh turns = an excellent Day 2 for the season in the bag!