Skiing the 14ers

A journey skiing and exploring Colorado's highest peaks

Author: drjonkedski (page 2 of 3)

Peaks #35 & #36 Grays and Torrey’s Twofer – Two-Thirds Finished with Project! April 25, 2016.

Peaks #35 and #36 completed, and finished with two-thirds of the project, 18 peaks to go!

Getting ready to drop into the Dead Dog on Torreys.

Getting ready to drop into the Dead Dog on Torreys.

I took advantage of a spectacular weather window on Monday and doubled up on Grays and Torreys to get to an important milestone. Here is a quick video of my ski descent  of the spectacular Dead Dog Couloir on Torrey’s peak, which was my 16th peak of April! Full trip reports will be updated on the “Sking 14ers” drop down menu as soon as time allows.

A personal note of self-assessment since I am 2/3 of the way completed with this project:

I personally feel any kind of timed, speed record may indeed amplify the mountaineering risks tenfold. However, my record attempt is very calculated and also isn’t really a ‘speed’ record of any sort. After all, I am just climbing up and skiing down peaks, and not trying to go fast like it’s a race. I simply go out and ski the peaks at my own pace and Yes I am attempting to do something nobody has ever done before, and that is ski the 14ers in one single season. However, as I have gone through this project, careful assessment of the mountain ranges has actually allowed me to look for the best conditions. (I have spread out across the state from time to time, skiing peaks that are in condition while also carefully scouting ones I need to ski still, AND on top of that I also carefully plan and go when I know there is good weather). Fortunately for me, turning around hasn’t really ever needed to be a major option yet because I plan carefully, and start early enough and know what I am capable of.

Looking back at the Dead Dog after skiing it top to bottom on Torreys.

Looking back at the Dead Dog after skiing it top to bottom on Torreys.

But, needless to say I have had to turn around a few times, and have been able to use that information to my advantage to let the mountain decide, and to get some great scouting of a peak in. This is something I have done on many of my expeditions to 8000m peaks in years past. At the end of the day I am doing this project because I am passionate about ski mountaineering here in Colorado, not because I am concerned with what others think or want out of this agenda I have set. As it turns out, no matter what you try to accomplish in life, people feel the need to criticize and belittle. Good for them. I welcome both encouragers and discouragers. At the end of the day I LOVE pushing myself in the mountains. I’ve enjoyed the challenge, the solitude, some amazing ski partners, and at the core I simply set goals and I go after them. I am grateful for everyone who has been following along, supporting me, or even joining me on this adventure. I even love to hear about people that think this is a ridiculous idea. I’m really just having fun. As I enter into the homestretch of this adventure into May and Early June, I am already taking it to the next level. I hope that many will join me, push me, and support me, and for that I am excited. I have left another final piece of this project which gives me a lot of confidence, I am going into the final 6 weeks or so ready to ski most of these final 18 peaks that I have already climbed and skied in the past multiple times, and so this gives me a lot of confidence that I can give it my best and get the job done, conditions and weather just need to cooperate now. Yes- there are some pretty hard ones left, but May also historically holds the finest and safest conditions on these tough ones, so I am excited to get them rolling.

Holy Cross Summit 14,005' Peak #34 of 2016.

Holy Cross Summit 14,005′ Peak #34 of 2016.

Looking forward to continuing the journey – thanks for following along!

 

Dr Jon

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Peaks #32-#34 Pikes, Antero, and Holy Cross April 20-22.

Pikes Peak Parlayed with a side of Antero and Holy Cross, all in less than 3 days.

Top of Antero 14,269'

Top of Antero 14,269′

A full moon ski on Pikes wednesday night into Thursday, followed by another long slog on Antero on Thursday, and an outstanding tour of Holy Cross on Friday pushed me to 34 peaks completed in 2016.

The trip report pages will be up soon with all the details.

Holy Cross Summit 14,005' Peak #34 of 2016.

Holy Cross Summit 14,005′ Peak #34 of 2016.

The snow is becoming phenomenal up high setting the stage for the month of May.

Pikes Peak Summit in the full moon at 1am on April 21.

Pikes Peak Summit in the full moon at 1am on April 21.

With more bad weather coming this week, I’m gonna try and get a few more done before May hits and then I’m ready to go for it all for the next month with less than 20 peaks to go once we get into May.

Thanks for following along, more to come!

Dr. Jon

 

 

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Peak #31 – Mt. Lindsey – 14,042′ April 13: Small Avalanche….

Mt. Lindsey: April 13th would be my 11th 14er peak skied in 13 days in April. Mt Lindsey was an exercise in risk management.

Summit, 14,042' in complete powder.

Summit, 14,042′ in complete powder.

A long 23 mile day in fresh powder made for an awesome ski and some surprises around every corner.  A landslide to navigate and an avalanche.  Check out the full trip report here:

http://skiing14ers.com/31-mt-lindsey-14042/

Avalanche video on the ski descent is below.

After the storms this weekend I will get back out there to keep things going so that I will be ready for prime time in May and the home stretch.

Thanks for following along!

 

Dr. Jon

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Peaks #29 Shavano 14,229′ and #30 Tabeguache 14,155′ – Tuesday, April 12

Peaks #29 & 30

Shavano and Tabeguache

Shavano_top of 14,229' Shavano in a Brief clearing

Top of 14,229′ Shavano in a Brief clearing.

I parlayed a twofer to get to my 30th peak of the project by skiing Shavano and Tabeguache together on the southern end of the Sawatch Range.

With the weather being a great concern- I got a 6:30am start from the east slopes/Blank cabin trailhead and started in Blue skies and morning sunshine.

Gorgeous clear sunrise

Gorgeous clear sunrise

Topping out at 9:30am on Shavano the clouds were already building and snow flurries began to fly.  Fortunately there was no wind. I knew I could move fast so I hustled over the ridge and climbed the east ridge of Tabeguache. Making that summit by 10:30am I was running out of time. Snow was closing in fast from the north and by the time I clicked on my skis I was getting snowed on. The easy east ridge and southeast slopes of Tab were loaded and I was back to the saddle between the two peaks in like 2 minutes.

tabeguache_summit of Tabeguache 14,155'

Summit of Tabeguache 14,155′

A 25 minute climb back to the top of Shavano was the only way to get back down to my trailhead and to ski the angel. When the hail fell- I was worried that some lighting might follow- so I didn’t waste any time.

Climbing back to Shavano's summit by the north Rocky ridge... Good thing the snow was better on the other side!

Climbing back to Shavano’s summit by the north Rocky ridge… Good thing the snow was better on the other side!

It snowed hard for 30 minutes and only let up when I came back up to Shavano’s summit for the second time in less than 2 hours. I looked at the clock- 11:11. Snow was pelting the peak to my south- and Antero to the north was getting hit hard. Fortunately I was in the clear. I clicked in and made some turns right off the top- only a small section below 13,900′ was a bit bare- otherwise I was lucky to find a small ribbon over to the Angel of Shavano- the prominent feature on the southeast face of the peak.

Looking down the Angel of Shavano as the storm rolls in.

Looking down the Angel of Shavano as the storm rolls in.

I was home free- I made turns down the awesome classic Angel to timberline and around noon I escaped into the trees to the sound of thunder and a flash of lightning way above me. Back to the trailhead by 1pm it was an awesome six and a half hour tour covering 12 miles and 5,500′ elevation climbed and skied.

On to Lindsey in the Sangre de Cristos’s for an early start to beat the weather again tomorrow!

Bottom of the Angel of Shavano after skiing it

Bottom of the Angel of Shavano after skiing it.

Thanks for following along-

 

Dr. Jon.

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Peaks #25-28 Bross, Lincoln, Cameron, Democrat: April 7 Project Halfway Point

Peaks #25-28 Halfway Point of the Project!

Bross, Lincoln, Cameron, and Democrat.

Summit of Lincoln, 14,286' highest in the 10 Mile / Mosquito and 8th highest summit in Colorado.

Summit of Lincoln, 14,286′ highest in the 10 Mile / Mosquito and 8th highest summit in Colorado.

Start at 8am, Bross at 1030am, Lincoln at 11, Cameron at 1215, Democrat at 145pm. Finish 230pm.   This was about the 4th or 5th time I’ve skied all of these peaks, so it was pretty straightforward.

Always in charge and getting ready to charge down Democrat, Peak #28.

Always in charge and getting ready to charge down Democrat, Peak #28.

The snow was great on Democrat and ok on the others. All in all a fun day with only a few wind bursts, and I got to relax on each summit for at least 30 minutes each on my Solo Day.

Democrat from the southeast - I would ski the fun southeast 'Democratic Donkey' couloir.

Democrat from the southeast – I would ski the fun southeast ‘Democratic Donkey’ couloir.

On Thursday I skied four more 14ers, bringing my total to 28 and reaching the halfway point of the ski the 14ers project. The ‘Decalibron loop’ dubbed by most people, is in the 10-Mile/ Mosquito Range. I called in the ‘Broslincamdem’ loop because that is the order I skied the peaks in for the day.

With these four peaks I was also able to complete this range and move even further towards the overall goal to ski every Colorado 14er in the same season.

Bross, 14,172'

Bross, 14,172′

Here are a few photos and I will get posts up on the ‘ski the 14ers menu bar for each peak as soon as time allows. The skiing off of Democrat was good while Bross was in less than favorable conditions and Lincoln was pretty nice off the top.

The line off Cameron was fun after dropping over from Lincoln and Bross.

The line off Cameron was fun after dropping over from Lincoln and Bross.

Wow, this week since last Saturday I skied eight 14ers, so it’s tough to catch up on the writing and posting of photos right now!

Timer photo on top of Democrat.

Timer photo on top of Democrat.

Let’s keep it going: A small storm system comes through over the weekend I will resume the adventure next week!

 

Thanks for Tuning in,

 

Dr. Jon

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Peaks #20-24: 14ers Sunshine, Redcloud, Handies, and San Luis April 3 & 4

MOUNTAINS IN ALL DIRECTIONS! A Four Peak Slam.

San Luis 14,014', 4th peak in two days.

San Luis 14,014′, 4th peak in two days.

I seized on incredible weather for the weekend and did a ‘Triple Feat’ on Sunday, up and over Sunshine from the Mill Creek Trailhead, skied to Redcloud, dropped down to the Grizzly Gulch Trailhead and then did an out and back to Handies, returning down to Mill Creek by way of the Cinnamon Pass road.

Heading from Sunshine to Redcloud.

Heading from Sunshine to Redcloud.

All told about a 18 mile loop in 15 hours to climb and ski #21, #22, and #23 of the project. And what a glorious day in the San Juans it was!

Roger coming up the north ridge of Handies for the third summit of the day.

Roger coming up the north ridge of Handies for the third summit of the day.

Thanks to Roger Carter for battling all day with me on those three peaks and for Anna Migl for coming along on the first two.

San Luis was 19 miles for a spectacular ski tour.

San Luis was 19 miles for a spectacular ski tour.

Then on Monday April 4, I was heading home but knowing that the weather was good, I traveled up solo towards the Equity Mine and approached San Luis from the south Creede side and was able to ski peak #24 of the project. This allowed me to close out the peaks in the Eastern San Juan range, which will be a huge boost to allow me to concentrate on other peaks moving forward.

On Redcloud's Summit, excited for more.

On Redcloud’s Summit, excited for more.

So far so good! The weather is bad for a couple of days now but I will be back out at it later this week, stay tuned for the full trip reports in the ‘ski the 14ers’ drop down menu.

More to come, see you out there!

Dr. Jon

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Happy Easter 2016 – A Big week of peaks #17-20.

Getting to 20 Peaks completed

FOLLOW ME LIVE OUT ON THE PEAKS!

The magical hour.

The magical hour.

It’s been quite a week, and today was a great way to finish my 4th peak in 7 days and my 5th peak in 8 days. We took advantage of fresh powder and seized on blue skies to summit and Ski Mount Sherman in the 10-mile / Mosquito Range. It’s been so darn windy all winter and I was hoping that the new snow as well as taking advantage of the leeward side of the peak would provide a reasonable descent.

Stepping to the summit of 14,042' Ellingwood with Little Bear Peak in the distance.

Stepping to the summit of 14,042′ Ellingwood with Little Bear Peak in the distance.

I will have the new peaks and pages updated soon so thanks for following along! This week the weather is forecasted to deteriorate until next Friday or Saturday, so for now I will hold, rest and get ready to get back after it in a few days.

 

Summary of the past week:

#17 and #18 Monday March 21 Ellingwod (14,042’) and Blanca (14,345’)

Skiing the south face of Ellingwood 14er.

Skiing the south face of Ellingwood 14er.

#19 Friday March 25 Columbia (14,073’)

The snow was pretty good on Columbia too.

The snow was pretty good on Columbia too.

#20 Sunday March 27 Sherman (14,036’)

Even the normally bare and scoured Sherman provided some healthy turns.

Even the normally bare and scoured Sherman provided some healthy turns.

Thanks for tagging along and more to come!

 

Dr. Jon

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Peak #16 – Little Bear – 14,037′ – Hourglass Couloir – March 19th

Little Bear – 14,037′ – March 19th.

Click here for Live SPOT updates on the Peaks!

Little Bear from near Lake Como.

Little Bear from near Lake Como.

Steep, icy, dangerous, and challenging – Little Bear was ready to offer up a tough winter ascent and ski descent.

Chris Tomer pulled up in his Tacoma to meet us at the bottom of the Blanca Peak / Como Road in the early morning. It hadn’t dropped below freezing and the forecast was for nothing but clear skies. Torrey and Anna had both joined me for the evening and they were both stirring in their vehicles. I gobbled up some mini cinnamon rolls, downed some water and we were all ready to continue up the road around 2am. I jumped in with Anna and Torrey and we drove up the road behind Tomer. 20 minutes later we parked and started hiking up the road as it rose out of the San Luis valley, it definitely felt like spring.

 

In darkness we ascended in to the Como Valley in moonlight, reached the snowline at 10,000’ and kept climbing. It turned into winter as we got higher. It was a pretty cold early morning, in the teens for sure. Crossing Lake Como around 5am it was cold with an occasional wind gust, but we all knew the challenge looming above us. Above the lake we stashed some gear in the last trees and headed up the first gully to gain the west ridge. The steps were good and making the ridge, Tomer and I chatted as we watched the morning light and allowed Anna and Torrey to catch up to us for a bit.

Amazing morning - Photo: Chris Tomer.

Amazing morning – Photo: Chris Tomer.

We continued on. The ridge was awesome as the morning Belt of Venus owned the sky with a light show to the west.

The last full day of winter.

The last full day of winter.

Getting on the snow slope and traversing to the hourglass was fun and relatively quick.

Dr. Jon cruising up the slopes of Little Bear.

Dr. Jon cruising up the slopes of Little Bear.

I let Tomer lead and he made some nice steps up the firm snow of the Hourglass.

Tomer charging up the Hourglass.

Tomer charging up the Hourglass.

Great couloir climbing. The snow was firm and even icy in places – I’ll admit, as I climbed up through the narrowest part of the couloir, I knew skiing down this would be difficult. I always try to envision and plan out where my turns will go in my head, and usually hold to the plan on my descent.

Dr. Jon climbing up the steepest section. Photo: Chris Tomer.

Dr. Jon climbing up the steepest section. Photo: Chris Tomer.

The rest of the climb went by pretty fast. I followed Tomer to the Summit and were there by 830am. The top was blustery with gusts coming from different directions sporadically. Peak #16 of the project was a big one.

A beautiful day in the Sangre De Cristo Range. Crestones, Ellingwood, Blanca, and Lindsey all 14ers visible here. Photo by Anna Migl.

A beautiful day in the Sangre De Cristo Range. Crestones, Ellingwood, Blanca, and Lindsey all 14ers visible here. Photo by Anna Migl.

As I prepared for the ski descent I had the steepest section in mind. A solo climber named Drew made it to the top behind us and soon after came Anna and Torrey. The views were stellar on a crystal clear day. Clear views to the Crestones and to peaks in the southern Sawatch and San Juans.

 

I was anxious to descend. Chris headed down further to set up to shoot some photos. After taking a few more summit shots and a summit video I descended. The top of the peak was icy and rocky, but if we don’t get any more snow up there this season this might be my last chance to make some turns.

Making delicate turns in the upper section. Not the greatest conditions.

Making delicate turns in the upper section. Not the greatest conditions.

Above the hourglass I made some turns and side slipped down to right above the steepest part. There was a small choke of ice and snow that would have to be skied in a straight line with a quick right turn to the wider top of the hourglass. Without too much more thought I went for it. The rest of what transpired is something unlike anything I have ever personally experienced in my ski-mountaineering career. I’ve seen a lot of things on my years of expeditions and skiing, but I have never been the victim. My skis wouldn’t bite when I carved my right turn into the slope. I lost my balance and fell backwards. I spun around and plunged down the hill and into the couloir. I immediately accelerated. My mind screamed, “self- arrest, self arrest, stop, stop, stop!” But my friends around me watched and heard nothing but silence. My ice axe got ripped from my hands, my skis popped off and went flying. I accelerated some more. Somehow I first managed to get my head up and face my feet out like I was riding downstream floating in a river or down a slide in the park. I don’t know how but I steered myself away from the walls of the narrow choke point in the hourglass. Realizing I had no tools to stop me, I turned around and dug in with every other part of my body: mainly my knees, hands, elbows, and feet. A hundred and fifty yards later I came to an abrupt stop. I sank into knee deep powder below. “Are you alright?” Tomer shouted. “Ya I think I’m good”, I said. “I was just actually mad at myself for miscalculating the turn!” I told my friends I was sorry for crashing. I did a quick check myself but because I was on such an adrenaline rush, I felt no pain. Chris and Anna brought my skis and pole and ice axe back down to me.

 

Descending down the rest of the slope I couldn’t believe I was ok. I was so lucky not to have hit anything. That was the wildest craziest ride I’ve ever taken, basically all the way down the Hourglass for about 400 feet. Once on the ridge I took stock of the situation in the morning sun as we waited on Torrey to come down the couloir himself.   I had a couple of abrasive cuts on my elbows and knees, but otherwise I was completely unharmed. Descending the rest of the mountain, I felt like I wasn’t ready to try and go up to Ellingwood and Blanca just yet.

Ellingwood - Coming up next.

Ellingwood – Coming up next.

We headed back down to the trailhead and eventually into Alamosa. As I skied down the Como road before having to transition to my hiking boots I kept replaying what happened in my head.  I was on such an adrenaline rush that I still felt strange that it all happened. Then I actually went to the clinic and got checked out. Nothing broken and nothing but a few stiches in my right elbow. A little sore at the moment for one hell of a tumble, but It wasn’t time to quit on this project now – I would come back for Blanca and Ellingwood soon enough to wrap up these peaks.

More Peaks to go - never give up…..

More Peaks to go – never give up…..

Thanks for following along and I promise to stay safe as I move forward.

Dr. Jon

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Peaks #13, #14, & #15 Missouri (14,067′), Oxford (14,153′) and Belford (14,197′) – March 11

#13-#15 Belford Oxford and Missouri, Friday March 11th.

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A big day with lots of vertical to ski all three peaks in the Sawatch.

Started 545am, Summit Missouri 1015am, Oxford 2pm, Belford 3pm. Finish 430pm.

15 miles and 7,500′ vertical day.

Belford (left) and Missouri to the right up the basin.

Belford (left) and Missouri to the right up the basin.

I left my house around 4am to head down south and get a good jump on Missouri, Belford and Oxford on Friday. The forecast was for light winds and sunny skies so I knew that a little effort could mean getting three peaks in a day. As I drove up the dirt road to the Missouri gulch trailhead I was pleasantly surprised at how much the road to the trailhead had melted out. In January I had come up the same road by way of snowmobile to access Huron. I didn’t expect to drive through some frozen sections of snow and then dirt road and reach the summer trailhead. Wow!

It was going to save me some excellent time to be able to start from the normal trailhead.

In early morning light around 530am I got moving skinning quickly up the switchbacks and into Missouri gulch. A nice snowshoe track from folks a few days earlier allowed me to reach timberline in the basin below Belford, heading towards Missouri in a quick hour and a half. The occasional gust greeted me, and I was soon skinning up the basin and into the throes of the northeast aspect of Missouri and above 13,000’ in the sunshine.   A short break to put sunscreen on and then I put my skis on my pack and booted up to the north ridge.

On the ridge at 13,800. The north face seen here.

On the ridge at 13,800. The north face seen here.

When I got to the ridgeline, I had nothing but about a mile of short ups and downs on a fun and windblown ridge. The sun was nice and warm, and the snow was firm, so I enjoy my stroll to the south and the views were impressive.

looking back at my steps I had to kick in order to make it towards the summit.

looking back at my steps I had to kick in order to make it towards the summit.

Near the summit there are a series of sharp points on the ridge, in the summer the trail passes to the west of them. The snow was firm enough to kick steps in the steep sideways incline, so I pushed across a short 150 yard section and was up on the summit by 1015am.

Summit 14,067'

Summit 14,067′

The north face couloir drops almost directly off the summit and into the elkhead basin below. After a ski cut or two, the powder conditions felt perfect, so I pulled out my camera and filmed part of my descent.

When I got to the bottom, I took an angle to the southeast and began my ascent of Belford In order to head towards Oxford.

I would be able to put together a reasonable line directly down the west face coming straight down towards me later in the day off Belford.

I would be able to put together a reasonable line directly down the west face coming straight down towards me later in the day off Belford.

The top of Belford was very windblown and dry. I was hoping to find a line off its west aspects later on in the day, but for the moment I bypassed the summit to the south and got my first glimpse of Oxford.

Looking over to Oxford, I was able to ski the windblown ridgeline to put together a line off the top.

Looking over to Oxford, I was able to ski the windblown ridgeline to put together a line off the top.

Oxford looked bad, but I did see a long line of snow from the top down to the saddle of the ridge, so I knew if I could climb up to Oxford, I would be able to ski back towards Belford and get it done.

 

The winds began to pick up ever so slightly, but I made good time across the long flat ridge to Oxford’s summit. Looking south Harvard and Columbia Looked very dry.

Barely enough snow to ski off the top of Oxford.

Barely enough snow to ski off the top of Oxford.

We need more snow! Fortunately I already skied Harvard in Better conditions, but the southern Sawatch peaks that I have remaining definitely concern me.

Looking back to Oxford's summit and my ski tracks.

Looking back to Oxford’s summit and my ski tracks.

After a short rest and some food and drink, I clicked in and skied the ridge back to the saddle towards Belford. I basically went from two of the best skiing peaks of the entire project (Castle and Missouri), to the worst peaks with conditions yet (Belford and Oxford). Honestly, I just wanted to go home at this point. It was a long day, and I did enjoy it a great deal.

 

The south ridge leading toward Belford was so dry. Fortunately the west face had just enough snow to ski down.

The south ridge leading toward Belford was so dry. Fortunately the west face had just enough snow to ski down.

Then I arrived on Belford’s summit and was greeted by a Russian woman named Natalie who had climbed Missouri and had come back across the valley to bag Belford.   We both agreed that the ski descent of Missouri was excellent and thought we could probably piece together a reasonable line on Belford’s west side.

Natalie dropping down the west face with Missouri as a nice backdrop.

Natalie dropping down the west face with Missouri as a nice backdrop.

We skied past some small towers and made the most of some great turns in the warm afternoon sun.

Looking back up Belford while skiing the west face aspects.

Looking back up Belford while skiing the west face aspects.

Then the fun part was cruising down the basin back towards Missouri Gulch and the trailhead above timberline on fast slopes in the creek bed.

Heading back to timberline, my tracks.

Heading back to timberline, my tracks.

The only thing slowing me down now is that I broke one of my bindings in deep snow in the trees on the way down…luckily I have a bit of time to get if fixed this week as this Colorado storm system moves through, plus it should help with more snow!

 

As I entered the trees I started to take stock of the project. Feeling amazing so far and off to an excellent start through about the first quarter of this endeavor.

Back to the trailhead in Missouri Gulch before the sun set. A full 11 hour day!

Back to the trailhead in Missouri Gulch before the sun set. A full 11 hour day!

I appreciate the support from many so far. I have had a handful of great partners to join me, and I’m sure there will be more on the horizon. On to the Sangres for a bit next!

 

Cheers

 

Dr. Jon

 

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Peak #12 – Castle Peak 14,265′ – Powder Conditions in the Elk Range

CASTLE PEAK

Peak #12: Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dropping directly off the top of Castle!

Dropping directly off the top of Castle!

Elevation: 14,265’

Ski Route: East Face to North Face Couloir

Roundtrip Mileage and Vertical: 7mi / 3,600′

Ski Partners: Anna Migl, John Fielder

Start Time: 345am
Reached Summit: 8am (Hour on the Summit)
End Time: 1015am back to Green Wilson Hut

It was a cold and clear morning when we departed the Green Wilson Hut deep in the heart of the Elk Mountains on Tuesday Morning.  Sunday and Monday were quite stormy, dumping up to a foot of powder in this corner of Colorado. The snow had settled into the stable layer below, so as I broke trail into Montezuma basin, the going was moderately tough, but the stars were spectacular.

Early Morning Light

Early Morning Light

Cresting into the upper basin, the morning light came on strong and before I knew it we were skinning up to the notch on the northeast ridge of Castle.

Steep ridge in deep powder.

Steep ridge in deep powder.

It was a chilly morning, and as the sun began to come up, we made it to the ridge. It felt almost Himalayan as I had been climbing in my down jacket throughout the morning darkness but thankfully there was no wind.

Brilliant day in the Rockies!

Brilliant day in the Rockies!

The views became even more impressive as we got higher and higher.   The ridge was tough and loaded with snow, and at times as we booted up the ridge I sank up to my waist in the fresh powder.

Getting close to the top.

Getting close to the top.

Up the final summit pitch was a challenge of powder, and we battle through it so by 8am we had earned the summit. Calm, cold, and clear, but the morning sun warmed us. This was a peak I definitely was enjoying. In fact we stayed for an hour on top. This was my 3rd winter summit of Castle and probably the best one yet. The snow was amazing.

Calm Summit 14,265'

Calm Summit 14,265′

After some food and snacks, I clicked in and skied right of the top of the highest spot in all of the Elk Range. The best way off the summit was by way of the east face.

The East Face with an impressive backdrop.

The East Face with an impressive backdrop.

I took a couple of turns off the steep point on the crest of the face, and then we made our way to the notch on the northeast ridge that we climbed. From here the north couloir was beckoning. No steeper than 35-40 degrees or so, the broad couloir was filled in nicely with up to 3 feet of powder that had blown in during the last storm.

Creamy Turns in the North Couloir

Creamy Turns in the North Couloir

Nearly 1000 feet of fun turns we took in this couloir, and once we made it down in to the basin we really opened things up for an half hour of fun skiing down the basin and back to the Green-Wilson Hut.  I was fortunate to spend a few days hut tripping with great friends and got a chance to ski over Pearl Pass as well, exploring some excellent corners of the Elk Range.

Look closely, you can see our tracks!

Look closely, you can see our tracks!

Because the snow conditions of powder were so awesome, it was my favorite peak of the project so far and one of my best 14er skis in years.  With more awesome weather coming in the next few days I am going to get after some more peaks to keep this project rolling!  Thanks for following along!

Great look down the East Face.

Great look down the East Face.

Dr. Jon

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