Skiing the 14ers

A journey skiing and exploring Colorado's highest peaks

Tag: Enerplex

My 14er Ski Project: A Personal Statement – June 16 – 2016

My 14er Ski Project: A Personal Statement – June 16 – 2016

It is finished.

The reality of this entire project really hit me yesterday, the season finally came to an end, but what a spectacular season it was!

For the last five months, I’ve been climbing  and skiing Colorado’s highest peaks.  I want to thank all my sponsors, friends, family, and ski parters for supporting me through this project. If I were to to it again, there are certainly things I could have done differently – different routes, different dates, different outcomes – but in the end I have given it my all.  I am grateful to have accomplished, experienced and pushed myself to the depths of what became one of the hardest personal projects yet.

It’s been a battle, and its been a journey that I will remember for the rest of my life.

It’s summer now and before completely signing off on this project, I’d like to clarify to my supporters what I did accomplish. This was a massive project and included climbing 57 peaks and 19 additional attempts and ski days so if you have any additional questions, let me know.

My story:

I am disappointed that after all the time and effort that I’m unable to claim a 14er ski record of skiing every peak top to bottom in one single season.  After all, that was my one of my stated goals. That being said, I did climb every peak, some peaks on multiple attempts and even multiple summits. I love the Colorado ski mountaineering community as much as all of you. And that means respecting the guidelines set by those that first accomplished these feats [established by skiing the 14ers]. That being said, here are many gray areas (e.g., what is summit ski descent, length of the ski off the summit, etc.) – These guidelines were basically first put into place by Lou Dawson, Chris Davenport, and Ted Mahon who I have met and the latter two and have even skied with. Ted Mahon said it best to me the other day: “If we loosen the standards then suddenly we won’t have only 15 or 20 people that have skied the 14ers, there will be like 100, and the accomplishment will become watered down and not as prestigious”.

What I learned in attempting to ski all the peaks in short time frame, is that I didn’t want conditions to ruin my fun this season. So for those that have concerns about skiing off the true summit, I skied from the highest point I could. And in 54 of the 57 peaks skied that was the summit. However, I cannot take credit for everything, and I want to respect some of my mentors and heroes in the ski-mountaineering world.  In the end the site “14erskirecord.com” is no longer about breaking a record, but in fact it was to “re-cord” the events of my project to see if I could climb and ski every peak in the same season. It was about providing additional resources to my fellow ski-mountainneers and to those that will undoubtedly follow this attempt and continue to push the sport.

I did indeed summit every single 14er peak to the very top.  Heck – that part was relatively straightforward – after all – I have over 1000 ascents of the Colorado 14ers by this time in my career, and in all conditions and seasons. (I think I am taking a break from the 14ers after this)! There are so many other mountains in the world to go and try out, and I can’t wait.

Let me clarify some examples:

  • I did not ski from the top of Wetterhorn. There’s certain peaks that don’t provide snow off the summit block. This is one of them. Nobody has ever skied from the top of Wetterhorn continuously to my knowledge.
  • This year I did not ski from the top 500′ of Capitol (with the exception of the summit ridge). I gave it my best shot which included two attempts in June – but I waited too long. The peak needs to be skied in April or early May. (I also went up there to K2 in April- but the peak didn’t feel right.)  But the fighter in me went back a couple of times because I was in denial: I knew I had missed my chance. Lesson learned. I also returned and skied the secret chute – but even then out of respect for the skiers before me to claim that peak in this same season wouldn’t be right.  In fact I chatted with several people (Ted Mahon and the Denver Post’s Jason Blevins) and they agree.
  • Summit of Pyramid.

    Summit of Pyramid.

  • Pyramid was another big challenge for me, as it has been for most 14er skiers. It took 5 attempts. I skied from the top of Pyramid- but had to down climb part of the middle section (75 or so feet of cliff bands on the East Face melted out by early June). I skied virtually every inch of the peak from different lines and aspects (Including the west/northwest face and ridge) the several times I went back there.  I never gave up.
Climbing up the final bands on Pyramid.

Climbing up the final bands on Pyramid.

  • South Maroon. I climbed Maroon Peak on two occasions. The first time I ascended/descended the Bell Chord but did not summit due to wet slide conditions. I returned the following week up the Y-Couloir and summited. I probably could have pieced together summit ski descent from a small section that would have technically met the 14er skiers guidelines. However, I skied the peak from the summit several years ago, so I won’t be returning to ski it from the top again this year.

* Other peaks that people will question in this project due to lack of snow or other reasons were Blanca and Little Bear.  While I have skied both of these peaks several years back- for this project when they were finally in  good condition in May, I was too busy skiing 12 peaks in succession in the San Juans and Elk Ranges so there was simply no time to get over to them again.

When I get some time I will be updating the trip reports pages. These will hopefully help tell more of the stories. Since I am not claiming any records these will be put up as soon as I am able. One thing is certain- I had a blast doing this! It was challenging and I learned a lot.

If you have been following my project – I appreciate it.  I am grateful for all of the support.  I gave it my best and still had a ton of fun in the process. I am thankful for all the people that stepped up to ski with me or provide support:  Roger Carter, Jared Kedrowski, Chris Tomer, Garrett Eggers, Ted Mahon, Chris Davenport, Eric Sangueza, Brad Burgtorf, Mackenzie Hoffman, Scott Benge, Torrey Udall, Tara Dactyl,  Anna Migl, John Fielder, Mike Craig, Ryan Belanger, Ashley Lucas, Grace Kelley, Mark Dud, Jay Ytell, Austin Porzak, Jordan White, Connor Drumm, Mike Lewis, Chris Jones, Cheryl and Bill Jensen, Bob Pietrack, Bob and Barb Kedrowski, Krista Kedrowski, Zack Wilson, and anyone else that I may have forgotten somehow. Also a shout out to the team at Enerplex (Danielle, Justin, Brad and Rafael) for really motivating me and cheering me on, 

Cheers

Dr. Jon

 

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Peaks #38 and #39 Evans (14,264′) and Bierstadt (14,060′) Twofer – Tuesday May 3, 2016.

#38 Evans and #39  Bierstadt in Bluebird spring conditions.

Summit of Evans (14,264'), skied right off the top, Observatory in view.

Summit of Evans (14,264′), skied right off the top, Observatory in view.

Before heading south for some heavy lifting, I took advantage of cold conditions from northerly winds this morning and got Evans and Bierstadt both skied in excellent style and pretty good conditions too.

Not much time to tell more about the day here. Will have the trip reports up by this weekend so please check back!  Thanks for following along.

Best

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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Starting March and Continuing the Project

Click here to follow the Live Progress anytime I am out on a peak!

March 2, 2016, Project Progress: moving forward into the Spring!

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With the two toughest months of winter behind us now, it’s been great to stop and reflect on my great start in this endeavor.   So far, I am thankful for relatively good snow, safe conditions, and successful summits and ski descents.

I made it through January and February with a nice start to skiing 10 peaks.  A few of the days were very windy, and I just had to put my head down and go, while several of the days there were perfect winter conditions and almost no wind.  As a whole I have enjoyed skiing these peaks immensely, and of course revisiting 14ers that I have a huge history with, to say the least.

As the days get longer, the snow conditions will settle, and I can pick up my pace a bit through March.  Today is March 2nd, and at this time I am 2 peaks ahead of Chris Davenport’s pace.  On March 2nd he had skied his 8th 14er on this date 10 years ago today.  I am definitely inspired by his feat, and I am going to do the best I can to ski as many peaks as I can as we move towards the spring here on these mighty Colorado 14ers.

Moving forward, there will be blog updates as I continue this project, so please follow along and enjoy the adventure.   Also, on the “Skiing the 14ers” menu bar, past trips and the first peaks skied so far will be updated with posts, so that the adventure and stories are shared.

See you on the next ski descent!

-Dr. Jon

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