Happy June! Err March... Blanca Summit Ski with GoPro video
~~PHOTOBUCKET TEMPORARILY DISABLED MY PHOTOS UNTIL APRIL 14. The GoPro VIDEO IS STILL UP AT THE BOTTOM~~
Route: NW Face
Stats: 5,000+ ft, 12 miles RT?
Sam and I were trying to figure out what peak we should ski this weekend. There was a wind slab/ Storm slab problem in the San Juans, the Elks had really long approaches, nothing else on our lists fit the bill except for Blanca and Little Bear. We were going to be guinea pigs, we knew it. Driving west on 67, we paused on the side of the road to gaze at the route on Little Bear above the hourglass via binoculars. There is less snow on the massif that you can see from the highway than there was in January when I was up there. The route above the hourglass is almost completely dry except for a small sliver that doesn't even touch the summit. The main hourglass looked like it had snow in it though. I'm willing to rock ski a considerable amount, but Little Bear would just have to wait. We drove up the road quite a ways, not exactly sure about the RT stats. The problem with the Sangres is the high snowline which leaves ski mountaineers with two choices: Hike up wearing your ski boots on a rocky dirt road or Hike up with trail runners but have a heavy pack. We opted for choice B. The alarm was set for 2:30am for a 3am start. Right around 2:45am Sam realized he had forgot his headlamp in his other pack. Hiking up on a road like the Lake Como one in the dark with one headlamp was interesting. Snow started before Lake Como, but there would be patches of it. Skinning was inefficient because how often you would have to skin over a lot of rocks or take them off for a bit. Trail runners could not be worn now because of the postholing so ski boots it was. We strapped the skins on for good at the lake, but went around it because of thin ice. We could both easily break through the ice to water by just jamming our poles into the ice. The snow is no more than 3ft deep in most places. We followed a trench that went up the road beyond the lake then cut off in to the trees. You can tell a lot about a person by just walking the trench they broke. I assure you, this person did not like skiers or taking a straight line. The trench went up a hill that was almost to steep to skin, through tree branches, through more tree branches, and through more tree branches. Still better than breaking your own trail given the shallow and weak snowpack. Snowshoes or other flotation is highly encouraged if you plan to be up there especially later in the day.
We paused to take a break to look at the sunrise over the San Luis Valley.
Sam smiling in anguish walking on his knee he injured ice climbing. Give er hell.
Our first view of Blanca
a very good looking couloir that comes off of Ellingwood point
Looking off to the flanks of the LB - Blanca traverse, Sam spotted a very sporty line which he calls the best line he has ever seen in Colorado. I don't think it has ever been skied. Sam says he will wait until a better snow year, which won't be hard to come by given this year.
We traded sticks for spikes and started to booter. The climbing was tiring as most of the snow is entirely faceted except for the occasional section of suncups.
The ski will be a little thin in some places...
Pausing for a break, we discussed how we planned to ski it
Steep sugar snow added some excitement
Sam pushed up very steep sugar snow while I climbed rock bands covered in sugar snow
Our Ski carrying efforts were rewarded by a small 50 degree snow slope came right off the summit.
This is the best my camera could zoom. Challenger, Kit Carson, Crestone Peak and the Needle.
Ellingwood point is looking good for a ski descent with a spring like snowpack
Then time for 100ft of down climbing
Jump turns commenced with a breakable crust in some areas
We got some pretty good POW down low
It was so warm we began to just ski in our base layer. Happy with another in the bag.
But it wouldn't be long until this...
Thanks for a great day and thank you for reading!
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