Recent mountain travels for me have consisted of some of the more interesting 14ers in the Sangres. Concerned this was becoming a trend, I sought a remedy and old friend of a lower variety.
Kellar Mountain in the Gore looked to be the prime candidate but after some weather scouring I found that the same weather window that existed over the Gore was also over the Holy Cross wilderness. Then I recalled a buddy of mine (joelmpaula) saying he had given Mt Jackson a go in the winter and found it to be one tough cookie. Fortunately for me, I am quite fond of cookies.
Knowing this climb would be on the tamer side, I set aside the pons but brought the ice axe as it seems good measure to always have one in winter.
It would behoove you to read the following if you are planning on doing this mountain via the Beaver Lake TH so as to not make the same mistakes I did. There is no trailhead parking, after wasting 30 minutes like an idiot I decided the best thing to do was park at the free Elk Lot at the base of the mountain, get my pack ready and bring along my bivy, bag and pad. I then hopped on the free shuttle to get a ride up to the top. Getting off the shuttle, I made the half mile walk to the winter gate and then another short distance to the water tower where I set up to the spend the night. Lucky for me, the water tower is a stones throw away from where the snowcats begin and end their operations so pretty much all night I could hear the beastly things. Also note, the shuttles (at least in early March) run till 2:30 am (unnecessarily early to start I felt) and begin at 5:30 am (too late to start) hence the reason I came up with the brilliant bivy idea. Another option is to drop $33 to park in the garage for a day and then make the half mile walk to the water tower to begin.
After getting a few hours of sleep, I threw the bivy under a snowed in truck and at 4:15am began the long haul to Mt Jackson.
Early morning trail duty. Trail breaking averaged 7-8" always with extended areas of much more
The first 2 miles went pretty easy as it was all on groomers, but once I reached Beaver Lake at 2.5 miles a clear delineation became apparent of where people were willing to venture. For the rest of the day, Fleetwood Mac's "Silverspring" (a little girly I know) and Phil Lesh's "Box of Rain" would help keep my mind occupied.
It is somewhat sad, but the following image is not even close to the summit and I had already done 4.75 miles just to get it. If this mountaineering thing was easy, I wouldn't be doing it.
First glimpse of a high point (Turquoise Lake Cirque)
Walk into splintered sunlight. Inch your way through dead dreams to another land.
The Turquoise Lake cirque consists of the upper and lower lake flanked by steep slopes on the west and a mellower slope on the east. I carefully surveyed the west flank looking for any weaknesses but it was pretty easy to tell every chute was a ticking time bomb so up the west flank I went. The price for a safer ascent to gain the ridge came in the form of a less direct, undulating ridge. From this cirque alone I was beginning to understand why a bunch of my hardcore skiing friends were fond of this mountain and area.
West flank (standing on Lower Turquoise Lake)
Gained the ridge through the trees on the far left and followed it all the way to the high point
Breaking trail through the trees on the above photo was mindbogglingly heinous to say the least. Gaining a mere 500' probably took me the better part of an hour. Descending it however took about 15 tops, funny how that works.
Start of the ridge, went to the very far left to avoid deeper snow.
A look back down. Can see my track emerging from the trees
View of the west flank on the cirque
Look down the undulating ridge, almost to the high point of the cirque. Grouse mountains in the background
Seeing the summit so far away was a little disheartening but I was still lovin it and the weather was great apart from some gusts. However, after 8.4 miles and 4700' vert the ol' legs were startin to slow down.
Summit finally comes to view, notice the long bend to gain the north ridge proper
Cool cornice shot
Some minor class 3 and a few gendarmes presented themselves which was some respite from the slog. Interestingly though, for the first time I can recall, I would of rather had slog because it was mindless and quicker.
A look back at the long ridge
9 hours and 9 miles later, I was standing on top of Mt Jackson quite pleased even though it was pretty late. A little lunch break later, I set off for 13,433 to the south. Knowing that I would be getting back late, I turned up the after burners for the ride up 13,433
Holy Cross and the Gang
Pika, Gold Dust, Finnegan!!
View to the south, 13,433 in the foreground
I left the summit of 13,433 at 2pm, fully aware of the amount of ground I would have to cover to get back. I just put my head down and charged which is part of reason I took very few pics (only 2) on the "deproach".
View of Jackson from 13,433 (aka more skier porn)
Beginning the everlasting road home
Arrived back at the water tower around 8 pm wrapping up a 16 hour day and one of my most fulfilling outings despite the lack of gnarly. To celebrate my arrival, the Beav setup a fireworks display (the timing was seriously uncanny)
Stats on the Ride: 6600' vert, 20.5 miles (not counting the additional 0.5 mile had to walk back down to the shuttle stop )
Tread Lightly my Friends
Not exactly roughing it indeed