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 Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
 Post Date:  04/09/2013
 Date Climbed:   04/07/2013
 Posted By:  pioletski
 Additional Members:   benners, lordhelmut

 Spring has Sprung, but Winter Hangs On    

Snow climb and ski descent of Crestone Peak via Red Gully, 4/7/2013
Crew: Ben (benners), Matt (pioletski)
3844' climbed and skied, about 8 miles round trip


Solving the Sangres Puzzle



Skiing the Sangre de Cristo range presents a unique set of challenges. It is remote, it tends to be dry, and springtime warms it up early. The race is always on for the snowpack to consolidate sufficiently for safe skiing before it melts out entirely. So a little creativity is required...

Our multimedia adventure began when I arrived at the trailhead on Saturday afternoon. I had brought my sled, hoping to save some time by towing my companions up the South Colony Lakes road to the old 4x4 trailhead. It's a little questionable whether we saved any time, but it made for an interesting trip. The lower part of the road was dry and rocky - not ideal snowmobiling terrain. I chained up my truck and managed to drag the sled past several snowdrifts and icy patches, almost to the beginning of continuous snow, and left it beside the trail for the night.

Ben and Brian (lordhelmut) arrived at what is now the 2wd trailhead around 2am. I was too comfortable to pay any attention. They settled down for what sleep they could get, and at 5am, we geared up and hiked about a mile to where I had stashed the sled.

Image
Ben on tow


Motoring up the road presented a challenge or two. Let's just say that the South Colony Road is no longer in for snowmobiling, unless you happen to bring the Army Corps of Engineers along. The road is open to snowmobiles in the winter, and the gate was still open, but the creek crossing just past the gate had melted out. We set to with our avy shovels, and built a bridge in about 30 minutes.

Image
Crossing the Rubicon (Ben)


From that point, the sled more or less justified the logistical problems it presented. After negotiating a couple more bare patches, and making a few stops to cool the motor, we covered 3 miles in perhaps 45 minutes, arriving at what used to be the 4wd trailhead (just shy of the wilderness area boundary) at around 8am.

Image
At the old 4wd TH


Turning around, we remembered why we came. The Sangres are spectacular and the Crestones especially so.

Image
The glorious Needle


I led my companions on a slightly crazy line through the woods to the campsites near Lower South Colony Lake, at the foot of Broken Hand Pass.

Image
Broken Hand Pass


And off we went...

Image
On the road again


... up Broken Hand Pass.

Image
Ascending the pass (Ben)


At this point Brian split away from Ben and me. He wanted to explore a line on Broken Hand Peak, while Ben and I were angling for Crestone Peak. At this point the wind was howling, and we weren't all that confident of our objectives. Still, Brian set off, while Ben and I crossed the pass and descended to Cottonwood Lake, delighted (in this dry year) to see the Red Gully full of snow.

Image
The Red Gully dressed in white


Not completely full, of course... We would ascend directly up the gully and climb over the rock band halfway up; on returning, we would break to skier's left onto the broad bands of snow to the side, thus staying on continuous snow all the way down.

We geared up to climb...

Image
Ben with Broken Hand behind


... and we climbed. Here Ben is approaching the band of bare rock.

Image
Approaching the choke


This required some front pointing and mixte moves.

Image
Mixte climbing (Ben)


Note, two pictures back,that Ben's boots are sinking to the instep in the snow. Most of the gully, perhaps due to cloud cover and protection from the wind, was incompletely frozen. I had no concerns about stability, but it did make for slow and strenuous climbing. We were grateful for the windbreak afforded by the sides of the gully.

Image
View from the gully


Gradually we closed in on the summit ridge, with its spectacular notches and windows.

Image
Looking north


Image
Ben near the summit


Image
Did I bring enough gear?


Image
View from the top (Ben)


Beta shot #1: KC and Challenger look about as in as I have ever seen them.

Image
Looking very skiable


After the whistling gale on Broken Hand, the summit was surprisingly comfortable.

Image
Brothers in arms


I never have had much success with action shots while skiing. Fortunately I have a GoPro. Here's a little POV of the first few hundred feet...





Ben is a bit handier with a still camera than I am.

Image
Skiing the gully (Ben)


The snow was too hard in some spots and too soft in others. I guess you can't have it all...





Beta shot #2: As we began the re-ascent of Broken Hand Pass, we had this view of the south couloir of the Needle. I wonder just how narrow the snow is at the choke. I had entertained thoughts of going after it today, but the effort and time it took to climb the Peak didn't allow for it.

Image
It's thin but it's in


Getting back up Broken Hand Pass was plenty of effort.

Image
Climbing the pass, again (Ben)


Guided by our friend Carl, we had spotted this little couloir on the east side of Broken Hand Pass, just to looker's right of the pass proper (picture taken in the morning, of course) - which looked like a nicer descent route:

Image
Couloir to looker's right


Looking down from the top:

Image
Bonus Gully (Ben)


As with Carl's trip, it turned out to be the best skiing of the day. Here's Ben getting after it:

Image
Jump turns


And a somewhat more flattering picture (sorry Ben, the last one was the best I got at the time).

Image
Real turns


Descending the apron to Lower South Colony Lake, the sled, the trailhead...

Image
Down to the lake (Ben)


Image
Descending to the lake


We (I should say I) only got the sled stuck once on the way out, and our bridge was still intact. A big, beautiful... tiring day in the alpine.

Thanks Ben, thanks Brian - good to see you guys again. And thank you for reading.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions (18)
MonGoose


Awesome Day!     2013-04-09 13:26:31
What a great day, I really enjoyed the GoPro videos!


gb


Bridge not required     2013-04-09 13:36:26
Sleds do great on water- just gun it next time!

Stoked you were able to ski this one, hopefully this current storm is helping things out in the Sangres and Long's for you!


livetothemax96


Nice job!     2013-04-09 14:00:17
Nice TR and a great descent! Cool pics and videos!


benners


Ominous Day     2013-04-09 14:13:02
with some icy turns down The Peak, but in hindsight I'm glad we stuck with it!

Thanks again for the invite Matt, and for hauling the sled down there to make our day a little easier. I agree with Frank, next time we should just hit the gas!


tygrubb


Way to get after it     2013-04-09 15:02:21
A buddy and I attempted this awhile back and were pretty destroyed by the time we got in the gully, not to mention having to climb back over the pass. Super impressed that you guys did it all in a day from the car.


kushrocks


Wow     2013-04-09 15:12:51
Good stuff everyone.


Carl


Nice Sangre adventure!     2013-04-09 15:59:48
Got the Peak and the consultation prize couloir off the pass. Looks like a solid day to me. Thanks for the Needle beta. Hoping we'll be able to put that to use together real soon.


Gueza


Good work guys!     2013-04-09 16:10:13
Hope you're able to finish this year Matt!


SchralpTheGnar


nice work, great pics     2013-04-09 18:55:42
the needle line doesn't seem in yet, not only does the choke look narrow, but the bottom 1/3 looks like garbage, of course you could just make turns off the top 500 feet, bootpack down and check it off the list.


lodgling


KC looking good     2013-04-09 19:06:43
Good pics and write-up. Teh POV makes the skiing look better than I imagine it probably was. Good luck on getting the last few. The Sangres could get crowded in the next few weeks.


ameristrat


Loved the footage!     2013-04-09 20:32:09
Gully looked awesome!


BillMiddlebrook


GREAT     2013-04-10 13:13:42
So great to see this trip report and know you guys got the ski. Congrats! With the Needle having snow in the couloir and a recent dump since then, I suspect a certain someone is chomping-at-the-bit to get down there. Kit Carson looks good, too. Although Cole's will probably need to consolidate a bit since this last storm.

Brian, wanna get Little Bear in the next week or two?


Zambo


The one time you guys have a sled.....     2013-04-10 08:08:46
...it does that, haha. Well, like Matt said, you can't have it all.

But nice work getting out on it. I know this one had been on the list for a while, so good work to cross it off the list. Looking forward to seeing a BHP TR from Brian soon.


Antonio Banderass


Impressive     2013-04-10 13:09:24
Brian, way to get after it! Especially after we did Bald on Sat. You're an endurance animal!


Easy Rider


Oh Yeah!     2013-04-10 18:02:44
Nice work, and don't listen to GB's sled drivin' advice!


nkan02


....     2013-10-04 23:24:36
Congrats.


Kpobean


Strong Work!     2013-04-14 07:45:24
I've been waiting for the planets to align with my work schedule... your TR was super motivating! Looks like if you're gonna go after it this year it better be sooner rather than later!


Dancesatmoonrise


Jump turns...     2013-04-14 19:39:41
Matt, I thought image 17 was superb. Jump turns are wonderful, and Ben aptly demonstrates perfection in this excellent capture.

Great work all the way around, gents.

This TR spoke to me on a slightly deeper level - these two are my remaining winter Sangres. I was particularly eying image #3...

Thanks for a great report and kudos on another fine adventure.




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