Crew: nkan02, Michael and BKS (Brian) Stats: elev. gain 2,800+, mileage: 6.4, time: 4 hr 50 min, max speed: 28 mph (yay!) TH: Backcountry access gate near the top of Mercury Chair Lift (~11,500 ft)
The weekend of April 13-14 was the Breck's closing weekend for the 12/13 season. So I thought it would be neat to use the chairlifts to get as close to Peaks 10 and 9 as possible. Three of us met at the bottom of Beaver Run chairlift at 8.30am and rode to the "top" of Peak 9. The uphill access from there was not available, so we skied down to catch the Mercury chairlift. Once again at the top of Peak 9, we discovered to our chagrin, that the backcountry access gate was still closed. So we did another run under Chair E. By the time we rode the chairlift back up, the patrol had finally dropped the rope. Woo-hoo. We regrouped and started skinning the road by 9.30am.
Skinning the road. Peak 10 is seen in the background
About 15 minutes later we reached the resort area boundary. From there, we were on our own
Approaching Peak 10
We made a good progress to the bottom of Peak 10. Michael shared his stash of bacon with us, and it greatly boosted our morale on a very windy day.
Peaks 9 and 8 as seen from the switchbacks on Peak 10
The road is pretty obvious, so we skinned up the road to the top of the ridge, to the radio towers.
It was fun to see the backcountry stickers slapped on the side of the shack.
Here we tried to decide if we should 1) leave the skis by the radio towers and if not, should we 2) boot up of 3) skin up. All three of us chose a different scenario - Michael was comfortable skinning, me booting up and Brian decided to leave his skis on the saddle.
Michael is getting ready to skin up
Going up the last 300 feet was a struggle as on the ridge the wind really picked up.
Fighting through the remaining 300 feet to the summit
Brian and I near the summit
We got to the summit around noon and would have enjoyed the views so much more if it were not for the wind.
Brian and Michael
me & Kikus
Crystal from the summit of Peak 10
Still, we were all very excited about the ski descent. Brian and Michael headed back to the saddle, while I spied a nice line almost from the summit on the skier's left. I downclimbed some rocks, which was a challenge in strong winds and while carrying skis and poles in my hands.
Downclimbing some rocks just off the summit to the start of the ski descent line
I was able to make a turn or two before I had to navigate through the final rock band, and I was pleased to find snow in good condition and the slope not exceeding 35 degrees.
The upper small snowfield with the final band of rocks below. I could see traces of prior boot/ski tracks
Early turns just below the rock band
More fun turns
I dropped in and enjoyed about 800 feet of great skiing in the 4th of July bowl, all while keeping an eye on Michael and Brian who started their respective ski descents from the radio towers. Brian was able to traverse closer to my tracks and soon we were joined at the bottom of the bowl.
Michael and Brian skiing
The weather was rapidly turning south at this point, so it was a decision time - do we go for Peak 9 in deteriorating conditions or shall we call it a day? The vote was unanimous - let's give it a try. So we started heading up Peak 9 as fast as we could, but winds were slowing down our progress.
Brian putting skis on his pack en route to Peak 9
Michael is braving the wind
Michael booting up near the top of the ridge
More free bacon on the summit ensued
Getting ready to ski
We didn't waste any time (except for a few photos and another bite of bacon) and quickly made the transition to the ski mode. Summit ski was in.
Brian and I skiing off the summit
Natalie skiing. Peak 8 and Lake Chutes are in the background
The low angle northeast-facing gully proved to hold the best powder of the day. In addition, it was protected by the ridge, which stopped the wind.
Michael enjoying the powder
By the time we got down to the bottom of the gully, we were greedy for more snow like that. We noticed that Imperial Chair on Peak 8 was no longer running (likely shut down due to high winds), so we became enthusiastic about Michael's idea to head over to Peak 8 via the saddle with Peak 9.
Unfortunately, as soon as we exited the protected gully and got to the saddle, we were met with the full wrath of the weather. After little hesitation, we abandoned our attempt and started skiing towards the bottom of Chair 6.
Heading down from the saddle with Peak 8 in rapidly deteriorating conditions
The snow in that particular area was not that great - a combination of wind blown crust, sastrugi, patches of ice and many other variations of almost unskiable snow.
Back at the resort boundary. Smiles all around
Enjoying the view of our tracks from the comfort of Chair 6
Soon though, we reached the resort boundary and skied directly down to the chairlift. It was just after 2pm. We made a quick stop at Vista House for a well deserved meal and sneaked in a few more runs before the resort closed for the day.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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