| Variety is the spice of life
Elevation Gain: 3,997'
Time: ~7 hrs
Bluebird forecast for a Friday? Sure, I'll extend my holiday ski weekend by one! Drove up to the trailhead Thursday night, and slept for a few hours before starting the climb before sunrise at ~5:20. With an early and direct sun hit, I wanted to be on the summit and ready for a 10am descent. Trail is effectively dry until the upper meadows, where it is patchy till the turn off the East Ridge route at 12.4K. From there I had continuous snow till the summit.
Arriving at the base of the chutes, I had some decisions to make. Which one to climb, and which to ski? The lookers right (north) ones looked pretty torn up by wet slides and sloughs, but the clean ones to the left (south) looked too mellow. So I compromised and picked the 2 steeper and mostly clean routes left of center. I would climb the rockier right branch, and ski the slightly smoother left branch.
Box Creek Chutes Pano
The climb of the chutes went quickly, and soon I found myself on the broad upper slope of Elbert, where the wind greeted me. I noticed on the climb up, that the snow was already softening, so I would have enough time to summit, take a break and return, before the snow was at the proper temperature!
La Plata's North Face - beta shot for Monday
After snapping some beta pics for near future use, I returned to the chutes to wait another 20 minutes or so, to let the snow ripen just a little more. With the wind on the summit, it was hard to know if it was effecting the warming in the chutes or not. No worries, I could eat and drink a bit more before skiing the fun section. Hmmmm 10:30? Ok, enough warming - Let's ski!
The slightly surprising steep section
Looking down the mellower remainder of the drop
Now that, was fun!
Climb on right, ski on left
Once below the chutes, it was then just a matter of traversing back to the East Ridge route, and booting back down the hot trail, another successful and fun 14er descent in the books!
Off to the next camping spot and a nice meal....
Mmmm Paleo Dinner! Bacon & grass-fed beef burgers and peppers - tasty! Car camping makes good meals so much easier.
Elevation Gain: 1,517' (2,800' ski)
Partners: Scott, Aaron, Scott
I met my ski partners for the day at the summit lake parking lot. Oh yeah - Evans slacker fest. Easiest, highest and steepest turns available in the state. But to make it sporting, we're going to climb the steepest snow route for fun! That and maybe scout it for a ski descent. Those rocks make it look less than ideal... The other Scott and Aaron decide to utilize the existing booter up to the North Face Bowl which has a much mellower slope angle.
Good Morning Evans!
Our objective, should we choose to accept it
Scott traversing over to the climb
Getting to the base of the climb, the snow looks kinda chunky. It will take some time to warm the snow up, as it's been in the shade most of the morning. Booting up it was pretty easy and a lot of fun. But the ski down? Uggg... couple of jump turns above, traverse and jump turn around rocks. Then a couple of choppy turns in the center, then you're in the rocky apron below, traverse out of them and you can get a few more turns before the base. Not exactly fun skiing, but it would be exciting! Hmmm, Scott says that if I beg him, we can ski it. Nah, let's go over to the smoother and more fun looking off-chute that I spotted on the way up!
Climbing by the rocky section
A look down the climb, from just below the steepest section before topping out
Scott owning the steepest (~50+) section of the climb.
With the snow warming up nicely, we run the ridge over to the top of the north face bowl, climb down, then we traverse over to the eastern most branch that I had spotted from below. Mmmm untouched snow with so many skiers having already dropped. Score!
A look down our untouched ski line - sweet!
Scott getting after it!
A look at our turns before they get too torn up!
Looking at our "secret" drop from the ridge above. If only the snow connected better...
Scott dropping in for lap #2
Scott #2 shredding our line
Aaron shredding the last line of our group
After parting ways with Aaron and Scott #2, Scott and I then head to Independence Pass for the evening camping and yet another grill session before sleep. Mmmmm more bacon grass fed beef burgers and peppers! Scott grilled up some brats and we enjoyed the calm before the Inde ski storm!
Elevation Gain: 2,410' (3,000' ski)
Hard freeze over night, casual start to the day. Just a couple of 13ers along the pass, drop some lines, climb back up and repeat. A nice easy day in the middle of a long weekend. Arriving at the pass, it was a zoo of skiers getting ready. Some were already skinning and marching up to the north and south from the pass. Kids were running around, foreign accents of parents yelling after them. Oh, the humanity!
Welcome to the ski zoo...
I had missed Pt 13,500' last summer, since I forgot it was ranked but unnamed. So it was high on my list to do today. Little did I know that it does have a Dawson name of "Blarney" and has plenty of ski lines off it. Well, color me happy.
Scott and our next day's objective
Blarney pano 1
Blarney pano 2
Grizzly and another 13er future ski
After meeting 3 guys from Aspen mountain rescue, and taking a snack break, we drop a clean line to the north of the Blarney summit.
Scott dropping off Blarney
Me about to drop the line
Steep skin track back to the saddle between Blarney and Blue - Photo Credit: Scott
A look back at Blarney from Twining
After getting to the summit of Blue/Twining, we search around for the NW couloir we were planning to ski. Finding the snow hard, we take a nice long break, and wait for the snow to warm.
Another untouched line, in a sea of skiers... lucky!
Me dropping the line first - Photo Credit: Scott
Nice corn - Photo Credit: Scott
Scott's turn on the steeps
Skiing with a view
Clean, smooth line with the Geissler's behind
Scott tearing up the lower section
Me finishing out the ski - Photo Credit: Scott
A look back at a mighty fine line
East Geissler shredded by the hordes
West Geissler shredded by the hordes
Oh no, I think Grizzly couloir slid... Bugger
After hanging out at the pass for a little while, we go back to our camping spot, where we have periodic visitors passing through on the nearby trail. Around grilling time, Zach Taylor (taylorzs) and friend show up and keep us company. Will be looking forward to hearing about Zach's 12 days in the mountains soon! And here I thought 4 days in a row were tough! Wow...
Elevation Gain: 4,597'
Being day 4 for me and day 3 for Scott, we plan in some extra time to get to the summit of La Plata. Neither one of us wanted to carry crampons after all previous days of carrying them, so up the standard route we went! The first stream crossing was quite heart racing, as the water was high and the branches were icy. Otherwise, the trail is dry till around tree line, when it becomes patchy all the way up to the ridge. After a hard freeze the night before, the snow was very firm. Traction could be useful to some, but the angle wasn't steep enough to really require them.
La Plata's north face from standard trail
Sayers looking... icky
Up on the ridge we got some nice views to propel us to the summit. Well, it propelled me at least! Once again we met 3 Aspen locals on the way up and on the summit. They dropped first, while we waited for the snow to warm up some more. I walked down the ridge towards "East La Plata" to get some beta shots of our ski line, as well as others - should I ever choose to come and ski the face again. IMO we should have waited another hour to ski. The snow was too hard for my liking, and only parts of it were in good condition. After being an East Coast skier in my early days, I no longer like ice.
2 tired skiers on the "winter summit" of La Plata
The 3 Aspen locals skiing the line.
Looking down the line from the ridge to "East La Plata"
Looking back at the summit from the ridgeline
Summit pano 1
Summit pano 2
Scott dropping the first pitch
Me dropping first pitch - Photo Credit: Scott
Scott on second pitch
Me on second pitch - Photo Credit: Scott
Some softer snow to be had in the sun
A look back up to the ridge - Photo Credit: Scott
Me having fun - Photo Credit: Scott
Oh the sun hasn't hit this section - oh how it hurt... Scott lost a filling (not joking) and my legs turned to jello from braking in the icy chop
I'm grimacing... not happy... - Photo Credit: Scott
Gonna spray you with snow in T-3s.... Photo Credit: Scott
Uggg, if it wasn't for that middle icy choppy nasty section, this would have been a good ski. As it was, my day 4 legs went from 80% to 40% and dropping... I had no uphill left in them. So after saying goodbye to the north face, we skied down the drainage and then traversed around. I found the bushwhack to be annoying but at least the snow kinda supported me. It was not the worst I've ever experienced - kinda par for the course. Scott with his longer skis and such, didn't find the bushwhack all that fun, and when we got to the ridge and the easier drop back to the trail, he was a very sad panda. He lists it as #3 sucky bushwhack. At least next time (if there is one), I have some ideas for avoidance, thanks to the Aspen locals who went a very different way... Ah, nothing a nice dinner at the Dam Brewery can't fix!
North Face Pano
Looking back at a mixed enjoyment ski
Upper 2/3 of route of North Face
16 new 14ers, and 10 non-14ers skied this year. Also with this trip, I've surpassed 2009, 2010 and 2011's elevation gain for the entire year. I'd have passed 2012 too, but I kept hiking last fall So far, 2013 is shaping up to be an awesome year!
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