| Going for it on GUANELLA
Good day everyone,
When I sit down in front of my Mac to compose these trip reports, I try to pick out a single relatable piece from the adventure around which I will compose the story. Sometimes that piece comes from the people involved, other times from the surroundings or particular emotion the day takes on. Today I am struggling to identify that piece and write this report.
To clarify, last Sunday was a significant day for me personally. I put together an unusually lengthy and physically strenuous day in the hills, linking together high peaks on both sides of Guanella Pass. I skinned, hiked, climbed, and snowboarded over 7,500 vertical feet, covering 20 miles. It was a unique route (read weird, not logical), and all the more empowering as I completed it solo. And yet I don't know how to tell its story.
Rather than take you through a chronological rundown of my tour of Mt. Bierdstadt, Square Top Mountain, and Argentine Peak, I will leave you with a few thoughts and some images from the day. I hope that these words and pictures will allow you to engage in the experience.
As always, I appreciate you following these journeys. Peaks for Peace, the non-for-profit which I direct, recently published our 100th post, and now average over 150 views of the website each day. Peaks for Peace as a brand is growing, and with it the story and support of children with Burn Injuries.
Take care, and thanks.
Driving down Highway 9, I pulled off the road in a frustrating state of indecision. I couldn't decide where to drive, where to camp, and where to ride the next day. As I sat in my car aimlessly searching online databases of backcountry conditions and routes, the sun fell behind the Sherman Massif.
Even a broken lens and a busy mind couldn't get in the way of such beauty. Twighlight in Park County.
Eventually I decided on Mt. Bierstadt as a destination for my Memorial Sunday tour. Bierstadt is often thought of and even teased as the most boring and trivial of Colorado's 54 fourteeners; having a short approach, easy standard route, and limited snowfall. My solution to boring Bierstadt would be to hike and snowboard it at night under a full moon. Unfortunately, the predicted clear night proved cloudy. A missed alarm meant my secondary plan of a summit sun rise wouldn't occur either. Square Top Mountain makes me feel better about being late.
Just after dawn, I found myself standing on the summit, staring down Bierstadt's surprisingly white west face. Yes, I understand that this picture appears rocky. But the west side of Bierstadt has little reason to hold snow; windy and dry it remains most years. Most people who ski or snowboard Bierstadt chose to descend the flat and meandering hiking trail, eventually stopped by twisted towering thickets of willows. I was surprised to find a continuous steep line just rider's right of the summit - providing access to 2500 vertical feet of snow into the Scott Gomer Creek Basin. I'm sure that the sound of my steel edges attempting to hold purchase on the refrozen snow caught the attention of a few hikers.
Looking back at Bierstadt's Northwest Face. Not exactly a classic, but a memorable descent given the conditions.
In my opinion, Square Top Mountain is much more interesting and aesthetic than neighboring Bierstadt. However, it is neglected by many parties as it fails to hit the magic 14,000ft mark, rising a meager 13,794 feet from sea level. Miles to go and not a soul in site.
Well, there ended up being one other soul on Square Top, a kind man from Aurora. He offered to prove my presence digitally, and I agreed. Mt. Bierstadt rises just under my armpit - a nice metaphor, really.
Looking back at Square Top on my way towards Argentine Peak, its name became more and more logical. I snowboarded the north line off Square Top's summit, finding completely ripable spring softened snow.
Argentine Peak, as seen from the west face of Mt. Bierstadt. Argentine has it all: a summit elevation of 13,738ft, a mellow southeast face, a steeper northeast cirque, and high voltage power lines.
20 miles of amazing scenery. The tallest points on the Continental Divide in North America: 14er's Grays (left) and Torrey's (right) as seen from the west slopes of Mt. Bierstadt.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):