| Huron Peak - Eastern Slope Ski
I came up to Huron last weekend for what turned out to be a recon trip. There had not been much of an overnight freeze the previous two days and the weather was very warm. By the time I got to Cloyses Lake at 9am, it was already 50 degrees and the sun was intense. I observed wet point releases everywhere. I forayed up the Lois Lake creek drainage a few hundred feet and quickly realized it was a no go. This picture across Cloyses Lake toward Missouri Peak pretty much summed up the conditions.
I came back this weekend for another shot. The freezes had been much better the previous nights. It was also overcast when I arrived. I was able to get my truck through Clear Creek and up the 4wd road a short distance before snow drifts stopped me. I parked the truck and was boot packing by 6:30am. The temp was 28 degrees.
I was able to boot pack about a mile up the 4wd road as the snow was still frozen and snowshoers had packed it down well.
The 2.5 miles up to Cloyses Lake (11,000 ft) went by quickly. The grade is moderate only gaining 1,000 feet in this distance. I arrived at the lake at 8am. The clouds were moving in an out, there was a constant mild breeze, and flurries. Perfect backcountry ski weather. I didn't overheat and the snow was ideal for travel.
I snapped this pic of point 12,900, the navigational landmark of the route, from across the Cloyses Lake.
I moved up the creek drainage connecting Lois Lake to Cloyses Lake. I could hear the water running beneath the snow. As I broke through tree line below point 12,900, the sky briefly cleared.
The clouds moved back in as I headed up toward Lois Lake. I got my first look at Huron.
I stopped to eat in the trees and the snow began pouring down. I quickly got moving again. This high basin is absolutely beautiful. The sheer cliffs, abundance of snow, exposed rock, and steep couloirs reminded me of the Alaska Range in some ways.
As I moved closer to the base of Huron's East Face, I saw avalanche debris likely from last weekends warm weather. Looking up the couloir I was considering as a descent route I took this picture.
I ascended the wide east facing snow slope that reaches a pass at 13,500 and allows access to Huron's North Ridge for an easy ascent 500 vertical ft to the summit. I say easy from a climbing perspective. The weather intensified with 30mph winds and a pelting of snow. By the time I reached the summit I felt like I had earned every inch of the final 500 ft.
It was noon and thankfully the weather had kept the snow in good condition. I layered up and grabbed a bite to eat. As I did so, the weather began to clear. You have to like luck.
The clouds lifted and revealed a magnificent panorama of Colorado's finest.
After snapping several pictures, I got back to the task of getting down. I skied south off of the summit. I was really stoked to ski the East Face, it's such an aesthetic line. I was a little concerned about an 8-inch top layer of new snow. I noticed that it was poorly bonded when I ascended the east facing snow slope. I figure I would ski down to the planned couloir and assess it. It sure looked inviting from the top.
I side stepped into the couloir and stomped the slope several time. And then, in what seemed like slow motion, a shooting crack to the south and the whole slope went.
I have heard people reference a "silence" when standing atop a mountain in skis getting ready to challenge it. I've had that experience many times and would describe it as complete focus in a moment of anticipation. I think we become more acutely aware of it because of the danger. The "silence" that was my only companion after the snow had run its course to the bottom of the couloir was beyond superlatives.
Anyway, after the 5 minutes it took me to get my butt unpuckered, I began to assess my options. I knew after the slide most of the danger had been cleared out of my ski route, however there is a connecting slope of the couloir on the north side of the summit that had not slid yet. Given how easily the slide started, I didn't want to get caught skiing under the other slope. So I side stepped a few feet back to the ridge and made my way back up to the summit.
The ski off of the north ridge was mellow and I took it slow.
About 100 vertical from the summit, I dropped onto the West Face and picked my way through the rocks. There was surprisingly a lot of snow for a west facing slope.
Once I got back to the saddle at 13,500ft, the sun came out for good and the skiing transformed from work to fun.
I descended the 35 degree snow slope below the saddle in near perfect ski conditions.
A couple of pics of the slide I set off. Notice how far the fracture line extended to the south (left).
Looking back at my tracks and the run out from the slide.
Looking back up the high basin to Huron. The sunlight exposed the real beauty of this place.
And then back to boot packing the last mile or so to the truck.
As I made my way back to the truck, I started thinking about Clear Creek. It had been warm for a few hours now and I was convinced that it would rise to un-crossable. I berated myself for being so stupid. I knew better. I made the same mistake returning across the McKinley Bar several years ago. When I got to the creek, it was fine. Funny what a tired mind will concoct.
Good trip, though it took 10 hours. Still a lot of snow up there.
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