| East Face
I kept driving north past the thin slopes of the Sawatch. So much had melted in March, fortunately the little sifts of overnight snow that came consistently through April had re-opened some more possibilities. Josh Brookshire joined me again with the XC contraptoid. We were looking at the creamy east slopes of Massive. I called Tim Halbakken, thinking he could use a sporty outing like this after his epic debut on the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. He, and his partner, Jim, were caught in a nasty storm while crossing Taylor Pass. They were way off the back with equipment failiures, and had no tracks to follow through this subtle alpine terrain. They relied on directional relationships from one another, and GPS waypoints to navigate the whiteout. I could certainly use his skill for the black forest tomorrow morning. I checked the access on the North Halfmoon, and drove into Leadville for Taco Bus, relaying the message to Tim that sleds would not be practical for the approach with patchy snow.
"Ok, but I'm bringing tele's" (the limitations of snowboarding had driven him to it).
A sleep from about 8:30, and Tim had made it from Avon by 10:00. we headed up the road by 12:30. I skinned most of it, opting to take the weight off, even if the transitions left me trailing behind. There was no moon, and from the TH, the illuminated silhouettes of my friends floated on through the dark above me. We walked the initial section of patchy trail as it climbed a south facing slope. The snow was unmarked from there, making even a well established trail like the Colorado eventful to navigate. The tree brands helped. At one point I passed Josh, and was following Tim. We rounded a pronounced point at 10,800 on a lateral ridge, finding Josh in front of us, heading in our direction. Josh was as confused as we were. The GPS and compass helped reorient, but the map explained what happened: where the lateral ridge came to a small point, Tim and I had traversed around, holding the contour in a U shape. We left virtually no path on the frozen snow, so when Josh saw our lights through a saddle from the other side, he went through the saddle. We lost the trail at least once more following the tree brands from a reroute. Josh would mark the last position, while Tim and I dispersed high or low to find the next tree brand. Once again the coordinates were entered into the GPS. After a mellow gully with thinning tree cover, we found the post marking the Massive spur, and headed west. It was still moonless, with lots of stars. Leadville twinkled like it's own constellation. The 'Dark Timber' had certainly lived up to its name tonight. We moved through the last rows of trees before the sunrise. Massiv's Summit began to glow. The red faded to orange as it descended to our position. Some nasty looking spindrift sailed from the ridge. We took a climbing traverse to the northwest away from a headwall, with good views of the run into the lower bowl of the east face into Willow Creek to treeline. I should have had Josh stash his XC skis at the base of this rocky ridge for the most efficient cache. Unfortunately we were already halfway to the next bowl, and a good distance apart, since I was trying to mediate the distance with Tim. I chose to just slow my pace to keep my blood moving while Josh caught up by the next bench, and the next best place for a cache. When he caught up he had already stashed them halfway down. I explained this meant he would have to forfeit the top part of the lower bowl to retrieve his equipment, and that it was partly my fault. He could still ride the summit if he could make the ridge without skins, and there was plenty of time. I walked a little farther, then just decided to skin. Josh called it, waving, and descending to the bench. Tim made the ridge, and I picked up my pace.
A steady wind pushed, and we walked to the far summit, which registered 50ft higher on the GPS, than the more prominent looking one from the bowl.
The snow was still very frozen when I dropped away from the summit to the east. This run was big.
I met Josh on the first bench.
Tim was very stable after his first year free heel.
Josh bailed back down the ridge to his equipment. Tim and I ripped the corn down the next bowl, and began to traverse around to the right after the next bowl to treeline.
I ended up a little lower on the board, so split and put skins on to head back up to the low ridge at treeline to make sure I didn't miss my unruly crew. Back at the skin track, snowboard tracks led down along side the trail. This was a fun ultra low angle run. Tim skied up behind me, and we found Josh waiting patiently at the post marking the junction with the Colorado Trail. We rode together for a bit further, then I switched to splitski sans skins, Josh put his board on his back again, & Tim headed out to make it home before his dogs destroyed the furniture. With the waypoints of the route entered in, he descended off trail a couple times looking for a shortcut, but returned to the Colorado Trail to exit the forest down to the North Halfmoon TH. Josh wollowed at times on the sticks, breaking through my tracks in places as the day warmed up but the old rig held together. A long day, but at the end of it all the Colorado Trail, with a casual cruelness, simply picks up on the other side of the road to continue south, across the forest of Mount Elbert. Like a lot of things, I took this a little personally, and returned after a day's rest to take it on.
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