| East Face Traverse to Southwest Gully
Mount Columbia, Horn Fork Basin 3/9/ 2009
Like anyone, I was having a little trouble with the time change in the morning. One minute it was midnight, the next, two thirty. Well, maybe I could use a little head start. So I went out to hook up the trailer, came back in the house, and saw 1:40 on the coffee maker. Back to bed. At 3:30 it would still be 2:30 the old time.
I realized on this trip that the pizza hut referenced in the Dawson guidebook, is now a gear shop called The Trailhead. How appropriate.
It was still dark at the snow closure just past the San Isabel National Forest boundary. I unloaded the sled, and did the bump and grind on patchy snow for the first half mile. I wish I had Old Red for this trip, but the hifax were destroyed from it's last escapade on the North Halfmoon Road, oh well.
At the TH, the sky was just barely starting to show lightness. Taking an immediate left past the cabins, I enjoyed a nice skin on just one recent set of snowshoe tracks. I Crossed the creek, and continued to follow. She had done an excellent job of keeping track of the trail. A tree brand, or cut log asserted the trail at times.
The Sawatch Range is underrated. Looking at the dry slopes on the Eastern flanks of the 14ers over 285 it is easy to say that they are not skier's mountains, but once up in the hidden basins to the west, you can see the potential. Many epic nordic tours can be plotted along the Divide where the peaks and basins interplay with those of the Taylor Park area.
I had a good view of this route from Yale last weekend, and also spotted the snow on the summit from Buena Vista on the way back. I continued past the runout of the big west gully, and skinned up a slope around the corner just before a pair of rock domes. I was able to skin about half way, then traversed right to intercept the climber's trail. It was loose scree for the most part, but better further up. The snow in the gully reached to about twenty feet below the ridge crest, which was better than expected.
Fighting the wind on the ridge, I broke down out of sheer loneliness, calling my ex from the summit to say that I was ok; I left a message, but of course, never heard back. Stupid wind.
I was happy to have snow off the summit though, and got ready to ride. I rode east off the top, and traversed to the ridge. I had to walk one short dry patch, but overall more continuous than expected. I also had to sidestep about fifteen feet over a hump where I lost my momentum.
In the gully, I stayed to the right, riding above the starting zones, then eased into the line. The snow was not hollow, and even had an inch or two of powder on the surface.
I would recommend this run. I exited the chute at the bottom, cruised into the forest to join the trail, and was able to make it back down to the bridge before splitting the board and kicking out to the sled. It was 2:20 at the truck. Just one more Collegiate left to ride.
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