| Spring Preview on Lenawee
Lenawee Mountain (484th) 13,204'
"Southwest Lenawee" (Soft) 13,180'
South Ridge via Peru Creek
Chicago Transpant and Shanahan96
Approximately 7 miles Round Trip and 3700' vertical with reclimbing.
Well now that winter had officially ended, there was no longer this sense of obligation to work on the so-called "Winter List", in fact, the last thing either of us wanted to do was a peak from the winter list. We started looking for relatively easy 13ers that were not too far from us and settled on Lenawee Mountain, located between A-Basin and Loveland Pass. To avoid all of the skier traffic at the Basin, we decided the south ridge route out of Peru Creek would be the way to go, and we hoped the warm temps would provide some dry conditions as well.
We met at 8am at the Peru Creek Road winter closure, the road is still covered in thick snow and driving any further would be futile, it was only plowed for 300 more yards to access a private driveway. We started up the road and stared up at the steep treed slopes above us knowing that this may be a workout.
Slopes from the road:
There is an open field next to the road that provides access to these slopes. We crossed it and dropped down to Peru Creek, which had a good snow bridge. The treed slopes were not too bad in the morning, there was some postholing/trenching required, but the snow had some firm spots and there were frequent dry patches - especially in the aspens. Progress was still fairly labored, but definitely could have been much worse!
Jamie on a dry section:
We popped out at treeline around 12,000' and were happy to find mostly dry slopes leading to the false summit, a 280' prominence "soft" ranked peak known as "Southwest Lenawee". We ditched the snowshoes and had a short break before continuing on.
View from treeline:
We stayed far to the left of the snow along the grassy slopes, it was almost a year earlier our good friend Sarah had a "close call" on this ridge with a broken cornice. It was definitely something that weighed on our minds, especially from higher up where we could see the terrain that carried her into the basin below. Luckily there was plenty of dry terrain to safely lead us to the summit of "Southwest Lenawee".
Nearing the summit of "Southwest Lenawee":
From here we had an excellent view of the slopes of A-Basin below, and could peer down some of the chutes of the East Wall terrain as well as get a good overview of the remaining ridge traverse over to the true summit of Lenawee Mountain
On the way over to Lenawee we stayed close to the ridge crest, again being very aware of the cornices. These cornices guarded over south and southeast facing slopes that had been getting sun all morning and had a recent (only a day or two) old wet slide path. Staying on the ridge crest required some class 3 scrambling, but the rock was good and it kept us off of the cornices. Initially we couldn't see around the "corner", so didn't know if dropping lower would have helped. It turned out that it did, and we took that route back which was much quicker. It took us almost an hour to reach the summit of Lenawee, which is a surprisingly open and flat summit. It provided a nice perch to view into Chihuahua Gulch.
Looking back at SW Lenawee:
Grays and Torreys "Chihuahua Gulch" routes from Lenawee:
We observed a couple of skiers on "Southwest Lenawee" that had hiked out of A-Basin to access the backcountry. Their chosen ski route at nearly 2pm had us concerned - with it being under a large cornice. They skied a predominantly northeast face, and the snow held. It was a little late in the day for my tastes, but it seemed they knew the area well enough to choose a line that did not get as much morning sun. There were some fun looking lines on this face, given the right conditions.
Can you spot the skiers?
We made our way back across the traverse, this time sticking to the class 2 terrain below the crest. We went back over "Southwest Lenawee" and down the dry slopes to our snowshoe cache. So far we were making good time on the descent, but that would change. Now that it was nearly 3pm, the south facing slopes in the trees really softened up. It was like wading through a knee deep Snowcone. Wet, slushy, heavy snow made it seem like going down took as long as going up. The dry spots didn't help much either as the slick snowshoes didn't handle the dirt much better than they would have handled ice. We frequently found ourselves gripping for trees to help our balance, occasionally knocking over deadfall in the process. I broke a trekking pole at one point, but we eventually made it back to the hard-packed road and our cars. It was a longer day that we expected, about 8 hours round trip, but it was a beautiful day and a great preview for the spring to come.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):