| Handies Peak Ski (West Slopes)- American Basin TH
Date: Saturday, May 9, 2009
Group: Bill, Lance, and I
Route: Southwest Slopes standard ascent (2.7mi.) and West Slopes ski descent (2mi.) from American Basin
Stats: 4.7 miles; 2,800’ climbed (3,100' for Bill); 2,800’ skied; 5 hrs 45 min RT
Our ski route seen from 12,200' in American Basin:
Topo of the route (red=climb; blue=ski):
Dust, dirt, and crust were the theme of our game Saturday.
We drove down Friday evening and arrived at the plow turn near the stream crossing at 11,300', just shy of a mile below the upper American Basin trailhead. The original plan was to climb and ski the standard route on Handies, and then hit one of the couloirs on American Peak if time allowed. We began the tour skinning immediately at 5:20am from the cars up through lower American Basin. We kept eyeing ski lines off the northwest side of Handies and, shortly after, were greeted with a nice sunrise over the American Peak couloirs.
Bill and comin2getcha skin before American Peak's emerging couloirs:
As we rounded the basin, we spotted a nice line off the west side of the intended. Once in the upper basin, we were able to see that a ski of the standard route was out due to lack of snow coverage. Shortcutting the standard route in the upper basin, we toured to where we found continuous snow to ascend the SW slopes. The dirt and sand really chewed up our skins, so Bill and I chose to crampon up here; comin2getcha elected to skin most of it. Surface granule on top of a firm base allowed for nice bite.
Ascent line to the Southwest Slopes; taken from upper American Basin (the summer route is lookers' right of the marked route):
Bill, comin2getcha, and I climb the SW Slopes:
American Peak and her inviting couloirs (taken from ~13,400'):
Since the standard route ski was out, we knew one of American's couloirs was out too, and therefore weren't pressed for time. The terrain on the South Ridge proper gave us a Mars-like feel (there is a narrow strip of snow off the summit for a pieced-together standard route ski though). We were on the windy summit at 9:10am, planning to wait as long as possible for the snow to soften on the western aspect where we would ski. The lines off the East Face direct looked great, but the slog out of Grizzly Gulch would have been nasty.
Bill (inset) and comin2getcha nearing the summit:
The crew on the summit – Bill texting his coordinates to 14ers.com (nerd alert!):
Redcloud and Sunshine look sparse:
Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre in the distance (zoomed-up insets):
Looking down Handies' tempting East Face – Mmmmmmm!
It was getting pretty cold after an hour of passing time, so we decided to ski. We took an immediate left (west) from the summit to find thin snow coverage for the first few hundred feet and involved a little extra time to navigate through before entering the main gully on the west side. Bullet-proof snow was the primary terrain we skied to about 12,000'.
Bill off the summit:
comin2getcha skied next:
Skiing more hardpack, we entered the gully near 13,400' and flirted with skiing the north and south sides for most of the line. The couloir averages 32 degrees (max. slope angle: 38 deg. near 13,200').
Bill rips the gully:
comin2getcha hitting it:
I get mine:
We traversed south to find an exit point back into lower American Basin:
comin2getcha works the exit chute:
After the small chute, a few final corn turns were made before the dirt ski back to the car.
What would a San Juan ski be right now without some dust? Skiing out of American Basin:
The ski descent took us just short of an hour to reach the cars (at 11:05am). The West Slopes of Handies is a mellow descent, and a great first San Juan ski. Great day boys! comin2getcha - it was so nice to be in the mountains with you again.
Where the snow lacks on the mountain can be found on the road:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):