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 Peak(s):  Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
 Post Date:  05/21/2009 Modified: 12/03/2009
 Date Climbed:   05/17/2009
 Posted By:  doumall

 Wetterhorn Summit Ski: A Ski-the-14ers Finisher   

Wetterhorn Ski Descent: A Ski-the-14ers Finisher
Trailhead: Matterhorn Creek 2WD
East Face Climb
Ski Descent of Summit Snowfield and East Face

Crew: Debbie Baker, Prakash Manley, Joe Brannan


What better place to end a journey than in the Northern San Juan?
Image
Photo: Joe Brannan

The route was dry until treeline, where we skinned up and wrapped around a vast moraine toward the base of Wetterhorn's East Face.

A Scenic:
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Photo: Joe Brannan

Passing underneath Colorado's Matterhorn, we closed in on the interesting part of the route under blue morning skies.

Approaching the Face:
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Photo: Prakash Manley

Skins were exchanged for crampons and axe. Debbie and Prakash dropped the sticks here.

The face was mostly covered in old wet debris, which had melted down into what mimicked a field of penetites. The dirt definitely contributed to some of these features as well.

East Face Conditions:
Image
Photo: Joe Brannan

The snow was in good condition for climbing with the spaces between the spires perfect for foot falls. Although I have certainly cussed the dirt, I have found it has photogenic advantages.

Spring Contrast:
Image
Photo: Joe Brannan

The mountains have many surprises up their sleeves. Today, Wetterhorn tried to swallow me whole! As I made my way around some rocks, a vacancy opened beneath my feet. Without my axe belay, I would have found myself under the snow at the base of an 8 foot cliff, which happened to be hidden beneath a consistently sloped snowpack. Up to my shoulders, my legs flailed until I found solid walls to stem on. Nice try big guy.

The final pitch of the face gets fairly steep, offering a bit of focused snow climbing to our day.

Upper East Face:
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Photo: Prakash Manley

Uncompahgre, Debbie and Prakash:
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Photo: Joe Brannan

The pitch relaxes during the final steps.

The Summit Tower
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Photo: Joe Brannan

Here is where the skis are usually dropped…

Through the Keyhole:
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Photo: Debbie Baker

The class 3 rock pitch on Wetterhorn makes it a special climb. Solid easy rock right to the summit!

The Wetterhorn Ladder
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

Prakash Yearns for More Ice:
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Photo: Joe Brannan

Someday, this will be skied continuously:
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Photo: Prakash Manley

Wrapping around the top of the upper west face, a significant summit snowfield came into view. What better way to summit a peak than on snow! This was also my second completion of the Colorado 14ers.

A Memorable Ascent
Image
Photo: Prakash Manley

I am dedicating my ski-the-14ers project to my Fiancee, Debbie Baker, who was always there to support me through my ski the 14ers project and who is consistently the only person who understands what the mountains mean to me and why I make the tradeoffs I do to get away from it all.

As a good friend of mine recently wrote to me: "How grateful we lucky ones must be to have found such perfect partners in life!"

Image
Photo: Prakash Manley

How true that is.

Seeing I could make turns up here was icing on the cake. I clicked in and pushed off:
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

Popped a bit:
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

Cut into the forgiving crisp:
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

And logged the summit descent with half a dozen fun turns up here:
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

Snow End:
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

As I hiked back up to the summit, I peered over the NW face drop-off… impressive. The down climb back to the east face went smoothly. Prakash and Debbie plunged stepped back into the basin. I started skiing again as high as possible, which was maybe 80 feet below the summit.

The turns up high on the face were the best of the day.
Image
Photo: Debbie Baker

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Photo: Debbie Baker

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Photo: Debbie Baker

Out on the steep upper face, I found interesting conditions with the spires and debris. It's best to be aggressive with this type of snow so it doesn't throw you around.

Steep:
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Photo: Debbie Baker

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Photo: Debbie Baker

Once below the upper rock fields, the slope mellowed and the snow improved.

Smooth Snow is Nice:
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Photo: Debbie Baker

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Photo: Debbie Baker

I'm done! And Happy:
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Photo: Debbie Baker

Lunch Time:
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Photo: Joe Brannan

We took a nice long break, sunning ourselves and enjoying a perfect day. Eventually we kicked over to more fun corn turns on the way back to the truck.

An East Face Signature:
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Photo: Debbie Baker

Thanks for Joining on this special day, Debbie and Prakash!
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Photo: Joe Brannan

Thanks to all of you who joined me on one or more peaks along the way. A special thanks goes to Jordan White, who I did more peaks with than any other. He is an amazing story of strength and an outstanding person to be in the mountains with.

Lou Dawson, the first to ski all of Colorado's 14ers, wrote up an interesting blog post on my finish and the new wave of 14er skiing. Some of you may be interested in reading through it.

http://www.wildsnow.com/1842/joe-branan-brannan-skiing-fourteeners/



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions (11)
scotthsu


Thanks     2011-02-04 17:22:15
for the ride via your enjoyable and often poignant TR‘s! Congratulations!


pioletski


Congratulations!     2009-05-21 21:28:05
to you and to Jordan. What a story. I too have found your TRs inspiring as well as informative.


killingcokes


Congrats Man     2009-05-21 21:54:37
You are a fine mountaineer and a true gentleman. You inspire with your adventures and your kindness. I‘m so happy you got it done and that I shared some of those peaks with you.
It was really cool to see you grow as a ski mountaineer. From our 1st turns together on Trelease to our most recent trip on Eolus, the difference is truly impressive.

I wish I could have been there for Wetterhorn. But alas the wife had to work.

I have some projects for next year that I think you might be interested in 8)


KeithK


Amazing     2009-05-21 22:12:46
A hearty congratulations, Joe! As a non-skier, I‘m still mesmerized by your accounts of the voyage you‘ve just finished. Climbing these things is hard work to begin with, but to do it when conditions allow for a ride back down is just incredible. Thanks for sharing the journey!


RoanMtnMan


Summit turns to boot.     2009-05-22 12:47:15
Nice work. Got to love those summit turns. Finishing with your fiancee as well. Good day man. Congrats again.


susanjoypaul


Now you’re just pissing us off…     2010-11-30 10:28:46
Finishing off all the 14er ski descents – AND having a partner that not only understands your obsession, but climbs with you – AND gives you face time on top? You are a truly blessed man, Joe.

Best of luck on future endeavors, and on the "betrothal" too. I have a good idea for a wedding cake


skibrendan

congrats!!     2009-05-23 19:54:47
That‘s an amazing accomplishment. Looks like a great way to finish off such a journey. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up... What‘s next?


USAKeller


Congrats again     2009-05-26 09:40:15
on a well-deserved finish. Nice report and photos!


Jcwhite


Alright partner.     2009-05-26 11:52:54
Time for Rock routes. Congrats again man! Missed ya this weekend in WYO!


doumall


No, Thank You!     2009-06-01 15:39:37
It was fun sharing this adventure with you all.

Scott: thanks for following along, I always check out your stuff too.

Pioletski: Good luck with your own adventure

KC: Thanks for taking me under your wing early on. Not everyone lets some random JONG from the city join them on a bc trip.

Hey Kieth, its all about progression.

Caleb - stay strong. lets get out again soon

Susan - I have always really appreciated your comments, thanks for checking in on my finisher

Skibrenden - I don‘t know what is next really, some high volcanoes for sure in the short term

Caroline - your inspiring many with your own push, nice work. Excellent documentation.

Jordan - thanks for making it the other night. You kick butt dude!


USAKeller


Just saw your comment in response to mine...     2009-06-06 06:23:45
Thank you for the nice words! They mean a lot coming from you; and my inspiration comes from someone as accomplished in the ski-mountaineering world as you are. Thanks again.



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