| The Birthday Chutes
A Discussion of Summit Ski & Snowboard Descent Standards In The Arena of Public Claims.
I guess it doesn't surprise me no one gave me a hard time about getting Sneffels from the exact summit coin the first time around April of 2000. It is sort of a special case. Mark Rikkers and Barrows Worm made the earliest documented snowboard descent from Sneffels by the Snake in 1998 (Zach Taylor. http://14ersnowboardproject.homestead.com/Mt_Sneffels.html, 2009). However the summit standard was well established by the skiers at that time by Dawson's project, among several others I'm sure, as it goes from the register. Still, because the upper Lavender tops out higher, if not closer to the summit than the Snake, I still like to consider Sneffels as my first 14er snowboard descent in many ways, even if it was not right from the coin. Interestingly, most people I spoke to who have a solid grasp on the project and it's parameters acknowledge that as well. Even more interesting, is the acceptance I found among other people who are pursuing the goal themselves. There are several reasons for that.
At the time I had no idea how exacting the standards were. There was a bit of a learning curve there, and I still had not committed to the project as a whole. In 2001 I got in contact with Mr. Dawson at the upstart of his blog Wildsnow.com (which was initially far more politically charged). I inquired about the possibility of going the distance with this, and trying to get a grip on what exactly constitutes a summit descent. He essentially used my descent from the top of the Lavender Couloir an example of what the difference really is between an exact summit descent and just descending. He let me down gently saying that mountaineering is about freedom, and it doesn't really matter how or what you do until you bring it into the public arena for a claim. People will inevitably compare you with others down the line. You want to look back on those memories with confidence, to have enjoyed it, to document it. Having just completed the project four years before that, he was possibly more sensitive to this subject than he is now that the standards have become more solidified by the next generation. That advice always stuck with me. At the same time, maybe out of stubbornness or an overall satisfaction with that sublime full moon tour and perferct day on Sneffels, riding to my car door, I never went back. I always meant to, but not out of any sense of obligation. I think the true but unintentional reason was because I'll always remember how good that day really was, in spite of all of the summit aesthetics and standards. If anything, it makes that memory even more pure...
Avalanche debris along the road to Camp Bird.
The road was punched all the way up to the main trailhead. I camped there for the night, and with a very solid freeze, enjoyed a relaxed start.
Skinning into upper Yankee Boy Basin.
Early morning sun on Gilpin
The snow was really grippy, but a little firm for cutting switchbacks. Fortunately, many old tracks remained to follow to the Lavender Col.
Nearing the col, with a view of the upper couloir.
Early variations visible from here. Even though I took my sweet time to get on the route, I was early judging by the snow. It was still set up like concrete. I was dry, and warm, so took a break before getting in the couloir. The wind was picking up, quicly shifting gusts came from either side of the col.
I remember being a little gripped in this couloir the first time. I was on soft boots with a pair of antique leather strapped crampons and two glissade axes. Just when I was starting to feel smug about my level of comfort a big gust of wind came out of nowhere and pinned me down. Ooh, that's not going to be good.
The wind died down just as quickly after exiting the couloir, but it was enough to keep me attentive for the rest of the climb. I took my time again, letting the snow thaw. The run off the summit looked very steep.
This shows the Lavender Couloir's close proximity to the summit. It may not seem like much, but it was fun to be back anyway. I was enjoying every minute.
Looking back down the upper Lavender Couloir to the col.
Blue Lakes Pass, accross the south face.
Looking over Ridgeway.
I still get these peaks confused. Teakettle?
The Gerenadiers at the far right. I love those.
There may be a lot of dirty snow this year, but at least there isn't a nasty haze from forest fires. The view was so clear!
Staring down the Snake Couloir. It's funny, I know I wasn't the only one to come back to Sneffels, and I probably won't be the last. Even after riding from the true summit, I just don't feel like I've truely given Sneffels it'e due until I've hit this line... As I said, Sneffels is a special case. The only other peaks I still have not, and probably never will get from the summit are Wetterhorn (you can have that one Jordan), and the last block of Crestone (which I am also content without).
Dropping to the south, and cutting right, I managed to get lined up right for the main chute.
It was still very firm, but that was fine by me, because I don't trust anything sitting on or under the red dust layer. Most of what was left melted and refroze as a thin veneer only an inch or two thick. It was still a little unnerving when it would break off, and maybe because it was still frozen, it went in bigger pieces. This one was enough to be visually disorienting and make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as it went.
finding the main line
I skated about thirty yards in the basin, heading around to the right, a great cruise through the basin.
I was tempted to go out to the right here, but just stayed along the general path of the road. I split for the last half mile to the truck. I remember being able to carry my momentum better by staying left back in upper Yankee Boy basin last time. Anyway, a pretty chill day.
Thanks for reading!
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