| Outta Sight in Plain View
Statistics: Climb of Mt. Bierstadt via West Slopes; summit ski descent to Frozen Lake (12,900'); re-ascent to southwest shoulder (13,760'); return via West Slopes. ~8 miles, 4010' climbed, 1160' skied.
Party: Gerlinde (telerina13), Chris (otherbrotherdarryl), Matt (pioletski).
Those of you who are fans of Pioletski's trip reports know that my brother rarely does things by following the beaten path. As his little brother I'm here to tell you he has always been that way! So when Matt and Gerlinde invited me to climb and ski Bierstadt I had a feeling it might not be the usual West face, up and down in three hours affair. This was reinforced when we arrived at the parking lot at 5 am and saw the West face was all but dry.
Dude where's the snow!
No, the plan was to climb the West side and ski the less-traveled South Face. The catch was we would not know if the South Face had skiable snow until we reached the southwest shoulder of the mountain at 13,760'. While we climbed, bits of songs and trivia from the 70's kept popping into our heads, so they will keep popping into this TR. Also, the first time I climbed Mt. Bierstadt I was 13, my friend David Brauchli and I climbed to the top with our parents and then ran back to the trailhead to turn on the car radio and hear the Broncos come from behind to beat the Seahawks during the Orange Crush Superbowl year. Yep, the 70's were some good times.
It was chilly starting out at about 5:15, much to our delight. This meant there had been a good freeze overnight, assuming there was snow to ski on. We worried it would be too hard to be skiable, as every snow patch we encountered was bulletproof. But we pressed on because we were feeling lucky, punk. On the way up the swirling clouds and fog created many John Fielder moments with cool weather effects. Mr. Fielder was not there so we did the best we could with our cameras.
Chasing the clouds from the sky
On reaching the shoulder about 7:45 am, we saw there was indeed skiable snow and armor-piercing rounds would not be needed. This picture shows the summit and our descent route.
Summit view showing descent route
Following Pioletski's elegant planning, we ditched our trail shoes at this point and strapped on the plastic boogie shoes for the remaining climbing and skiing to come. We were on top by 8:15. I was happy with our speed as a pool party was planned for the afternoon, and I had to be back at the house at Pooh Corner by one. We enjoyed calm winds (a rarity on Bierstadt), bright sun and surrounding clouds on top. The view was far out.
Jeez, will you cheer up?!
Pioletski summit Evans to the east
Here is our ski objective, Frozen Lake. Our descent route was first to traverse skier's right and descend through some picky stuff and tight quarters, then veer skier's left to the open snowfield.
As we started to descend, Matt remarked that it would be cool if it stayed sunny while we skied, then fogged over a bit while we climbed, but not so much as to obscure our view of the route. That's basically what happened.
The descent was a blast. The snow was not only skiable, it was forgiving well-textured corn. In these photos, ain't nobody feeling no pain. It's a shame that so many people climb Bierstadt and so few ski the South Face. It is a gem hidden in plain view.
Into the great wide open
The picky initial descent
Not my fault! Not my fault!
Frozen Lake itself was a treat with some cosmic halo effects. There was much rejoicing.
Brothers in arms
All smiles until the pack goes on
It looked otherworldly, and in fact Princess Leia showed up to warn us the rebels were in danger. But though we'd like to stay a thousand years, the sun was possibly turning the corn to mush, so it was time to ramble on. Good firm boot packing was had all the way up, with few post-holing episodes and no post-toasties. Just like Matt drew it up, the fog rolled in a bit. I sank in occasionally, more than the others, because I am your boy, 200 Pounds of Heavenly Joy.
Fog conveniently rolls in
The snow was soft enough that the crampons and axes mostly stayed in the pack. After a fall and short slide in a protected position, Gerlinde deployed her ice ax for the more exposed final few hundred feet, with Matt providing some coaching on technique.
Back on the southwest shoulder, the sun broke out again at about 10:30. We headed for the car and were down by about noon.
Sunny again on the summit shoulder
Thanks to Matt for conceiving and executing a perfect plan, thanks to Matt and Gerlinde for being awesome company, comme les copains d'abord. Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):