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BelOxCamBro - In powder/fresh snow... who'da thunk it?
Actually I planned it this way, kinda. With the CAIC avy rating for the Central and Northern mountains still not a complete green light, and with the fresh snow that dumped on the mountains last week, I wanted peaks that were rare to get cleanly from the summit and ones that I could have low angle slopes - if needed. I had wanted to ski Tab's north face during the 14ers.com Gathering, but I just wasn't confident it would be safe enough. Plus I hate the Shavano trail to get to the Angel, so there was no way I was going to suffer up there in ski boots to just turn around (if it wasn't in or safe)!
Weather forecast: High of 32, windy, partly cloudy, with snow after 3pm. Ok, so while it will be a big long day, we can sleep in till 4am. On trail at ~5am. Fresh snow on the other side of the bridge, and all the way up (minus a few bare spots), mostly firm from snowshoers tracks the day before. Started skinning after switchbacks, mostly due to laziness of not wanting to transition and skin/walk over the couple of bare spots. The previous days tracks went right instead of left and across the stream, so we didn't have to encounter the misery trees. Hmmm?! Above treeline, we found the campsite of the snowshoers, whose tracks we followed. Beyond there, I went ahead to explore a few options for the climb up the peak, with the peak being so snowy, there were quite a few! Along the way we startled a very mad squawking ptarmigan.
So not liking the 2nd option for ascent, we went back to the NW gully direct. Dug in the snow for a bit, liked what I saw, and so we started up this rather aesthetic line, filled with deep delicious powder. I thought that wasn't supposed to happen on Belford? It's just a wind blown bump, right? I last hiked it in 2001, and that's all I remember - a rounded boring bump. Wrong?
We spread out naturally, on the ascent, since it still is a slope that could avalanche. Roughly halfway up, we have the decision of right or left. Left goes up around some boulders and up to what I thought was a steep ridge (later to be determined as the true summit). Right ascends to the ridge and the standard route. As the left looked like it had a steep finish (must have been an optical illusion, since it doesn't), I chose right, and kicked in progressively steeper switchbacks up the slope. I stayed on the relatively safer left side, not only for safety, but to preserve the natural ski line down the center. Gotta save that powder!
Once on the ridge proper of the standard route, I relax a bit, and make sure Prakash has made it up onto the ridge safely. The views around are great, as the unexpected sunny skies are still prevalent. Though, thankfully the clouds have started to pick up. I'm counting on them (along with some wind) to keep the snow cool for the long day ahead!
The remainder of the trek to the summit is snow covered, and when I get to the summit proper, I'm a bit surprised to see it so snowy. After Bean's report last weekend, I was expecting to take the skis off! Nope - skinned right to the tippy top of the summit! Score!
When Prakash arrives, I find out that the altitude is effecting him, as he spent the last week at sea level. So he decides to go hit that luscious powder that we had just skinned up, and get lower in elevation. I'm a bit jealous, as I know that the snow may not keep for my return to ski that steeper line. But hey, at least someone got to rip that sweet powder! Can't let powder like that go untracked!
The first of the pair of snowshoers arrives, and we find out that they will continue on to Oxford, so I will at least have another set of eyes on me as I make my way over to Oxford and back. Prakash stays just long enough for me to rip down the east face of Belford in stellar fresh deep snow, and then takes off for his ski descent.
The return up to the saddle is tedious in the deep snow, the skis were made heavier with each step up. I had to frequently remove the progressively heavier snow, but with each step it would re-accumulate. Once at the saddle, it was much easier, as it was more wind effected and firmer. Once again, I find snow all the way up to the summit rocks, where I sit down on one of them keeping my skis on. Wow, not bad! Eat, drink, photos, transition, ski. The wind and intermittent clouds are keeping things cool, but there's still the return up Belford to go...
I was so tempted to just ski down the ridge to the saddle, but I couldn't do it. The west face looked so tempting! There were plenty of sharks around, so I kept my turns small and slow. Once the sharks started to get more numerous, I traverse to the ridge, and find another shark free zone to drop a little further before having to regain the saddle.
Once back at the saddle, I find the tracks from the snowshoers, and gratefully use them. Less heavy snow to accumulate on my skis! Woohoo! The return up to Belford is a struggle, but at least the clouds have moved in and the breeze is not just keeping me cool, but the snow as well. I had planned on taking the safe way down Elkhead Pass, if the sun remained out and the snow had softened too much. But it seemed that luck was on my side, and the snow was still going to be in good enough shape to have a second ski descent off of Belford. So I once again skin up and over the summit to transition again for some more powder turns!
Here is where I noticed that (climber's) left branch of the gully. Hmmm, a bit lower angle, but still holding good snow. I figured this was a safer option for this late in the day, and ripped down the upper gully in still pristine snow conditions!
Mmmm Powder off of Belford!
Looking down the remainder of the climber's left branch
Looking up the climber's left branch from the split
Once at the split in the gully, the snow gets progressively wetter, heavier and more difficult to ski in. Oh, this will be a long descent to the trailhead...
Hope and Quail looking good, across the way
The lower trail below treeline, really began to suck. The new snow was a deep slush pit of despair, making my skis oh so heavy. Plenty of rocks were now poking through, as the new snow was quickly melting in the heat. But hey, I never have to take skis back up the drainage, if I don't want to! Drainage - Completed!
Mt Cameron & Bross
Route: Tour over Cameron, S-Gully
Elevation Gain: 3,673'
So after a fairly big day on the BelOx, and a fun night of drinking and hanging out around the fire at the Gathering, I wanted a fairly easy Sunday. So Bross it was! I get to the Paris mine at the "alpine hour" of 7am. I notice that the road seems to be plowed further, but not wanting to press my luck, I park at the mine. Well, a property owner plowed another 0.55 miles up, and even made a small parking area for a few cars at 0.5 mi. Darn! Not that I could have turned my truck around too well - the plow was done by a jeep, and the snow walls were kinda narrow in spots! At least the skin up to the upper trailhead goes fairly quickly on the tracked road!
I had thought to go up the S-gully, but decided that it would be a bit safer to just do a tour up and over Cameron, than to out and back it. Plus it would give me a view of some Mosquito 13ers I've had my eye on to ski later in the season.
The final push up Cameron was made more exciting by the heavily corniced and wind swept ridge line. Plenty of climbing up and over sastrugi wind features. From the top, I could see that Bross was in easily from the summit. Hurray! I don't have to shovel any snow!
Corniced ridge up Cameron
A field of white, under my skis on the corniced summit of Cameron
Looking over to Democrat with the impressive cornice in the foreground
After a short, but sweet ski, it's once again uphill to Bross. My luck holds again today, the wind and cool temperatures have kept the snow at the perfect consistency for my arrival to tear it up. One downside to the S-gully being so snowy, it just covered up all the rocks. I hit quite a few in the upper section just below the road/trail that crosses the west face. Thankfully that was only a short section, and the remainder held pretty thick snow.
Mmmmm fresh snow tracks off Bross!
A nice mellow ski down Bross!
Once out of the gully, the sloppy deep snow awaited me, and I followed the tracks of the guys I met on Cameron, out down the drainage. Back on the road, I switch my skis to cross country mode, and pass the post-holing tourists from Florida (whom I met at the TH at the start) - jealous, I'm sure. Getting back to where the property owner had plowed the road, I find it almost completely melted out. So I shouldered my skis and walk the muddy road. Time to hit up some well deserved Hog Heaven BBQ along 285 on the way home!
Once at home, and post shower, I notice something strange about my face. I have a smile tan line! What?! Apparently I didn't do a good enough job of reapplying sunscreen, and the seemingly permanent smile I have while skiing, stuck! Oh my, the comedy of raccoon eyes, slightly swollen lips, and a pair of parenthesis around my mouth!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
Nice! Sweet trip... thanks for letting me tag along for part of it. Did you jump-turn them switchbacks? I landed in the trees below a couple times. Hoorah for p-tex. That blown-in powder on Belford was the best this year though.
leggaj5 - Of course I sleep! A good 8 hours every night! With the big goose-egg last year on new 14er skis, I'm not letting this season pass me by!
MtnHigh - Haha! I would need a skilled photographer to get the lighting right. Plus now I'm peeling, so it's not a pretty sight
GerryRigged - If only I didn't have to work! Hard to pick the priorities...
Nat - Amazing how some spring sticky snow changes the peaks!
Prakash - Haha no... I had virtually no legs left for the trail ski out. So I stem christied those switchbacks like a champ! Oh, how you taunt me with talk of that powder! Oh well, the other gully was still pretty good on the upper section...
for getting the peaks in such amazingly good conditions. I can barely recognize Bross/Cameron with all that snow!
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