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Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,438 feet
Mt. Blue Sky  -  14,268 feet
La Plata Peak  -  14,344 feet
Twining Peak  -  13,721 feet
Unnamed 13541  -  13,541 feet
Date Posted:  05/29/2013
Date Climbed:   05/26/2013
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   edlins
 Variety is the spice of life   

Day 1: Mt Elbert - Box Creek Chutes

Mileage: 7.83
Elevation Gain: 3,997'
Partner: Solo
Time: ~7 hrs

Bluebird forecast for a Friday? Sure, I'll extend my holiday ski weekend by one! Drove up to the trailhead Thursday night, and slept for a few hours before starting the climb before sunrise at ~5:20. With an early and direct sun hit, I wanted to be on the summit and ready for a 10am descent. Trail is effectively dry until the upper meadows, where it is patchy till the turn off the East Ridge route at 12.4K. From there I had continuous snow till the summit.

Arriving at the base of the chutes, I had some decisions to make. Which one to climb, and which to ski? The lookers right (north) ones looked pretty torn up by wet slides and sloughs, but the clean ones to the left (south) looked too mellow. So I compromised and picked the 2 steeper and mostly clean routes left of center. I would climb the rockier right branch, and ski the slightly smoother left branch.

Lake reflections

Box Creek Chutes Pano

The climb of the chutes went quickly, and soon I found myself on the broad upper slope of Elbert, where the wind greeted me. I noticed on the climb up, that the snow was already softening, so I would have enough time to summit, take a break and return, before the snow was at the proper temperature!

Summit Pano

La Plata's North Face - beta shot for Monday
Mt Massive

After snapping some beta pics for near future use, I returned to the chutes to wait another 20 minutes or so, to let the snow ripen just a little more. With the wind on the summit, it was hard to know if it was effecting the warming in the chutes or not. No worries, I could eat and drink a bit more before skiing the fun section. Hmmmm 10:30? Ok, enough warming - Let's ski!

The slightly surprising steep section

Looking down the mellower remainder of the drop

Now that, was fun!
Climb on right, ski on left

Once below the chutes, it was then just a matter of traversing back to the East Ridge route, and booting back down the hot trail, another successful and fun 14er descent in the books!


Off to the next camping spot and a nice meal....

Mmmm Paleo Dinner! Bacon & grass-fed beef burgers and peppers - tasty! Car camping makes good meals so much easier.

Day 2: Mt Evans - North Face climb, ski, shuttle, ski

Mileage: 3.73
Elevation Gain: 1,517' (2,800' ski)
Partners: Scott, Aaron, Scott

I met my ski partners for the day at the summit lake parking lot. Oh yeah - Evans slacker fest. Easiest, highest and steepest turns available in the state. But to make it sporting, we're going to climb the steepest snow route for fun! That and maybe scout it for a ski descent. Those rocks make it look less than ideal... The other Scott and Aaron decide to utilize the existing booter up to the North Face Bowl which has a much mellower slope angle.

Good Morning Evans!

Our objective, should we choose to accept it
Scott traversing over to the climb

Getting to the base of the climb, the snow looks kinda chunky. It will take some time to warm the snow up, as it's been in the shade most of the morning. Booting up it was pretty easy and a lot of fun. But the ski down? Uggg... couple of jump turns above, traverse and jump turn around rocks. Then a couple of choppy turns in the center, then you're in the rocky apron below, traverse out of them and you can get a few more turns before the base. Not exactly fun skiing, but it would be exciting! Hmmm, Scott says that if I beg him, we can ski it. Nah, let's go over to the smoother and more fun looking off-chute that I spotted on the way up!

Climbing up

Climbing by the rocky section

A look down the climb, from just below the steepest section before topping out

Scott owning the steepest (~50+) section of the climb.

With the snow warming up nicely, we run the ridge over to the top of the north face bowl, climb down, then we traverse over to the eastern most branch that I had spotted from below. Mmmm untouched snow with so many skiers having already dropped. Score!

A look down our untouched ski line - sweet!

Scott getting after it!

A look at our turns before they get too torn up!

Looking at our "secret" drop from the ridge above. If only the snow connected better...
Scott dropping in for lap #2
Scott #2 shredding our line

Aaron shredding the last line of our group

After parting ways with Aaron and Scott #2, Scott and I then head to Independence Pass for the evening camping and yet another grill session before sleep. Mmmmm more bacon grass fed beef burgers and peppers! Scott grilled up some brats and we enjoyed the calm before the Inde ski storm!

Day 3: Independence Pass - Pt 13,500 ("Blarney") & Twining ("Blue")

Mileage: 4.71
Elevation Gain: 2,410' (3,000' ski)
Partners: Scott

Hard freeze over night, casual start to the day. Just a couple of 13ers along the pass, drop some lines, climb back up and repeat. A nice easy day in the middle of a long weekend. Arriving at the pass, it was a zoo of skiers getting ready. Some were already skinning and marching up to the north and south from the pass. Kids were running around, foreign accents of parents yelling after them. Oh, the humanity!

Welcome to the ski zoo...

I had missed Pt 13,500' last summer, since I forgot it was ranked but unnamed. So it was high on my list to do today. Little did I know that it does have a Dawson name of "Blarney" and has plenty of ski lines off it. Well, color me happy.

Scott and our next day's objective

Blarney pano 1

Blarney pano 2

Grizzly and another 13er future ski

After meeting 3 guys from Aspen mountain rescue, and taking a snack break, we drop a clean line to the north of the Blarney summit.

Scott dropping off Blarney

Me about to drop the line

Steep skin track back to the saddle between Blarney and Blue - Photo Credit: Scott

A look back at Blarney from Twining

After getting to the summit of Blue/Twining, we search around for the NW couloir we were planning to ski. Finding the snow hard, we take a nice long break, and wait for the snow to warm.

Another untouched line, in a sea of skiers... lucky!

Me dropping the line first - Photo Credit: Scott

Nice corn - Photo Credit: Scott

Scott's turn on the steeps

Skiing with a view

Clean, smooth line with the Geissler's behind

Scott tearing up the lower section

Me finishing out the ski - Photo Credit: Scott

A look back at a mighty fine line

East Geissler shredded by the hordes

West Geissler shredded by the hordes

Oh no, I think Grizzly couloir slid... Bugger

After hanging out at the pass for a little while, we go back to our camping spot, where we have periodic visitors passing through on the nearby trail. Around grilling time, Zach Taylor (taylorzs) and friend show up and keep us company. Will be looking forward to hearing about Zach's 12 days in the mountains soon! And here I thought 4 days in a row were tough! Wow...

Day 4: La Plata Peak - Standard Route to North Face

Mileage: 8.79
Elevation Gain: 4,597'
Partners: Scott

Being day 4 for me and day 3 for Scott, we plan in some extra time to get to the summit of La Plata. Neither one of us wanted to carry crampons after all previous days of carrying them, so up the standard route we went! The first stream crossing was quite heart racing, as the water was high and the branches were icy. Otherwise, the trail is dry till around tree line, when it becomes patchy all the way up to the ridge. After a hard freeze the night before, the snow was very firm. Traction could be useful to some, but the angle wasn't steep enough to really require them.

La Plata's north face from standard trail
Sayers looking... icky

Up on the ridge we got some nice views to propel us to the summit. Well, it propelled me at least! Once again we met 3 Aspen locals on the way up and on the summit. They dropped first, while we waited for the snow to warm up some more. I walked down the ridge towards "East La Plata" to get some beta shots of our ski line, as well as others - should I ever choose to come and ski the face again. IMO we should have waited another hour to ski. The snow was too hard for my liking, and only parts of it were in good condition. After being an East Coast skier in my early days, I no longer like ice.

2 tired skiers on the "winter summit" of La Plata

The 3 Aspen locals skiing the line.

Looking down the line from the ridge to "East La Plata"

Looking back at the summit from the ridgeline

Summit pano 1

Summit pano 2

Scott dropping the first pitch

Me dropping first pitch - Photo Credit: Scott

Scott on second pitch

Me on second pitch - Photo Credit: Scott

Some softer snow to be had in the sun

A look back up to the ridge - Photo Credit: Scott

Me having fun - Photo Credit: Scott

Oh the sun hasn't hit this section - oh how it hurt... Scott lost a filling (not joking) and my legs turned to jello from braking in the icy chop

I'm grimacing... not happy... - Photo Credit: Scott

Gonna spray you with snow in T-3s.... Photo Credit: Scott

Uggg, if it wasn't for that middle icy choppy nasty section, this would have been a good ski. As it was, my day 4 legs went from 80% to 40% and dropping... I had no uphill left in them. So after saying goodbye to the north face, we skied down the drainage and then traversed around. I found the bushwhack to be annoying but at least the snow kinda supported me. It was not the worst I've ever experienced - kinda par for the course. Scott with his longer skis and such, didn't find the bushwhack all that fun, and when we got to the ridge and the easier drop back to the trail, he was a very sad panda. He lists it as #3 sucky bushwhack. At least next time (if there is one), I have some ideas for avoidance, thanks to the Aspen locals who went a very different way... Ah, nothing a nice dinner at the Dam Brewery can't fix!

North Face Pano

Looking back at a mixed enjoyment ski
Upper 2/3 of route of North Face

16 new 14ers, and 10 non-14ers skied this year. Also with this trip, I've surpassed 2009, 2010 and 2011's elevation gain for the entire year. I'd have passed 2012 too, but I kept hiking last fall So far, 2013 is shaping up to be an awesome year!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Nice TR!
5/29/2013 8:31pm
I was waiting to read your write up. It was good to camp with you guys the day before you did La Plata and now read about everything you did over the previous days. Glad to hear you (mostly) had a good time on La Plata the next day. We ended up dropping the east facing nose line off Twining the next day (it was pretty steep!), then did one more easier run off the southwest side of Twining, and called it a day. Happy turns.

5/29/2013 11:46pm
Huge weekend indeed. Incredible photos.

But, what's ”Bacon grass?”

5/29/2013 11:55pm
... very nice!

Two laps on Evans and you didn't ski the steep couloir that you climbed?!? what the hell? j/k, of course

5/30/2013 1:14am
Nice photo to start off your report...with more great photos to follow. Even though snow is stupid. (And I can't believe I wrote that. That's Keith's line, isn't it?)

I miss snowwww!!!!

Get it right, Baker.
5/30/2013 3:01am
Snow is DUMB, not stupid.

I'm glad there are no photos of Scott with his bratwursts... I've seen that before, and it will make you uncomfortable!

Big weekend!
5/30/2013 3:27am
Now that's how you spend a long weekend. Enjoyed reading... thanks for posting, and nice work getting 4 days in a row of ski descents!

I Love long weekends :)
5/30/2013 4:57pm
Zach - Great to meet you finally! Nothing like running into a fellow 14er slider at a random trailhead/camp spot! Yeah, another hour on La Plata and I would have been a happier skier. But the east facing summit drop was baking, and we wanted to ski! The nose off Twining looked pretty exciting for a distance! Maybe next year

Natalie - What can I say? I'm a ski perfectionist! Had to pick the ”best line” on Elbert La Plata should last another week or so, it's pretty caked. It ended up last because that was the day I got to choose what I wanted to do, haha! Scott didn't know what he was getting himself into. Not sure what to do about Grizzly, that crown makes me nervous.

screeman57 - fixed it... it's Bacon & grass-fed beef burger. Ie, the cow ate food that's natural to its diet = grass, not grain/corn. Much healthier, less bad fat.

Bill - I was really tempted to ski that line, but there was a smoother untouched one that was calling my skis over to it! Next time, maybe... As it was, we watched a group of 4/5 ski that line at 1pm. 2 of them looked like they needed a change of clothing afterwards, they skied it soooo slow, and took hip checks. Last guy sent it, top to bottom!

Darin - Haven't gotten too many sunrise shots lately, but that one was nice! Snow is awesome, you should visit it sometime soon!

Kieth - Good thing I didn't photograph Scott's pork tenderloin on Sun night!

clemsonmtneer - If only all my weekends were as long! Too many skiable peaks, too little time!

that picture in the clouds...
5/30/2013 6:18pm
...is amazing! nice TR!

solid effot
5/30/2013 8:35pm
that's a lot of climbing and skiing squeezed in to a relatively short period time. you are on a roll!

4/2/2015 7:45pm
dunno where to start

a) ”the slightly surprising steep section” on Elbert - very aptly named. Kudos for flawless execution on Elbert - I was looking for any better lines and couldn't find any

b)Thanks for beta on Evans - doubt I have time to ski it this year, but still, good to know more about the lines

c) Twinning peak - this one was part of the garbled (or course ) CMC ski outing last year and I didn't get to ski it from the summit - looking forward to returning and properly doing this one. I recall the lines dropping East from the summit have the most potential.

d) La Plata is a big day - I am slightly surprised you left it for the dessert. It's been on my list in the last 2 weeks, but it is melting out rapidly and I probably going to miss the window.

e)Grizzly A has been on my ski list this spring. Thanks for the beta and let me know if you are interested to join forces on this one in the near future.

f) Congrats on another huge weekend

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