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With the snow starting to rapidly melt out summits and lines, it was time to go for high value targets, and those I had been putting off for "later". I had hoped that the avalanche debris would have melted along the road before this trip, but as time was running out, I gave up and it was time to walk an extra 2 miles on the road. After walking almost the entire road last year when I skied Dead Dog, I had hoped for the easier approach. Oh well, it would be nice to actually sleep in my own bed before one of these 14er skis!
Or so I thought... With the darn Denver HH the night before, I got less sleep than anticipated, as my alarm went off at 2:30am. Uggg! Who called the 5am start time? Oh yeah, that would be me. I'm never convinced that the freeze will be as good as forecasted, so I always try to get onto the summit early. This weekend - that would be critical, as it turns out.
So at the avalanche debris trailhead, I reload my pack, and we set off up the trail. Along the hike to the split, I have to convince Bethany that she doesn't want to go climb Dead Dog solo, and that Lost Rat would be more fun. Apparently the sight of the pukey runnel on DD convinces her. Or maybe my joyful happy company? I think I'll go with Lost Rat looking nicer
Mmmm Ptarmigan, tastes just like Chicken!
I had been searching the beta photos to see if the top part of the Lost Rat was "in". But no one seems to have taken that photo. So I guess we'll be the beta today. I was hoping, it would make the ski much easier and cleaner. Too bad we won't be able to tell until we are but a few feet below it, as the couloir dog legs at that point.
At the base of the climb we gear up and put on crampons. The snow has been reasonably firm, not too hard, not too soft - just perfect to crampon up! We take turns putting in the booter, and switch off a few times to get a bit of a break. The snow while nicer than DD, is still littered with rocks and evidence of rock fall. As we climb, the temperature rises, and we start to bake. No wind. Snow is getting warm. Good thing it's just a short distance to the summit!
The remainder of the East Ridge to the summit.
After we topped out of the Lost Rat, it was apparent that the weather was getting stormy. So onwards to the summit!
Once on top, I snap a few quick beta photos for *hopefully* future use - if the snow holds. Bethany takes off down the standard route a few minutes earlier than me, as she doesn't have the downhill speed I will have. Plus it takes me a few more minutes to get into downhill mode. I'd rather not ski the Lost Rat solo in "Koflach mode"...
Hurray for continuous snow off the summit!
I ski the ridgeline down, and even get a few turns on the SE face as I make my way back to the top of the couloir in a bit of a graupel storm. The storm clouds were coming in and out in waves at this point. Sunny, then graupel, then back to sunny again. As long as it doesn't rain!
I ski along the lower face of the old cornice, and follow the snow until it runs out, and step across the couple feet of choss back onto the snow. Time for the fun part!
Graupel storm and back again to sunny!
The ski of the couloir was a bit on the soft side, but not too bad. Lots of avoiding rocks inbedded in the snow, and crossing the runnel was fun too. After that, the snow was rather flat, dirty and grippy. Navigated the maze at the base of the face, and was getting ready to build up some speed to cross the flatter dirty snow section.... when my right ski had other ideas. It spun off to the right and took the rest of me with it. Now I was skiing backwards down the slope.... hmmmm where is the partner with a camera when I need one? I'm sure it was quite the amusing sight. At least it was done in the dirty snow, so I at least have a photo of my tracks to analyze later!
I think I was going for a ski trick here...
Maybe I was channeling my youth, when I tried to do some silly ski ballet... haha!
Beyond the excitement of skiing Grays backwards, I decided to take the stream valley down. Quite a few jumps over the stream bed which had incised into the snowpack in places. Oh how I wished for longer skis at this point! At one crossing, it was apparent that while I got my left ski to span the stream, getting my right one started across would end with me in the slip-n-slide gushing stream. So I just had to leap for it and fall on the other side. Oh the joys of late spring skiing!
Amazingly enough, the skier and the hiker miraculously time our arrival at the summer trailhead for the same momment! I had seen her across the way on the trail, and I knew it would be close. Technical stream and willow skiing takes time...
Back at the avy induced trailhead, we take a break and eat our lunch under a tree, until it starts raining. Then it's time to go move on to the next stop!
Mt Massive - SW Slopes & East Face
Elevation Gain: 4,533'
Route: Climb SW Slopes, ski east face, reascend, ski SW Slopes
Partner for the hike down: Semitrueskerm
Ahhh Massive, a peak that I hadn't summitted since 2001. Of all the 14ers that I've skied this year, this was the one that I hadn't redone (or did for the first time) since my return to Colorado in '07. In fact, only one other peak that remains in that category is... Tabeguache. So ever since I saw the snow white east face of Massive from the Jackal Hut the first weekend in April, I've been wanting to ski Massive. I had originally thought I would ski it early season, as soon as the snow stabilized, as the east face wasn't that steep. But the snowpack around the state had different plans, and I went after other targets. Now with snow rapidly melting, it was time to ski it. Eric's beta was the last straw. Go now!
Jim had posted up that he was going to go do Massive via the SW slopes. So I pm'd him that I was likely to be there at the same time. Then the fires around Santa Fe caused some havoc with his schedule, and he didn't know if he would even be able to make it. Plus he wouldn't know until I was well out of cell range. I told him my start time of 4am, since I was worried about the snow freezing overnight. So when he told me that he didn't expect me to wait on the trail for him, I replied with "Snow keeps for no one". I still hoped we could meet up, but when I awoke that morning after a restful sleep, and there was no one else at the trailhead, I knew I would have to start alone. The snow patches in the trees were mush. No freeze this low. Hoped for a better one up higher.
Once above the trail switchbacks, I got onto the snow of the SW slopes for the first time. Ahhh, it is frozen! Yes! One can't trust the forecast for Massive, as it is at 14.1K not at the usual 13.5K or lower like the other peaks around. I made sure to look at Elbert's forecast nearby, to get a reality check on temperatures.
The boot up the snow went relatively quickly. I didn't bring crampons, so I had to be a bit careful on some of the steeper hardpack areas. There were zones where the snow was incredibly unsupportive and I postholed. This occurred in sections of accumulations of the new snow from last week. These areas would also prove problematic on the descent, and should be avoided at all costs - in spite of being nicely white in a sea of snirt!
I arrived to find that I was the first on the summit this morning at 9:20am! A little bit later than planned, but the snow was just hitting the right temperature on the east face for the first ski. Soon after my arrival, a large group showed up. I kept looking at the horizon hoping that I would see another set of skis. Jim mentioned that Natalie may also show up on the trip.
My last summit of Massive had been during a very rainy wet summer season in 2001, and my views from the summit were quite lacking. So I had always planned to redo the peak, so I could see what I missed the first time around. I'm thinking my views today, with the snow, far exceeded those from 12 years ago!
My view from Massive in 2001
After waiting an hour total on the summit, no ski tips were seen. So I had to ski! The first roll-over drop was quite fun, and I kept skiing until I got down lower onto the face. The lower part of the remaining snow got really flat, so I knew I wanted to traverse at some point over to the standard trail. I typically prefer to drop asthetic lines, versus just traversing to "make it count". Thankfully I had started early enough to make it happen. Snow was baking in the hot sun!
About to drop the east face - been drooling over this line since early April!
The fun of glissading! The large group from the summit is having almost as much fun as I did skiing the east face!
After getting over to the standard trail, it's time to boot back up to the SW slopes for some more *bonus turns*. Since by the time I get there, the snow is likely to be on the the slushier side. As I'm approaching the saddle, I finally see Nat's skis. She'll summit a full 2 hours after me. I hope she turns it around quickly!
Back at the top of the snow on the SW slopes, it's apparent that the snow is toasty. I've still timed it reasonably well, if only I can avoid that new snow. I still haven't seen Jim, but the snow ain't keeping much longer! So I drop it like it's hot!
In one section I do find and ski the new snow, and it sloughs off as soon as my skis touch it. Nothing dangerous, just a firm reminder to stay off steep slopes that contain that type of snowpack. Now I'm really hoping that Natalie is quick about it, since she's gonna hit this section hours after me! I kept skiing until the slope levels off and I can breathe a bit easier. There are plenty of people around on this popular summit, but still, I know they are not carrying the full compliment of avy gear like I always do. What normal hiker will have a beacon, shovel and probe? None.
Once at the lowest section of continuous snow, I take off my skis and put them back on the pack. A lot of skiing done today, most in great corn conditions, others areas well past prime. But that's how it goes this late in spring! After only a couple switchbacks, I run into Jim. Apparently he had a really bad night of not sleeping, and got a cracklin' start of 9am. Phew, really glad I didn't sit waiting at the trailhead! At least we had a few miles to talk and catch up. We ate out lunch at the trailhead, and eventually Natalie shows up. I'm happy for that, since I tend to worry too much. It's why solo is sometimes easier, less worrying about partners!
Golden Bear Peak - NE Face
Elevation Gain: 2,397'
Route: Dry Gulch to east ridge
Potential partners who went a different way, started later, and I wanted to meet on the summit: Derek & crew
Ah Golden Bear... it was a 13er always on the ski list. Not a particularly spectacular summit, or steep lines, but fun and close to home. With Loveland planning to expand further, and add a chairlift close to the summit of GB, I figured it was time to ski this one. It was why Zach and I hit Peak 6 earlier in the season too. I wanted my ski descent to be a true BC descent, not just a 10 min hike up from the chair. I also wanted a simple easy peak close to home so that I could get back early for some non-mountaineering plans (yeah I have those too ) Plus Derek mentioned that his crew was going after this on Sunday as well. So the timing this weekend was perfect. Fun!
Parked at the old access gate, and walked up the road and beyond. There seemed to be a bit of a trail that eventually petered out into more of a game trail. But it kept me high and right out of the willows, so it was worth it. Plenty of ski boot tracks, so I must be headed in the right direction. After crossing Bard Creek, it was apparent that there was at least a superficial freeze. I wasn't optimistic for a hard freeze, so once again I started early for this one. Into the trees, the skis and skins went on my feet, and would remain there until the summit. How I love skinning all the way to the top!
After getting out of the trees, I got a great view of the basin full of tracks in front of me. Yet another reason to ski this one properly - learning a new BC ski area. Many many ideas filled my head for future use
Ooooo the green bug that Furthermore has also seen!
I followed the snowy ridge all the way to the summit, where once again, I had it to myself - at least for a little while. Another older couple showed up from the Loveland side, and was going to ski that SE face back down. I sat on the summit watching the ridge from Mt Trelease, but no Derek and crew. The snow, after not getting a good freeze, was warming fast in the sun. A 9:10am summit was sufficient, but I couldn't wait forever. Hikers have different goals and routes than skiers, and therefore different concerns. As much as it would have been awesome to give Derek a mountain send off to his return back east, I couldn't wait. Another time I guess!
I had been eyeing the drop to the north of the true GB summit all the way up, so it was nice to see that it would be a quick and easy traverse and slight uphill skate ski to get to it. It was the cleanest line, and I was ecstatic to be able to ski it. A little bit of steep, then a mellower line back down to the valley below.
Once back into the trees, the ski goes better than many other treed skis. Hardly any bushwacking or downfall to avoid. Though after hearing the horror stories about willows from the couple on the summit, I decide that instead of milking the ski on the north side of Mt Trelease, I should just shoulder my skis again and follow the trail back.
A tee-pee in the woods
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Definitely enjoyed the Lost Rat! I'm really glad the weather held as well as it did.
I notice there's only one ptarmigan in your second photo, but I distinctly remember seeing two on the way up. Dare I ask what happened to the second ptarmigan? (your caption makes me suspicious as to what happened on your way down...)
Apparently I brought some of the wildfires from Santa Fe up to y'all. Sorry about that. Sad to see.
Anyway, due to the damn fires, I didn't leave Santa Fe on Friday until late, and didn't get into the trailhead until 1 am. That killed my 4 am and/or 5 am wake up call. Note to future climbing partners, I am unreliable during fire season.
Glad the ladies chewed up Massive! If I ever get into shape, I hope to blaze the trail the way those two mountain goats do (Otina & Nat)!
Gonna give the ole' college try this weekend up at Castle and Conundrum. That is, assuming the Jaroso Fire and Silver Fire don't force me to work through the weekend.
Damn Fires....so inconvenient!
I missed the chance to ski with you, Otina! It would've been fun. Yeah, after waiting for Jim for an extra hour and starting a bit lower down the road (my Subaru is no match for your burly vehicles -lol) I got to the summit a bit too late (11-ish). Didn't stay long and quickly headed over to the saddle. Didn't like the conditions for the descent, but my skis handled everything marverlously - no complains. Too much walking for a meager 1,5-1,8k of skiing on slushy snow of southwest-facing line. Whatever turns I had on the East facing slope were pretty fun though. Sad to see this ski season end.
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