Peak(s):  Mt. Lindsey  -  14,055 feet
Mt. Helen  -  13,164 feet
Atlantic Peak  -  13,841 feet
Date Posted:  05/07/2014
Date Climbed:   05/02/2014
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   EatinHardtack
 Powder, Corn and Bears, Oh My!   

Plan A: Thwarted by lack of snow on line (Mon)
Plan B: Killed by 2 partners bailing, one due to broken ski (Wed night)
Plan C: Dead by warm forecast and lack of freeze below 12K and TH start at 8/9K (Thurs afternoon)
Plan D: Too many people on steep line for Sun (Sat)
Plan E: Worked, till day 3 and wind

Sometimes, you just have to keep changing the plan. And people wonder why I go solo? Coordinating with ~6/7 people last week on plans on different days for the weekend just about gave me an aneurism. But at least by the end of the day on Sunday, there was a smile on my face. That's all that really matters.

Day 1: Mt Lindsey

Trailhead: -2 miles from Lily Lake
Mileage: 13.88
Elevation Gain: 5,303'
Partner: solo

With Friday being the best forecasted day, I was going to get out and tackle something good. With plan A&B going down the drain for Friday, I came up with the next best plan. Revenge on Lindsey! A month ago, Eric and I made a valiant attempt at a powder descent of Lindsey, only to be thwarted at the saddle by time and an approaching storm. That and a stupid downed tree by the "winter trailhead", blocking passage of the road, 6 miles from the trailhead. On that descent from Lindsey, I hit shark after shark in the foot of powder over rocks that was on the slope we took. Got my first core shot in my brand new Day 1 skis. I was mad, very mad. 2 weeks ago, Eric went back solo and swam up Lindsey to get his revenge. I waited a month, and got slightly better conditions.

Drove up the road, hoping to get 1 mile from the trailhead as beta suggested, but found the first impassable snowbank about 2 miles away. I guess some people don't know how to use GPS/map. I got about 4/5 hours of sleep before I was on the trail around 4:30am. The road up to the trailhead is more dirt than snow, and I spent most of the time carrying my skis in both hands, hoping that the next snow patch would be continuous. Lots of wasted time putting on and taking off skis, when I could have just booted till 0.5 mile from the trailhead. The snow had gotten a good hard freeze, and it was supporting my weight. There are even dry patches growing after you get on the trail itself. But finally after the first two tiny stream crossings, the snow is continuous. Well, until the major stream crossing, which involved verglace on rocks. Always exciting!

Sunrise on Blanca and Ellingwood

Stream is in play

Getting to treeline involved another section of booting and carrying skis, as the icy steep slope was not taking an edge and I was tired of slipping. Once in the stream valley, it was easy and quick going. I looked up at the shark infested slope that Eric and I had taken, and said no f*ing way. So I kept contouring up drainage to the south and found a much better approach. Also saw that if the snow held on the other side of the ridge off the saddle, there would be an almost continuous line without sharks to take on the way down. Though to save some time, I did boot up the ridge that we had taken previously up to the saddle.

Blanca and Ellingwood

First view of Lindsey and the slope of sharks

Once at the saddle, it was time to traverse to the gully proper. Made it a short distance, before I decided it was time for crampons. The slope was scoured and pretty steep. This section the steps were pretty easily made, as the snow was quite firm. Once in the gully proper, it was a mix. Loose rock and snow - lots of sliding at the base. Then deep unsupportive powder right next to crusty but further transitioned snow to the left. I stayed lookers left or east as much as possible for the better snow.

Pano from saddle

Lindsey from saddle

Approching the north face gully.

North face gully: consolidated on lookers left, powder on right

Looking down the gully

Once beyond the initial gully, I stick to the standard route traverse for a while. The snow here isn't too bad, but still isn't as supportive as I would like. I get beyond the first major traverse, and decide to just go up to NW Lindsey instead. The ridge had to be better to walk on! Or so I thought...

Up on NW Lindsey, the true summit isn't all that far away. But it is mostly snow covered and corniced. I didn't think it would take that long. Nope. Quite the opposite. The sun had been baking the summit ridge, and every step I accumulated a pound or two of snow on each crampon. If I didn't knock it off with each step, I had trouble walking. Not so good with steep rocky drops on each side. So walking to the summit took quite a bit of effort and time. But once I got there it was ever so nice to plop down and rest!

Snowy traverse

Tracks over traverse

Summit ridge to Lindsey from NW Lindsey

Clouds had started to form, and that only made the views that much more interesting. I sat up there for some time, refueling and recovering. I had a nice ski ahead of me to get ready for! Revenge is ever so sweet!

Little Bear, Blanca and Ellingwood

Spanish Peaks

Bill - Doesn't the Needle look fat?!

Only had to step over 2 small rocks to get down to the North Couloir proper. From there the upper section was pretty firm and wind blown. Good thing, since it was also the steepest section. As soon as I dropped into the center of the gully, I knew the fun would now begin. There was a nice stretch of reworked kinda fluffy powder in the center. Thanks to some updrafts, I even got some face shots! The lower section was nicely corned up, so I got almost all types of skiing in one line. Hardpack, powder and corn!

Getting ready to drop the line

Shadow selfie on North Couloir

Looking up North Couloir

Tracks from base of North Couloir

Once at the base of the line, I just had 7-800' of elevation to gain to get back up to the saddle. Here, the slush began. This drainage had been baking from sunrise on. But that's the price you pay for skiing a north facing line sometimes. Every other aspect is some form of baked. I stomped on skis for a while, but once it started going uphill fast, I switched to booting. Got to the top of the saddle, and found the snow on this side was much less baked. So I skied down the west ridge on the south side for awhile. I saw Eric's tracks turn north, but I kept going. I was NOT going to get more shark bites in my new skis! The ridge was nice and wide for most of it, and keeping away from the cornice wasn't too bad. Nice corn to ski almost all the way down to the saddle with "Huerfanito". The snow stopped, but I saw that if I dropped a tiny rocky couloir for a few feet, I'd be back on the continuous snow once again. Once there, it was an easy shark free glide all the way back down to treeline. The last slope was fully slushed and the death cookies were rolling, but thankfully that slope isn't all that steep.

The route up to the saddle... 800' of slush

West ridge ski

Shark free drainage!

Once in the trees, it was a rather nordic exit to the trailhead. Skied about 0.5 miles down the road, before I decided to put the skis on my back and suffer the 5' of snowbanks for the 200' of dry patches in between. A hiker had postholed to the meadow beyond the trailhead, and returned. So at least I could follow his tracks through the snow banks. He dropped both his gloves along the way, so I carried them back and put them on his NM vehicle. Hopefully they were his... Guessing so by the socks & shoes drying on the roof

Drive out was uneventful, except for the view on my way to Westcliffe. I rather enjoy driving new stretches of roads, and have never connected Lindsey with the South Colony area before. Caught a lovely sunset on Linsdey and friends, as well as the peaks south of South Colony. After that, it was just a long dark drive up to the next destination.

Lindsey and friends from the NE

Raining fire...

Enjoy the video. My chesty/booby cam got a little too loose and bouncy on the initial descent, so I had to cut a bunch. Music was in my head all weekend... trying to feel optimistic!

Day 2: Mt Helen

Trailhead: Spruce Creek
Mileage: 5.43
Elevation Gain: 2,801'
Partner: Zach

After another short sleep night, I wake to a mild pre-dawn morning. The forecast was not calling for freezing temps (with windchill) below 12K, so Zach and I decided to go with a safe route to test if the forecast was true or not. Didn't want to get on a steep, long committing line that was solar effected today! Zach had gotten turned around on Helen a few weeks ago in a snow storm, so he wanted revenge for himself. Plus I wanted to explore a safe winter option for future trips.

As it turns out, the snow froze well. Probably due to radiant cooling because of the clear skies and light wind. So we got to the summit and had to wait at least an hour for the snow to warm up! Great views and nice corn. We could only imagine this slope with a nice firm base and a foot of powder... Mmmm powder. We ripped some nice turns on the way down, and even found the avy safe corridor above the road, through the trees. We skied that section in full slush/death cookie conditions. But it wasn't like the slope was going anywhere!

Zach booting up initial bench

Above the trees, the big skiable slope!

Tundra skinning

Pano west from summit

Dropping the northern part of the ridge

Looking back at summit from northern ridge

Zack kicking up some corn

Slush turns... attack of the death cookies!

We refueled at Breckenridge Brewery. Mmmm Bison burger, milt julep and the Kentucky Derby on TV. No silly hat for me, but at least I got the drink right!

Mt Helen from Breckenridge

Day 2: Atlantic Peak (attempt)

Trailhead: Quandary
Mileage: 10.36
Elevation Gain: 2,803'
Partner: Zach

Feeling good about the changing weather forecast, and the hopes for another freeze over night again, we decided on the east couloirs on Atlantic. With the high trailhead, we wouldn't have as much problems with slush. Plus the McCullough Gulch road is fairly packed down from heavy XC ski use. No post holing, no matter what happens to the forecast. Good plan.

Started skinning up the road, passing by the Quandary trail, and rounded the corner to see giant, fresh tracks in the snow. Zach identified it as a bear, a big bear. Lovely. Sometime on Saturday afternoon, a bear was walking where we were now. So I guess the bears are in play now too.

Bear paw print...

The Quandary Bear is big...

After that excitement, we round the corner and see a lengthy downhill on the road. Oh, how I hate downhills on the way up! Especially with skis! At least we got a nice sunrise over Red Mtn C to enjoy. We followed the road to it's end beyond the small scary mining claim (Trespassers will be shot on sight - sign). We zig zagged up the drainage, contouring around the various features in our way, getting great views of the fat couloirs on Quandary's north side.

First view of Atlantic's lovely east face

Sunrise over Red Mtn C

Northern couloirs on Quandary

Once at the lake above treeline, the wind started. At first it was only annoying. Soon it would become ever so much more. But the skinning was easy and we made good time to the base of the snow slope we were going to climb. We decided to go up Tradewinds, instead of the V couloir - for speed. Figuring with the lack of clouds, it was better to get on top sooner, than later. Little did we know at that time how bad the winds were aloft! The V Couloir also had evidence of a wet slide and lots of death cookies, so it may actually be easier to climb Tradewinds as well.

Frozen Lake along the way - wind started here

Approaching Atlantic, so many choices!

The NE face of Fletcher - on the list now!

Looking back at Quandary

Booting up the Tradewinds...

At first, booting up was pretty easy. I was hoping by charging ahead, Zach would have an easy time of following up and we'd get to the summit faster. That was, until a short distance up, when the winds began picking up. They were no longer annoying. Now they hurt! Ice chunks and sustrugi snow was pelting me all over, and in the face if you looked up! A bit higher, and the gusts were strong enough to knock me over. Here is where the booter starts to look like a drunk person walked up. Steps all over the place, random body prints etc. My only goal now, is to get to the top of the snow, where the rocky ridge is. It's a tough goal, as every so often, I have to use both my ax and whippet to anchor into the snow to stay in place. Large fat skis are wind sails, ready to whip me off the slope, if I'm not careful. In between lengthy gusts, or should I say minor lulls in the 50-70mph wind, I would inch uphill further, then brace for the next onslaught. I sat down, with my back to the wind and waited for Zach.

Eventually he showed up, and we discussed our options. He wanted to "try" to get closer to the summit. So we crawled using our axes uphill a bit further. We both had to "assume the position", bracing in the wind as we made our way a few more feet. At some point we both started laughing. Laughing incredibly hard. The wind hurt, the snow projectiles going 50+ mph hitting us, hurt. The very concept of going further was amusing and ridiculous. It was time to turn it downhill, summit not happening today! But yet we sat there and laughed. How the heck were we going to transition in this wind? How would we get the skins off our skis and safely stowed in our packs?

That's when a cute snowboarder and his skier friend showed up. They were assuming the position as well. They thanked us for the booter, and asked if we were going on to the summit... we laughed! So we all were now transitioning in the horrendous hurricane force wind. We had to time everything to the infrequent lulls in the wind to get things done. I was the first ready, and started the piecemeal descent. Couple turns, brace for impact, couple more turns, brace. Once I got to the rollover the wind was a bit less, and I decided to make a run for it. The wind was moving around all the chunks I was shredding up and around. Vertigo skiing... had to ski almost completely by feel. Good thing I've done that before. Got down to our previous transition spot and waited for the guys to come down.

Snow tornado on Atlantic summit

Assume the position!

Zach made it out of the snow-wind vortex!

Zach appears over the wind shear


Zach is smiling once again!

Once out of the wind tunnel, corn skiing is had. We ski down to a short climb where we saw tracks from earlier. Turns out it was the snowboarder and friends' tracks. So a good trade for a booter, was the best turns of the day! Then it was just a quick slide out till the annoying uphill, and road slide to the trailhead.

Looking back at Atlantic from short reclimb

Best corn turns of the day...

Another look at Quandary's north face couloirs

A great weekend out, with 2 revenges occurring, and one in the forecast.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

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 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Comments or Questions
Dave B
Looks fun
05/07/2014 19:25
Lindsey appears to be worth the trip. For the views if nothing else, but looks like a fine ski.

Glad to see Zach is still sporting the Spirit 4's. I thought I was the only one left!

05/07/2014 21:53
Also got blown off of the Tenmile, at the top of Dyer Straits. That wind was horrid. How did Atlantis look?

05/07/2014 23:25
Those were/are my gloves! Thank you so much! That thursday I was looking at the forecast for the weekend and wanted to give something a shot, so I woke up and was bored on Friday so I drove down. I was gonna check out the trail to see what it was like before a ”real” attempt on Saturday. That snow was terrible to hike through haha!

I got too late of a start on Saturday and the snow seemed a bit sketchy by the time I got up to the two route options. I tried the ridge because it looked like less snow, which there was, but the snow that remained was right at the base of the crux and made it too much of a risk in my opinion.

Thanks again for the gloves!

funny stuff
05/08/2014 04:06
the boobie cam made me laugh!!!

Great photography...
05/08/2014 17:15 always. What camera/lens do you use?

Thanks everyone
05/08/2014 19:23
Dave B - That approach view gets me every time. Well worth it. The ski was also pretty nice as well.

Nat - The winds pushed me downhill on the final good slope. Ahhh spring!

Jeff - I updated Image 31 to give the best visual beta on Atlantic. Atlantis looks to be fairly fat from that vantage point.

philip135792 - Glad to bring back your gloves. Not many people out that way this time of year. The ridge has turned me back before too. If it was later in the day, the snow in the gully could have been really sketch. Another time!

jam6880 - Well, that's where the view is from...

moneymike - Thanks, its a Canon EOS-M (mirror less) so I can use any lens I want with it. But I've been using the standard Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens. So it has a reasonable zoom for most applications, but also a great wide angle.

Thanks for sharing
05/08/2014 21:21
Great report. What kind of skis are those?

Great Work
05/09/2014 15:50
Awesome photos and excellent report. Solid!

Fun times
05/09/2014 16:44
Nice few day out in the backcountry. Was great except for the f'n wind on Atlantic.

Dave B- Hell yes still supporting those Spirit 4's! They are comfortable boot and I'll be sad to see them go one day.

05/09/2014 17:22
tdogge - Those are Skilogik Goddess skis. Not exactly backcountry skis, but they are handling great!

BostonBD - Thanks

Zach - Oh that wind... Grrrrr! Hopefully we'll get another weekend like last year's SJ trip soon!

Sunday winds
04/02/2015 19:45
were ridiculous. I can totally relate to ”assuming the position” The whippet kept me from sliding backwards on my skis. Lindsey ski looks awesome. Congrats!

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