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Trailhead: South Colony lakes
Ski Route: Red Gully & Broken Dogleg
Elevation Gain: 6,229'
It's noon on Friday, and both my partners have just bailed for legit reasons. It's at least the 3rd time I've planned a ski trip into the Crestones in the past month or so. Luck seems to be against me, but then I see Joel's post. Day tripping... F It, let's get it done! I'll go repeat it with Zach another time. It's a stellar line, those are worth repeating!
So now I'm excited and can't sit still. Been waiting all season for a nice steep long line! Thankfully I only have a couple more hours at work till I'm driving south to camp at the lower trailhead for the night.
It was a short night of sleep before Joel was knocking on my window, like 10 minutes early! We drove up in his Subi, since I don't have the skills to drive such a low clearance vehicle up such a rough road. It's why my truck is lifted! Geared up and on the trail before 3am. A snowbank on a hill stopped us from making the trailhead, but that won't be an issue in the evening (to turn around). Booted up the road and snowbanks until we transitioned to skinning. Split the difference on the old trail and the pack trail, and soon found ourselves approaching Broken Hand Pass for daybreak. Nothing like a bit of sunshine for inspiration!
Crestolita tempts again
A very short stop on the top of the windy pass to go into ski mode to drop down to Cottonwood Lake. Then skins back on for the approach of the Red Gully. Here Max gets to play fetch with a lens cap 4 times, before it finally stops rolling down the icy slope. Back in the shade for a bit to take a longer break before the long gully ahead.
The first part of the gully goes pretty smoothly. The snow is still cold and fairly firm. The rocky narrows can be climbed on either side with a little bit of ice underneath. This is why I carry a hybrid ice ax with my whippet, as I don't have to worry about a little bit of ice on the route. We swap leads in this easier lower section, as the sun is slowly warming up the snow nicely. We can tell someone got to shred the snow soon after the big storm of last week, so the surface is rough in places.
Unfortunately the nice firm snow gives way to deep storm snow half way up. Our progress slows to a crawl, a painfully sloooow crawl. There's no talk of turning around, just how much farther to go. Hindsight being what it is, we thought later how it may have been easier to skin up this section, despite being steep. But maybe the glop monster would have attacked. As it was my crampons got a pound of snow on them with each step!
Eventually, we made the short scramble up to the summit. Very short summit stay. Turn around in a circle with a camera, transition skis and boots, and down! And it was an exciting down! Scrambling with skis on with exposure... sure gets the heart racing!
Once down below the scramble section, it was the steep face to ski down, then a traverse into the gully proper. I make my 2 tentative jump turns in snow that is like slush, and traverse into the cooler snow of the gully. Max immediately follows and now I wait for Joel to come down and across. Here we have 1,400' of gully to ski and 1,900' down to the lake. The first turns took a while to get used to the thicker snow. To think we missed 2' of pow by 2 days when freeinthehills rode it! But at least we are finally skiing downhill! The clouds have increased, so that will help keep the snow as it is, and not rapidly warming anymore.
After the first half of the gully is skied, conditions improve and I feel a lot more comfortable with the snow. We still continue the standard safety ski procedures and tuck ourselves into pockets on the side of the gully, to watch each other ski. Joel has made at least a few hundred jump turns down the gully, as I make my odd, lift the upper ski and turn type jump turn. My short, early rise tip skis surely have made the day for me. Much less energetic than having to leave the snow surface completely every 5' to turn!
Joel and Max the skimo team!
Joel and Max happy to be nearing the base. Just have to find our exit!
It was a great feeling to get to the lower basin and turn around and see the length of our climb and ski. Crestone Peak is one of my favorite peaks, even if sometimes it exhausts the heck out of me! A long food and drink break was required once done, since we didn't break since the start.
Got a new chesty for my GoPro since the other one was duct taped together... pointed a bit too downward, gonna have to fix that on future missions! Sorry about the view of random gear and my lower half. Now I know my jump turns are a little odd, more of a single ski lift. At least I ended the video in the cutest way possible. You can tell how tired we got by the end!
So, to simply climb back up to Broken Hand Pass and ski down, or go an extra 600-700' for Broken Hand Peak and an even steeper 2,000' ski line? Hmmm what's an extra 700' with friends? Why not!
So up the fairly gentle grassy slope we go, to the kinda unremarkable summit above. At least, from below, the rocky prominences around the summit look so much more impressive. It's hard to say, the summit is to the right of that thing that looks fun to climb. Or go to that jumble of rocks there. But eventually we make it there, as the chilly wind picks up ice crystals and helps exfoliate our skin.
Ah the Crestones!
Looking down Broken Dogleg from the summit, is pretty exciting! It's pretty sustained steep for the first dogleg, then eases off. I measured the first part of the slope at 50. After that, I was more concerned with skiing on tired legs! My nimble and fat Skilogik Goddesses are absolutely brilliant for this terrain, well worth the extra 2kg!
After the steep upper section, we can relax a bit. Snow conditions are kinda punchy/breakable crust, but at least the steepness has eased off. It's hard now to even go a few hundred feet without stopping. But what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger!
My battery died soon after starting down the couloir, but I swapped it out after the first pitch. You don't need to see 50deg jump turns for 200' anyway Lots of knees!
A view of our ski line from Humboldt last year, same weekend
After the ski down Broken Dogleg, we head over to the lake and filter some water and take another break (maybe #4 of day?). I'm pretty happy with the day, even though it is far from over. On our ski down the trail/road, we see 2 porcupines, that we have to hold Max back from chasing. I also get to do an awesome face plant into the snow, as we ski down with heels free on the road. Too bad I had taken off the GoPro, that could have been funny! I never fall in steep zones. Only on flat-ish spots!
Day 2: Mt Princeton & Tigger Peak
Trailhead: Radio Towers on Mt Princeton Rd
Ski Route: SE Face
Elevation Gain: 3,870'
Partner: Solo, with rides from Meg and Dave
After Joel, Max and I part ways. I decide that at a minimum, I'll car camp at Princeton. I'm not driving home, and who knows, maybe I'll wake up refreshed? After finding every food place closed in Salida at 10:30, I hit up Walmart for some precooked bacon and precooked beef fajita meat. Mmmm salty! Not my usual post skimo meal, but beggars can't be choosers!
I get to the lower 2WD trailhead about midnight. I see a very large fluffy black beast. Not a dog, definitely not a dog... So not willing to car camp with a bear roaming, I drive up the road with my lame low clearance Subi. I drive all the way to the Colorado Trail switchback and call it good. Far enough away from the bear for my sanity! Plus I just cut off some mileage and elevation gain!
I wake up 5 hours later. Hmmm do I make a half-ass attempt to ski Princeton? My legs feel ok. Don't put off for tomorrow, what you can do today. A favorite saying from my great grandmother and grandmother. While I'm a classic procrastinator in my regular life, when it comes to skiing, climbing and hiking, my only procrastination is hitting the snooze button!
Now, a stroke of extreme luck occurs. A car pulls up next to mine to ask if they can drive higher on the road. It's Meg and her friend Kimmy! Wow, I now get to save more miles and elevation gain by getting a ride up to the Radio Towers!!! Now my half-assed attempt has turned into a full-assed attempt! If only I didn't have to race up the peak, I could have hiked with them for a while. But I was now on a mission, a very slow mission. Legs were tired, but the desire was high!
Mr Inappropriate Snowman
I took one look at the standard trail and couldn't motivate. I hated it the first time, I sure wasn't going to hike it with unbroken snow! Yuck! So instead I booted up the snowy ridge up Tigger Peak, and followed the ridge. A bit more mileage and elevation gain, but the going was much simpler and expedient! The snow was pretty bullet proof, and so I uncapped my whippet, in case I slipped on the hard snow. As I was making my way up, I saw 3 skiers/boarders arrive on the saddle below me. I wondered who they were, but I figured they would pass my slow tail on the way up, but they never did. Once on Tigger, it was a long ridge to go before the final slushy summit pitch. I kept looking back at the others, but it seems their upward progress was going pretty slow in the nasty talus.
The clouds and light wind were helping me out, keeping the snow cool. But on that final ascent up to the summit, the sun came out in full force, and I started to bake in my mountain ninja all black gear. Ate a Gu and tried to put it into another gear. Dang... 30 minutes too late on the summit again!
Short summit stay once again. Spin in circle with camera, transition, ski!
Summit pano north
The first section of ridge has only 2 very short sections of ridge that lack snow, until I get to the most continuous line into the basin. Then it's a couple steep turns until it eases off into a nice comfortable ski. A good Sunday afternoon type ski, when you have a Crestone ski hangover!
The very middle part of the line narrows slightly with some big rocks poking through. Here it would seem that the snow is thinner, as the snow went from nice corn, to rollerballs, back to nice corn. So for anyone who likes to time their snow on the ski lines, plan an earlier start if you want avoid rollerballs in the middle.
As I was making my way down, I could see 2 people making their way up to the summit from the Tigger - Princeton saddle, I really hoped it was Meg and Kimmy, and cheered them on!
The snow was very good below, and it was hard to not enjoy myself! I let it rip in a few places to get a feel for what my skis could do. Middle basin was a bit weird, in that there were sections of firm breakable crust, followed by corn. It threw me around a bit, so I just worked on turning only in the corn sections.
From the lowest point that I could ski on the Tigger side, I slowly contoured my way up. I had spotted a fairly rock free slope that would make travel easier than going up the crappy talus. On the traverse I saw the tracks of the 3 skier/boarder guys from that morning had made. Realizing that Princeton was out, they took their turns on the NE slope of Tigger in pretty decent conditions.
Would have liked to ski this 30 minutes earlier, but it was still pretty stellar conditions. Enjoy!
Saw the other skiers on the exit, and managed to catch up to them on the road out. Talked quite a bit, as we relaxed at the Radio Towers. Then they offered me a ride back to my vehicle. I absolutely love this 14er community! As a whole, I've only met a few bad apples, in a group of incredibly helpful and caring types.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
My wife and I were thinking to ski humboldt next week (SE flank), but it looks a little dry in the backdrop of a few of those pics. Did you see anything that looked like it may still be skiable the first week of June?
I didn't get a good view of the gully itself. Much of the mountain looked pretty dry. Wildlobo71 was up there to hike the east ridge the day after me, and may have gotten a photo or have better beta for you.
on a big weekend! Crestones do look fat, even the Needle. The bottom of the Red Gully sure looks interesting with all the extra ”features” . DogLeg couloir on BHP looks amazing - didn't know it was there. Strong work on Princeton - particularly after such a huge day on Saturday.
thinking about Princeton myself, but hard to find the time.. Ug
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