Peak(s):  Trinchera Pk  -  13,517 feet
Date Posted:  01/26/2016
Date Climbed:   01/17/2016
Author:  moneymike
 Trinchera Ski or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Sastrugi   


Location: Southern Sangre De Cristo range, Colorado
Starting Elevation: 9269'
Summit Elevation: 13,517'
Elevation Gain: 4292'
Round Trip Distance: 13.89 mi
Total Time: 6:15

I pulled off of Hwy 12 moments before twilight. The road signs indicated that I was on the correct forest road, FR 422, in spite of what my road atlas said. I stared at the snow packed forest road in front of me and contemplated venturing up it. My inner voice, however, didn't think it was a good idea.

"Just park here" my inner voice told me.

"I don't know. It looks pretty packed down. I bet I can go further," I argued.

"You are not going to get more than a mile before you run into deeper snow. And I know you, Mike, you will tell yourself you can go further and end up getting stuck. You will spend an hour digging the car out just to gain a mile that would have only taken you fifteen minutes to hike."

My inner voice made a good point, but I can be stubborn and wasn't thoroughly convinced.

"Not convinced?" my inner voice responded, as if he was reading my mind. "Need I remind you how much you struggled to button up your ski pants this morning? You need the exercise, fatty!"

My inner voice was right. I decided to listen to him and start my journey from the parking lot just off of the highway.

As I skinned up the wind and snowmobile packed road, a road that could easily be driven, I eagerly anticipated coming to the first big snow drift that would help ease my mind that I made the right decision to not drive.

After 15 minutes of hiking, I came to the anticipated road-blocking snow drift. "Ha! There it is! Only 0.8 miles in, and that totally looks like a drift I would try to drive through and then get stuck in and spend an hour getting myself out." My spirits were raised, and I continued on.

At the blue lakes campground, I took a left (south) on a narrower ATV road. I followed the tracks of a snowmobile that had made the journey up the road, almost to tree line, since the last snow fall. The road below the campground was thoroughly exposed to the wind and probably would have been easy skinning even if the snowmobiles hadn't been up there. Beyond the campground, the road is narrow and the trees are tall. At times, the snowmobile track was unscathed, and at others it was covered by wind blown snow. In any case, wind blown snow is pretty dense and easy to move through. The only real trail breaking was from about 11,500' and up.


My anticipated ascent and descent route was the east ridge, which looks more like an east face than an east ridge at times. I had ruled out the steep facing NE face before hand, but began to consider it as it came into view.



Only five large summit cairns? I need at least six to recognize a summit

On the summit, looking south toward Culebra

West Spanish Peak

By the time I made the summit, my descent options were clear. I could either ski the texture-less, hard wind-pack on the more aesthetic NE face, or cruise the sastrugi down the east face. As I was weighing my options, I couldn't help but think of some criticism (i.e. shit-talking) I heard about myself through the grape vine. It seems like the more I ski, the more critics I gain (come to think of it, the more I do of anything, the more critics I gain). One of the more interesting gripes I have heard, was criticism about the fact that I ski peaks in the winter (I've also gotten criticism for skiing in the fall and summer, but that's off topic).

"What could be insulting about skiing peaks in the winter?" you ask, just as I did? Well, it turns out that I am accused of preferring to ski "bad" snow. "Mountains should only be skied in corn or powder."

Aside from the fact that this person is clearly missing the whole point of ski mountaineering, I'd like to set the record straight. I do not, in fact, prefer "bad" snow (I'm not even sure that it makes sense to say that someone enjoys bad snow). I think what this person was referring to was sastrugi snow. It's not that I prefer skiing sastrugi over powder, it's that I enjoy climbing and skiing high peaks. And here in Colorado, if you venture much above tree line, you're just going to have to come to terms with the fact that you will probably be skiing wind blown snow. Or better yet, you can learn to enjoy it! Sure, sastrugi is difficult to ski, but you can think of it as a challenge. It's like skiing moguls at the ski resorts. Sastrugi is to backcountry skiing; as moguls are to resort skiing.

Anyway, I seem to have gone off on a tangent. Long story short, the point I was trying to make, is that I chose to ski the sastrugi down the east ridge instead of the windslabs on the NE face.

Teletubby about to descend




The ski down was enjoyable, and the ski out was effortless. I hope you found this trip report helpful. And I hope you find the video as entertaining as I do.

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

 Comments or Questions

01/26/2016 20:01
at it!


Nicely done
01/27/2016 07:21
...but you totally copied my Little Bear TR name! GAW! Nicely done dude! I've always wondered how one would make this mountain work. As is normal, you find interesting ways to climb and ski the out of the way peaks!


Love it.
01/27/2016 07:49
Although I'm not a skier (I'm WAY too uncoordinated), I love your pictures and description of a mountain that I really enjoyed hiking up in the summer. You report makes me want to go back and do it in winter.


01/27/2016 08:30
Every chance I get.

jmanner: Ha Ha I figured that parody had been done before and wondered how long it would be before someone claimed I copied him/her. I wonder how many more trip reports I "copied"

Jay521: Thanks! You definitely should go for it!


You crack me up
01/28/2016 12:37
Sastrugi ski? That's new criticism? I guess if I look at my (and yours) instagram feed, it's all blower powder, all winter. But as you mentioned, it's all below the treeline. So what to do if one actually likes winter peak hikes? To ski or not to ski sastrugi, that is the real question. It's a choice, and I wouldn't criticize either one...


Spring Ski
01/30/2016 11:59
Yeah... I think I'll save this for spring, since I prefer my knee joints over moguls/sustrugi. My helmet stickers tell you what kind of skier I am. But to each their own!

Everyone is a critic. You just have to chose when to listen to them or not!

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