"West Partner Pk" - 13,041 feet
"West Partner Pk" - 13,041 feet
|Not all lines go to the summit|
Trailhead: Booth Creek
Elevation Gain: 4,692'
Partners in Crime: Joel and Max
Note to self: Don't start a 10 day road trip with a 4am start the next day, if you leave your house around ~9pm. I thought I could at least get a little sleep. Say 4+ hours? Ha! Thanks to the over zealous Staties on Vail Pass, that was whittled down to maybe 3. I get that they have to investigate certain crashes, but we have the Move It law for a reason. The crash was well off the highway, they didn't need to shut down I-70 for 5-6 hours. I should have realized when I saw the flashing lights before Copper, that my night was going to get longer. I could/should have chased them... So off to Leadville and back up to Minturn was the route, once they got an officer to take us the wrong way on the highway to get off at the previous exit. Lovely.
After a very rough few hours of napping, we got onto the trail. Never started here before, and have to say I like the trail/drainage much better. Or at least I did at this point. We started skinning once above the initial headwall. Then it was a long skinning session in the dark, trying to avoid the worst of the post holes along the trail. It's as if no one uses snowshoes anymore. I realize they suck - slowshoes, but still, they destroy the trail less than trail runners. So the skinning was less than ideal until we got past Booth Falls - the standard destination for summer and winter foot travelers. A few skiers go past to the various destinations above. Oh so many destinations!
The snow was nicely sticky, so now it was a much nicer travel scenario. Skin, skin and skin some more. Gotta love the Gores. The approach is the steep price to pay for the beauty and the lines that would be classics otherwise.
After many hours, we finally get a nice view of our destination in the sun. The east face is a backup plan, but descending that other drainage was not fun last time. Lots of rolling terrain. Tough on skis without kicker skins. So we keep going for the western face. Joel has been researching how to ski the peak for a while now. He's summitted twice too. I've only looked longingly from a nearby peak, but from the other side. It's been awhile since I've skied at Vail, so I haven't gotten a view of this side in snow recently.
Lots of rolling terrain as we approach the base of the face. Many options to get where you want to go. We chose to go farther out, and get a good view of all the lines, then came back to the middle one that snakes around. The snow was so nicely sticky, I actually was skinning up to about 35 degrees! Oooo nice!
We knew there was a storm rolling in this afternoon, but we hoped it would hold off until the sun nicely warmed the western face. We weren't necessarily optimistic, but there's always hope. After so many hours skinning, it was nice to strap on crampons and have a different body motion. Joel started off the booter, and I took over for as long as I could set a good pace in the middle. With the sky going from a lovely shade of blue, to grey to snow blinding dull, then to a bit of snow flurries, Joel kicked the last part of the booter into high gear. Cruising right on up the upper steep face, as we exited the couloir we wanted to ski. It was smooth-ish in places. Thankfully the upper slope entrance that was nearing 50 degrees, was nice and smooth.
Too bad once we got up to the rocky area we assumed was the summit, Joel saw something higher. Her turns around to say "This isn't the summit". My sleep deprived brain was a little confused. You've been here before. You've been talking about the entrance to the line, and how excited you are to ski it... I'm excited to ski it. It's very aesthetically pleasing to me.
So a very short discussion. We go to the summit. Maybe we'll return. Or maybe we return another day and ski the nice line. The route over to the true summit was easier than it looked initially. The summit was a little small and exposed. So I stood only to snap a bunch of photos. Mostly beta for future missions. So pretty, so many shiny lines, the list increased by too many to count...
We decide to ski the line closest off the summit. I think it would go, but it's hard to tell off the summit. A short distance down the exposed ridge, we get confirmation. It goes. Less aesthetic than the other line, also lower angle, but we should get down soon. Joel has to go to work.
The last part of the ridge walk was a reminder of how long its been since I've been scrambling. Then add in the fluffy unconsolidated snow between the rocks. I was less than comfortable. I was so close to put my skis back on. Just one more move. But since I'm short, it was longer than I'd like to step down. Then came the annoyance of skis on your pack. Soon as I started lowering myself, the tips of my skis hit my left hand. Neither hand hold was great. Down sloping and flat. No jugs in sight. Even my camera case was getting in the way. But after a few stomach butterfly's, I managed to make the move and get down. Phew. I like skis on my feet. Ski boot scrambling... drunk monkey time.
Interesting to strap my skis on, since I got new pivot-dynafit bindings. (TLT Radical ST 2.0) With the toe rotation, it can be tough to get into ski mode at high angles. A combo of clearing the snow out of the toe pins, and locking the toe to get into ski mode. Then unlock. Will have to put leashes on these, just in case.
Not many ski photos since the lighting was so flat, it was difficult to see. But the upper section off the ridge was pretty decent skiing. It didn't warm up enough to become corn, but it was perfectly edge-able. I had my 92mm skis on, so I was good to go. Some decent turns were had until we got into the gut of the couloir. There the rollerballs were frozen and nasty. My personal nightmare. Glad Joel had his back to me (to avoid getting ice in the eye/face), since my skiing wasn't pretty. Flashback city. But it was only a short section.
After the upper face, the real fun began. Smoooooooth snow. It corned up nicely! This was fun skiing. Of course Joel Jinxed it, when he turned around and said that he was having fun now. About 100' later, the snow started getting too soft. Our ski punched through in the same spot. It got progressively worse the further down we went. At one point, my right ski nose dived about 3-4' into the slush. That took awhile to dig out. By the end, I was pretty exhausted... glad tomorrow is a resort ski day!
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