Mt. Adams A - 13,931 feet
Twin Peaks A - 13,580 feet
Horseshoe Mountain - 13,898 feet
Mt. Adams A - 13,931 feet
Twin Peaks A - 13,580 feet
Horseshoe Mountain - 13,898 feet
|Skiing in a Winter Wonderland!|
Twin Peaks A
Trailhead: Zapata Falls
Elevation Gain: 4,888'
Route: East Face
Partners: Joel and Max
Sleigh bells ring
Are you listening
In the lane
Snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland
Oh wait... it's spring. I shouldn't have this song in my head! But everything around me is flocked in fresh white fluffy snow that fell yesterday and last night. So pretty! Wait. Not pretty. This is going to be a rough day, if we're getting to 4" deep snow around 10.5K, miles away from our destination. Still I kept singing the song in my head as we walked in the early morning twilight, stomping in my hiking boots through the snow.
Soon enough, the fresh snow would rear it's ugly head even further. We were carrying our ski boots on our skis, to make the approach easier. Well, that seemed to backfire a bit. Heavy snow dropped from the small trees and bushes into the trail. Our skis hit the overhanging branches above. All creating a perfect scenario for snow falling on our heads and into our ski boots. Since I was in the lead for the booting party, I got the duty of playing whack a bush, tree, etc to get most of the snow off of it. I had hoped that Joel was reaping the benefits of all this work, but it turns out his ski boots were full of snow by the time we transitioned. I managed to only get one good dump of snow into my right boot, just before we swapped footwear. Not sure how I got that lucky.
We had been following coyote tracks that ran down the trail in the fresh snow. Glad it wasn't there when we were coming up! Max is quite the trail finder too, so I just had to follow him for the most part.
Transitioned to skinning wasn't a total boon either. Boulder fields and the like separated us from the upper smooth drainage. Joel took over for a bit, though his motivation was tanked from having wet feet and boots on a peak he didn't exactly want. Me and my silly random 13er skis. I saw it from Lindsey and Ellingwood, and I knew I wanted to ski it versus hike it.
I took over trail breaking duties around treeline for a while, and got treated to a nice view of a line off the NE face of Twin Peaks. If I had known about that line, we may have skied that! Looked nice despite the rollerball/slide debris.
Following coyote tracks that ran down trail this morning...
Joel trying to put a smile on his face with this much fresh snow
We had clouds all morning, but as soon as we started approaching the climbing skin section, the clouds became more whispy and thin. The day was heating up and we still had a way to go. After the first section, Joel turns around and says "We're late". Yup. 6" fresh is getting warm now. But the route we have to do is mellow, we'll be fine. I can see Joel has lost more motivation, so I take over skinning first. I push as had as I can go. I still want the peak. I've done the research, there's a safe line off the top. But soon enough I tire. Joel catches up and we discuss. The upper snow is much colder, so we keep going, now with Joel taking over. We skin directly up to the summit. Almost a straight line to the one break in the cornice, just below the summit.
As we finished the climb, the clouds parted and stunning views of the Blanca group were had. Joel even thanked me for dragging him up this peak, the views were that good. We take a short break to refuel and enjoy. Our only concern is getting down before the clouds overtake again. Turns out we didn't need to worry too much about that. The clouds preferred the higher peaks anyway.
The skiing wasn't as great as it could have been an hour or two earlier, but we couldn't have anticipated the hassle the approach was. Without all that low elevation snow, the boot up should have been quick and easy! But we made turns, and slid our way down. The mini drop after the face was the steepest of the day, and better than anticipated. At least the line I chose. From there it was a simple slide down to our earlier break point.
From the fresh snow and high heat, plenty of loose avalanches rained down the steep western flank of Pt 13,660 A. Even managed to catch a slough when I heard the waterfall sounds start up suddenly. The descent didn't let us go without another indecent wetting. The trees that had been so lovely flocked with snow in the morning, were now raining down their wet goopyness on us as we passed underneath. So we got just wet enough to stay cool. Great! At least when we put the boots back on the skis, the trees were dry of snow.
West face of Twin Peaks A - almost looks skiable too
Almost to the end of the trail, we stop to play tourist and go see Zapata Falls. Why not? We're up here. So after a stream boulder hop, there we were. Quite nice and cool in the little canyon leading up to the falls. After that it was a bit of a sprint back to the car, as a thunderstorm was approaching us from the west, dropping wet graupel. Nothing like getting your gear soaked a few minutes from the car! At least I survived my first boot wing experience after breaking my leg last year from a rolled ankle (yes it can happen).
We hung out for a short bit, to see if the storm would pass. When it didn't, we figured we should just get to Willow Creek TH and dry our gear and eat dinner there. Got some great beta shots of the Crestone group and Adams as we drove in.
A snowy west face of Challanger
Trailhead: Willow Creek via S Crestone Lake trail
Elevation Gain: 5,168'
Route: Northwest Face
Partners: Joel and Max
2am start? But we won't have the fresh snow slowing us down!!! So we go with a 3am start. We once again boot wing hike up the trail, walking over the tree that blocks the Willow Creek peeps from accidentally going the wrong way at the start of the trail. New trail for me in a familiar area. But same switchbacks. 12 of them. Joel counted. I was less than thrilled about them, but when you break your leg by doing something as simple as rolling your ankle, the thought of my tired legs and ankles on the descent... enough to put me in a cranky mood for sure! We made pretty good time though, so that's one good thing. Only a downed tree section as you cross a mini stream. In the dark with boot wings made it a bit interesting to solve the puzzle of 5-6 trees all interwoven.
As we rounded the corner and started finally heading up the drainage after the switchbacks, the snow started. Thankfully there were post holes to follow, but as soon as they stopped, I turned around to Joel to say it was ski boot and skinning time. The easy booter part was over. My feet and boots were still dry, no need to soak them and make us crankier!
What followed until arriving at the lake... I would call ridiculous. This is not a skiable approach. Multiple benches to climb. Trails not where they are shown on maps of my GPS (we found a trail on the north side of the stream). On with the skis, off with the skis. 6 times at least. Even got to do some slick rock scrambling in ski boots after a monkey bars rock scramble. Fun times! When we finally got to a nice meadow, and saw a tree-less gully going up to the left of the drainage, we hoped we were done with the difficulty of the approach!
Ahh the lake! Only 5 hours after we started! Seems like we're on par with others approach times on this route. Made me feel a little better that others had similar difficulties. At least from here, the remaining approach to the base of the climb would be fairly simple. We did transition to crampons for the final headwall, but otherwise we could skin most of the way now.
Who looks like Crestone Needle? You do random ridge feature!
We switched to crampons where Joel couldn't skin uphill anymore. He had a lot more motivation today, since it was a centennial peak on his list, so he started making the booter up, as I finished my transition. It was a mixed bag of a climb. Sometimes firm and easily cramponable, other times not quite so easy. I found the buried graupel layer that had turned around some others on the Needle last week. But thankfully it wasn't continuous across the slope or climb, or reactive. Still something to take note of and discuss. The steepest part of the face had roller balled like mad the afternoon previous. So I was already thinking of alternative routes for the ski down. Being a NW face, sometimes it doesn't warm up enough to ski well. Rollerballs can be skied, if they are warm, not if they are ice!
Up and around the rocky features of the face we went. Joel looks down at me and says "It's ok, I got the booter". I knew he was being sarcastic, but I decided to take him literal and gave him the thumbs up. Never be sarcastic with a tired person Though I did take over the booter for a short time on the upper face. But stupid me hasn't gotten the anti-balling plates for my crampons yet, so I was wasting energy getting rid of the balls.
It had been windy since we got above the lake, but as we neared the summit, the wind really picked up and increased the suck factor a bit. Once we got to the hanging snowfield traverse, it was howling. I was freezing and hungry at this point. My GPS said we were practically there. I have hiked the peak in fall 3 years ago, but I didn't do the standard route, so I wasn't quite sure of the final pitch. We found a small wind break at the end of the traverse, and paused for a second. Joel asked how much farther to the summit. GPS said a few feet. I clambered up a steep wind snow feature, and popped out on the summit! Nice, last time I remembered a scamble fest as I came over from Pt 13,580A on the east side.
Since the snow was a bit icy crusty, and the wind was still howling, neither of us wanted to ski it like that. So it was a waiting game, hoping for sun and a stop to the wind. After an hour of eating, drinking and wearing all my layers to warm up, I was finally feeling good enough to click into my skis from the summit and make the initial 10' steep descent back to our wind break and snow traverse. The sun had even parted the clouds a bit more to get a view of the Crestones.
The traverse went quickly and soon we were dropping the steep initial slope with Pt 13,546 and Pt 13,153 as backdrops. As we got lower, the snow thinned a bit, and the skiing was actually pretty good. We had timed the snow quite well! Once we had dropped off the face, it was quite a nice feeling to have finally skied a fairly steep line this year. With the weather we've had, it been difficult to find anything in condition. I also have a lower risk tolerance than a few others, it would seem.
Joel likes to get on top with his skis
After retrieving our hiking boots from the meadow, we only had a short stompy slide left before the 'fun' of the egress would occur. Thankfully we found a dry trail that went around the rocky scramble monkey bars section of the ascent. When this trail ended in deep continuous snow, we put skis back on for a little while before taking them off for the last time. The snow was then too patchy to bother, as well as too rocky and flat to want to ruin the skis.
After what felt like an eternity, we got to a nice dry section and we transitioned over to hiking boots. It was a bit early, as we still had some snowy trail to go. But at least there were pre-made postholes to follow to keep most of the snow out of our shoes. In the daylight Joel found a bypass to the downed trees, then it was just a fairly quick hike out to the cars.
Horseshoe Mountain A
Trailhead: Leavick Mine - Minus 1 mile
Elevation Gain: 3,060'
Route: Boudoir Couloir
Since we got back to Willow Creek TH about 7pm, I was trying to figure out what to do the next day. Zach wanted to get out, but also wanted to sleep in. Bill eventually settled on Santa Fe. I was exhausted, and I didn't know how far I could safely drive. I got food in Salida and drove north. Getting to Montezuma just wasn't going to happen. Time for a Mosquito Range peak!
I have been wanting to redo my Horseshoe ski from many years ago. Now that I'm an official Centennial Skier Benchwarmer, I need to make sure my descents are up to par! I had done Horseshoe the first time as part of a 14ers Spring Gathering in 2010. It was a cold windy skin up the ridge, and I had a massive asthma attack on the way. It was perseverance and stupidity that got me to the summit. I had to lie down on top, just to get enough oxygen into my lungs. It wasn't a good time. I also had left my skis lower down, since the final ridge push was wind scoured and devoid of snow. So it wasn't really a true summit descent. So the Boudoir Couloir was calling my name as a way to repeat that lame and pathetic first ski of the peak. And, I would get there with enough time to sleep for an adequate amount of time!
I skimmed Natalie's TR on the trip, and figured I could possibly get away with a 6am start. But then the road was snow covered for the last mile before the Leavick Mine. I gear up behind a whole slew of other skiers and splitboarders. The mighty Sherman is about to have many visitors today! I finish my coffee and grab my skis and walk over to the start of the snow. It looks rough from various vehicles driving through slush, and as I step onto it, very icy. So I strap the skis to the pack and boot up. I get to the turn off and get over the initial snow section to get a little bit further. At the first post hole, on with the skis and skins.
I had been debating on route. I wanted to climb the Boudoir, but was I too late? Would it be punchy, or even a pre made booter? Maybe it would just be easier to skin up the ridge and ski down the Couloir. But as soon as I got out of the trees and onto the first section of ridge, the wind started howling in my face. Nope! No wind for me today. No thanks. I also notice that a group just topped out of the Boudoir, so I would have a booter. Sweet! Off I went to the base of the couloir. Made pretty decent time and transitioned near the bottom of the route. After some steep sloping transitions, stopping where it's flat sometimes feels like a luxury.
At first the snow is really firm and the tracks easy to follow, but the booter went over into the slide path and took on a Sasquatch like feel. Someone decided that the American Duck walk with huge gaps was a good way to go. Uggg my knees and quads were burning. The sections that traversed and switchbacked were nice. But then the tall one with bad form took over. I had to bribe myself to keep going up. Just get to that little bend, then you can check the elevation on your GPS. That's a photo stop, no checking GPS till the next section. It's a short couloir, but with my tired tail, it felt much longer. The fresh snow also got deeper and fluffier the higher I went.
When I was reaching the top, after testing the snow frequently, I realized I should be skiing it right now, just as I was getting to the ridge. So I made quick work of the final flat summit push. Did a summit transition that Joel would have been proud of, and started down quickly. Didn't even wait for the next group skinning up the ridge from the other side.
I got to the top of the line and immediately started in. The upper fresh snow was a bit too soft, and let down some roller balls. Nothing too bad, so I was still ok. On the cusp of too late, but still good. After getting through the choke, the snow conditions improved dramatically, and I had perfect corn! So I let it rip all the way down to the base. I admire my turns for a while, and then head over to another drop that I had eyed on the way in. It was also in great shape. The wind had kept the majority of the snow cool enough, that I was able to slide out without any issues. No mashed potatoes or unsupportable snow! How's that for luck!
Simple slide out to the main road, where I meet a splitboarder and another skier coming down from Sherman. We had 2 short ski carries, otherwise it was a simple easy slide out to the cars! Easy Breezy! Not bad for a few hours of work. And I even get to be home at a decent hour! Check on my servers at work, take a shower and enjoy the evening!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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