Peak(s):  Little Bear Peak  -  14,037 feet
Ellingwood Point  -  14,042 feet
Blanca Peak  -  14,345 feet
Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Kit Carson Peak  -  14,165 feet
Spread Eagle Pk  -  13,423 feet
Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  06/07/2016
Date Climbed:   05/21/2016
Author:  jkillgore
 Springtime in the Sangres (and some other stuff)   

The Sangres in the spring time virtually guarantee a good time

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

and as I learned last april, you are practically guaranteed to find great snow

Untitled by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Apparently just after our trip last year, it snowed a ton and conditions were excellent. When we chose to cancel our cascades trip due to sketchy weather, we figured we may as well choose the most fickle range in CO as a back up. There was hope though:

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

So on friday night, we left town much later than hoped and made our way south to the Lake Como road. 8800' seemed like a good starting point for the next morning and guaranteed we'd be up early.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We made our way to the classy shack and dropped some camping gear, then continued on up towards the Little Bear. I expected something like this:



but instead, this would have to do:

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Conditions were crap below the hourglass, but quite firm once you hit the runnels. Few inches of hard snow over harder ice.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The view up top didnt suck

20160521_100636 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

And gave some ideas for Sunday

13221378_10207872998597233_8621399655419437668_o by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Snow was breakable at the top, but quickly became edgable and rad.

Untitled by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Unfortunately it also revealed a fairly major problem with my right binding. Just a slight outward pressure and I could lift the heel free. Not ideal. The hourglass was still firm, so we settled in to a moat to let the sun work some magic and contemplate a binding fix.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The best option we had was to move the faulty ski to the left foot under the assumption that one hardly ever needs inward heel pressure, but often needs outward heel pressure. The still-firm hour glass was a rough test of this hypothesis, but once we got onto the sunny side of it, there was no reason not to ski it like we meant it.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

In an effort to avoid the mank below the HG, we trended skiers left into more rugged terrain. Not great, but not horrible.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickrickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

It is actually a pretty cool face. Surprised it is not more revered among skiers.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We skied down as far as the snow allowed, then found a nice sneaky couloir that led right back to the cross-over notch. Things were a bit warm on the notch cooler, but still plenty of fun.

Back at camp, the trees were producing a rather stinky fruit

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

After napping in the sun, drinking whisky and eating freeze dry, we made it well into the late hour of 7:00 PM and settled in for a nice 11 hr sleep. I passed on the not so appealing option of hiking back to the car to get a working pair of skis. This decision may have been questionable. The next morning dawned perfect with a very hard freeze, stiff SW winds and clear skies. It felt like we were getting way to late a start, but the previous days experience told us otherwise. The skinning was fast and beautiful, eventually becoming rather exciting on the firm and exposed S face of Ellingwood.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

From the summit, the N Face on Blanca looked pretty darn good:

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Things were still nowhere near softening, so we settled in for another bout of shivering in the sun. We also took some time to explore ski options west from the summit (the standard route is a ski traverse to the east to reach open south face). A couple of options provided dirty access to the beautiful dihedral line we eyed from LB the day before. Low and behold though, a bit further down the ridge was a perfect snow ledge that looked to connect cleanly. Psych was high and we waited an hour or so before saying "thaw-be-damned, lets go skiing".

Coverage was awesome straight from the summit and over to the ledge traverse. The traverse was a bit exposed, but the edges held fine and the whippet provided some added security. AG ultimately decided to boot this connection.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Once across, the line was beautiful and moderate

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Untitled by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

And fed perfectly into a tight couloir and perfect corn at its bottom

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Line is classic:

Untitled by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We reasoned that the NW face on Blanca would need a bunch of time to soften, so we hung out for an hour or so until we were bored, then headed up. Turned out that conditions on the N aspect were still transitioning from the previous week's storm. Looked like this would just be a "because we are there" run, and nothing special. From the top, we had to discuss the SW Face that we had seen from LB. Conditions would almost certainly be better, and the line immensely cooler. It looked like a go from the top, so we figured we couldnt pass it up.

20160522_125545 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Once through the techy upper bits, it turned into a super cool couloir feature.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

13221378_10207872998597233_8621399655419437668_o by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We skied to the obvious bench, then booted back up our line to the notch on the NW ridge. The ski down the N face was generally better than expected and the corn down low was outstanding all the way to lake como.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The slog out wasn't too bad, and the cold beer at the car was much appreciated. Days 1 and 2 set the bar super high, and we were a little tired. All you cna eat Mexican buffet in Alamosa started the healing process, then we drove around to the S. Colony Trailhead on the east side of the range, where we'd spend the night. We originally planned to backpack in to the S. Colony Lakes and spend our next few nights there. With a bit of fatigue, we easily convinced ourselves that staying at the TH and day tripping everything wasnt too much harder, and brought with it the bonuses of beer, more whiskey, and fresh meat. We convinced ourselves of the superiority of this new plan, then headed out for a rest-day ski of Humboldt. An easy hike in sneakers to 10,800' had us heading up through the woods and encountering rather horrible snow-tree climbing conditions at times. We popped out at 11,500' and had a nice look up at 2500' of perfect mellow corn. We'd have to move quick to take advantage of the conditions. And the conditions were primo.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

20160523_105208_001 by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

After the ski, we had the brilliant plan to cache our ski gear at 10,800'. Then that afternoon, the fire grilled brat's validated the TH camping plan

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

That evening, our friend CB showed up for a much needed boost of fresh energy. We started around sunrise the next morning and made our way up to the classic Crestone Needle.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We took some time to check out the ways not to go.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Then we once again spent an hour or so shivering to let the snow not-soften.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Skis go on at the summit, of course.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The needle was infinitely better this year than last with continuously great skiing and a little ice pointing all the way down to below the broken hand traverse.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We contemplated pushing the couloir the rest of the way to the lake, but a unviewable ice step around the corner, and a lack of a rope gave us pause. A couple gully hops and we were able to ski down to cottonwood lake and contemplate conditions on Crestone Peak. Snow was still supportive, and although we were a bit tired, we had to at least give it a try.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The sheltered S. aspects were getting worrisomely soft, but we reasoned that the wind-exposed SW aspects would stay cold. We were mostly right, and some clouds showed up conveniently to help us along.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Nonetheless, we didnt linger long and got to work skiing from just east of the summit.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The slough train from the entrance pitch polished up the main couloir quite nicely

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

All that stood between us and beer/food was some climbing, some corn, and a few miles of walking... easy...

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

This is a fairly long day on rather tired bodies. Planning the next days venture had the expected levels of non-commitment and blase. Kit Carson was the obvious goal, with Challenger a potentially nice bonus. Challenger is a bit hard to link from the S Side while still nailing the timing on Cole's couloir. Even committing to KC was a bit reluctant. We were now really wishing we had just camped at the S Colony Lakes... We went to bed with only a vague plan.

The morning was perfect once again, with a hard freeze down to 10k. Although tired, we were still moving pretty well.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We passed things that will definitely warrant future trips to the area

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

From the Bear's Playground, we descended to the base of Coles on firm but rippable snow. Coles was looking phenomenal top to bottom.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

On top, we discussed the skiability of the North Face. It wasnt a particularly serious discussion, but with that coverage it could maybe go cleanly...

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The descent from the summit was outstanding. You usually hear of KC summit descents as tick-tack affairs that barely qualify as skiing. This was wide open corn skiing off a fantastic summit.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

As was a theme elsewhere in the area, waterfalls provided requisite water refills

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

As we headed back up to Bear's Playground, serious consideration was given to the NW couloir on Crestone Peak. It was much fatter than when we skied it last year, and looked amazing. I consider it one of the coolest lines in the state, but it was not to be. The Bear's playground still provided some great views and a bit more sloppy, good skiing.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The ski out was smooth, and the final walk to the car a bit unpleasant. We quickly headed out to Westcliffe to get more beta. Luckily they post the beta on the buildings

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

We wanted to ski Lyndsey the next day, but a landslide had turned it into a 20+ mile round trip. We tried calling a ranch for south side access, but didnt get an answer. We needed a backup plan, so we pulled up the topo map and looked for the closest skiable looking face to town. Spread Eagle peak it was. We walked outside the bar and confirmed conditions. It is very close.

Apparently, in early season, on a good year, the SE face of spread eagle can provide 4k of skiing. The low elevations had started losing snow though, so we'd be working a bit for our turns. That work started with a bit of early morning road maintenance.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

The face looked pretty cool

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

A bit of bushwhacking would also be required. I kinda like simple colorado bushwhacking because it is a tidy version of my PNW roots. The others were less enthusiastic about the approach.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Part way up the face, we cut left to the very pleasant S ridge.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Just below the summit was a cornice, so the next steps seemed all too obvious.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Snow was perfect the whole way. Soft, but not overripe

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

At this point, it seemed our luck with perfect weather was just about to run out. It was lunch time, and big clouds had moved in. After burgers, beer and milkshakes, we decided it was time to move on from the Sangres to a place a little less approachy. We soon found ourselves in Buena Vista with a cozy motel bed and TV. We set an unambitious alarm and hoped that the rain outside would translate into fresh snow up high, with just enough weather window for an easy ski of Princeton.

The view of the peak suggested only a dusting of new snow, but some nice long descent options.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Weather window was working great, and with a 2 hr ascent time, we'd be back in BV for breakfast

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Ski conditions were good, and got better as we got lower. 3k of smooth silk.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Finally it was time to wrap up our trip, and it seemed like the Wildsnow Indy Pass BBQ was the best place to do it. We went to bed early, slept in late, teed off a few mini golf lines, and devoured meat, beer and fried potato products.

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

Sangres by jason.killgore, on Flickr

All in all, we ended the week accomplishing much of what we wanted. A ton of outstanding lines on amazing peaks, with rare conditions. We had hiked, climbed and skied roughly 80 miles and 40,000' of vert over 8 days.We were more cumulatively worked than either of us had been in as long as we could remember.



 Comments or Questions
mtnfiend

Rad
06/07/2016 17:00
Fine work here getting the sangres while the getting was good!

From the summit of Adams, it did appear a line could be pieced together on KC's north side this year. What was the psychotic factor looking down it from the top?

And sweet line on balanca. I wonder if that line fills in more reliably year-to-year than the NW face?


jkillgore
mtnfiend
06/07/2016 17:07
Thanks!

It looked steep on the N side of KC. Striated 50-60 deg stuff. Would be a cool one for sure.

For Blanca, seems like SW and NW aspects suffer the same fates and will just need ample upslope to make them temporarily leeward. Not sure if the typical wind direction for the sangres upslopes is more NE or SE?


EatinHardtack

Holy S...
06/07/2016 17:50
Nice darn trip report and pics. This is gold Jerry, gold I tell ya!


lordhelmut

Spread Eagle
06/07/2016 20:19
Sounds eerily similar to Ben and my experience. We were down there on the 21st, got blown around on Horn, wind relocated our tent down low, after a hour we found the tent in some Lutheran camp, refuled in Westcliffe, gaped out at the range from the valley, spotted Spread Eagle's East Face, relocated camp to where we thought was out of the wind, nearly lost tent again that night, woke up demoralized, drove down that road, got stopped at that downed tree you guys were moving, heard more wind as we geared up - and then just said F it and drove home. Mother Nature won that time. Seeing your pics elicits a little bit of regret, although I'm convinced wind was invented to sap the will of man.

I'm not sure how often you'll hear 80 miles and 40,000 vert of skiing in the Sangres. Nice work. That's some serious dedication cause those approaches aren't all that accomodating down there.


jkillgore
Helmut
06/08/2016 08:42
I wonder if anybody has ever gone down planning to ski spread eagle


lodgling

Approachy
06/08/2016 10:31
You fast and light guys sure do a lot of shivering in the cold. Absolutely incredible 8-day push. Just the approaches boggle my mind

Congrats on getting that route on Ellingwood -- a first perhaps? I think the one on Blanca is in when the upslope is on. It was in last year for sure. I want to say Crossen skied that one in his project? Studying the N face of KC recently, I am sure Jordan White could put in a line there.


bloomy
spread eagle
06/08/2016 11:17
1 week earlier than your jaunt, I did a spread eagle on our exit from skiing the SE face of Adams. It was sooooo huuuuuge, mtnfiend couldn't even fit it into the camera frame. Next time I'll be sure to do it on the right mountain.


jkillgore
Crossen
06/09/2016 20:12
Seems like anybody who looked towards Blanca on a fat year would have a hard time not wanting to ski that SW face. Apparently Crossen made a video of some of his tours. Frank K mentions the SW face on his blog, but implies he didn't know the history of it.

Wouldn't surprise me if other lines on ellingwood had been skied before too. They are so obvious. Getting the entrance on our line clean seemed pretty rare. The summit fall line was also in clean with a mid run traverse out, but not quite as aesthetic as the dihedral imo.


mtnfiend

@bloomy
06/10/2016 08:35
That spread eagle was huge. Especially when compared with my pathetic attempt that followed!


nomad

Amazing
07/31/2016 09:09
What an amazing report and adventure!! Awesome job!


jmanner

Dude...
03/22/2018 11:25
This TR just makes me even more sad about the conditions this year! Great write up and fun read; if not demoralizing. What a cool trip!


Above_Treeline
Wow!
04/16/2018 20:02
What a trip. Amazing.



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