Pacific’s West Ridge Direct

The west ridge of the high centennial 13er Pacific Peak has long been on the to-do list. While we’ve all been to Pacific’s summit before, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t grace its flanks again, and again, and again via new and different routes. Pacific, in fact, has a variety of routes from steep couloirs to long ridges. Reid & I had been trying to plan this climb one weekend this past winter but every time we’d make a plan for a Saturday or Sunday morning the wind and weather forecast seemed to shut us down because of the notorious high winds and harsher weather of the Tenmile Range. The west ridge seemed like a fun, albeit short, scramble that would make for an even better snow route in winter-like conditions. Kristine & I were leaving for our very atypical (for us) beach vacay on the island of Caye Caulker off the coast of Belize early Sunday morning and I was to meet her in Denver Saturday evening as she would just be getting in from a teacher conference in Philadelphia all week. The weather looked decent Saturday morning on Pacific with some sun and a front moving in after noon. So, we made a plan and our good friend Jesse Hill rode up with Reid from Denver to join us on the climb as well. The morning was pretty nice for climbing and fairly warm. We left the very familiar Mayflower Gulch trailhead around 8:30am and made our way up the southern slopes of Mayflower Hill. I thought it would be fun to make a loop out of the day and tag Mayflower Hill’s summit first. Mayflower Hill’s east ridge then essentially becomes Pacific’s west ridge after a bit of elevation loss and some mellower terrain. We’d then descend to the Pacific/Atlantic saddle off Pacific’s summit, down into the Pacific Creek drainage, and back to Mayflower Gulch. The snowshoe up to Mayflower Hill’s summit was some nice vertical through very mellow glades. These southern slopes of Mayflower Hill would make for very fun low-angled winter or spring glade skiing.

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Reid (left) & Jesse at the Mayflower Gulch trailhead. Pacific Peak is barely visible over Jesse's head

Reid (left) & Jesse at the Mayflower Gulch trailhead. Pacific Peak is barely visible over Jesse’s head

Jesse ascending Mayflower Hill with the 13er Jacques Peak behind

Jesse ascending Mayflower Hill with the 13er Jacques Peak behind

On Mayflower Hill's ridge with the summit just ahead

On Mayflower Hill’s ridge with the summit just ahead

After about an hour, we stood on the 12er Mayflower Hill’s summit looking over Mayflower Hill’s very steep north face and onto Pacific’s west ridge.

Mayflower Hill summit (12,416')

Mayflower Hill summit (12,416′)

Gores to the north from Mayflower Hill's summit

Gores to the north from Mayflower Hill’s summit

Pacific's west ridge lies ahead

Pacific’s west ridge lies ahead

The descent down Mayflower Hill’s east ridge was some fun snowshoeing (bordering on extreme snowshoeing) and the positions encountered on the corniced ridge were fantastic.

Reid (left) & Jesse descending Mayflower Hill's east ridge with Pacific's west ridge looming ahead

Reid (left) & Jesse descending Mayflower Hill’s east ridge with Pacific’s west ridge looming ahead

Mayflower Hill's steep north face

Mayflower Hill’s steep north face

Extreme snowshoeing

Extreme snowshoeing

Mayflower Hill's interesting east ridge

Mayflower Hill’s interesting east ridge

Jesse descending the corniced east ridge of Mayflower Hill

Jesse descending the corniced east ridge of Mayflower Hill

It was then an easy snowshoe up relatively mellow terrain to the base of Pacific’s west ridge. The weather was still pretty superb.

Reid & I approaching the west ridge

Reid & I approaching the west ridge

Once at the base of the west ridge we stashed our snowhsoes on our packs, put our helmets on, and grabbed our ice axes. No crampons yet as the snow was fairly soft for kicking steps.

Base of the west ridge

Base of the west ridge

We made our way up the initial steep slopes to the base of the largest tower on the ridge proper.

Beginning the climb up the west ridge

Beginning the climb up the west ridge

The typical route up the class 3 west ridge bypasses this tower on its right (south) side, but Reid had read of a class 4 variation up the tower proper which led to some easier 5th class terrain. When I can, I always love taking the ridge proper and climbing these towers. I feel its good practice and this tower would definitely not disappoint especially in my Koflach mountaineering boots. Reid & Jesse followed me a bit to the left (north) to reach the base of the tower proper and discovered a great looking class 4 dihedral which led to a small ledge after about 30 ft. Climbing up the dihedral was tons of fun and I waited for Reid at the ledge trying to point out holds for him while he climbed up below me.

Me looking down at Reid climbing the class 4 dihedral. Photo by Jesse

Me looking down at Reid climbing the class 4 dihedral. Photo by Jesse

Reid starting up the class 4 dihedral with Jesse below

Reid starting up the class 4 dihedral with Jesse below

Reid

Reid

Above me was then a very nice looking crack (hand-size) that went for another 30 ft or so and then looked like I could exit right onto a small ledge. This hand crack was mostly class 4. However, I would bet a few moves towards the top were low 5th class. The climbing in mountaineering boots definitely made things a bit spicy as well.

Reid & Jesse making their way up the low 5th class hand crack above the class 4 dihedral

Reid & Jesse making their way up the low 5th class hand crack above the class 4 dihedral

Me up top and Reid behind me in the hand crack. Photo by Jesse

Me up top and Reid behind me in the hand crack. Photo by Jesse

Reid (front) and Jesse

Reid (front) and Jesse

A better profile of the 4th class/low 5th class hand crack from above

A better profile of the 4th class/low 5th class hand crack from above

The boys climbing up the hand crack

The boys climbing up the hand crack

Reid in the low 5th class section of hand crack as seen from the small ledge

Reid in the low 5th class section of hand crack as seen from the small ledge

Jesse cruising

Jesse cruising

Sure enough, we were able to exit the hand crack to the right and scramble our way up much looser rock to the ridge proper. It was then a delicate scramble for 10 ft across pretty loose rock with significant exposure to both sides. I chose to attack the ridge proper head-on and after some 5th class moves, topped out on the tower. We noticed a somewhat easier and likely safer route to the ridge’s south side, which Reid and Jesse followed up to me.

Me on some (unnecessary) 5th class moves to top out on the large tower. Easier terrain leads around to the right to reach the highpoint. Photo by Jesse

Me on some (unnecessary) 5th class moves to top out on the large tower. Easier terrain leads around to the right to reach the high point of the tower. Photo by Jesse

Reid coming around to the top of the tower

Reid coming around to the top of the tower

 

Our route shown in red up the large tower. The initial class 4 dihedral is denoted by the dotted red line as it cannot be seen from this vantage point. Photo taken on our descent in the Pacific Creek drainage

Our route shown in red up the large tower. The initial class 4 dihedral is denoted by the dotted red line as it cannot be seen from this vantage point. The easier and safer final section to reach the top of the tower is shown in green. Photo taken on our descent in the Pacific Creek drainage

There were still a few 5-10 ft tall gendarmes ahead, but as they didn’t look stable at all to climb (we could see air underneath them), we exited off the top of the tower to the right (south) side down a class 3/4 ramp.

The exit ramp of the large tower to the south side

The exit ramp off the large tower to the south side with the seemingly unstable gendarmes to the right of the boys in this picture

Climbing back to the ridge proper

Climbing back up to the ridge proper

With the difficulties behind, the ridge continued to present a few class 3 rock sections of scrambling interspersed with fun snow ridges and steeper snow slopes. It was really fun and exciting ridge climbing all the way up to the false summit. We never felt the need to put the crampons on, though in icy or firmer snow conditions we definitely would have.

Climbing the west ridge with the top of the large tower below to the left

Climbing the west ridge with the top of the large tower below to the left

Jesse with Mayflower Hill down below behind him

Jesse with Mayflower Hill down below behind him

Reid

Reid

There were several fun and interesting points along the ridge we needed to climb up and over

There were several fun and interesting points along the ridge we needed to climb up and over

Mellow snow ridges

Mellow snow ridges

And steeper snow slopes

And steeper snow slopes

The weather was still holding for us

The weather was still holding for us

On the false summit looking at the true summit

On the false summit looking at the true summit

The boys coming up the final section of the west ridge

The boys coming up the final section of the west ridge

Once we reached the false summit we descended to the notch between the false and true summits and peered down the steep north couloir.

Looking down Pacific's north couloir to Crystal Peak

Looking down Pacific’s north couloir to Crystal Peak

This couloir is next on my to-do list of routes up Pacific Peak. We then topped out on Pacific Peak’s true summit around 12:15pm and enjoyed an absolutely windless summit accompanied by fairly warm temperatures. It was a nice summit to say the least.

Pacific Peak summit (13,950') after climbing the west ridge

Pacific Peak summit (13,950′) after climbing the west ridge

As I needed to get back home to play with the dogs before packing and driving to Denver, we didn’t dally on top and boogied on down Pacific’s south ridge to the saddle between Pacific Peak and Atlantic Peak.

Reid (front) & Jesse descending Pacific's mellow south ridge

Reid (front) & Jesse descending Pacific’s mellow south ridge

We made our way down Atlantic Peak’s northwest face via a faint scree trail interspersed with slick snow. We then found a snow gully in which we plunge-stepped our way down to reach the Pacific Creek drainage where we once again donned our snowshoes to make the slog out to Mayflower Gulch.

Profile of Pacific's west ridge from Atlantic Peak's northwest face

Profile of Pacific’s west ridge from Atlantic Peak’s northwest face

Pacific's west ridge on the snowshoe out with the large tower visible at lower left

Pacific’s west ridge on the snowshoe out with the large tower visible at lower left

The descent went fairly fast and I was back home in Edwards by 3:30pm with plenty of time to pack up and play with the dogs down by the river before heading off to Denver. This climb up the west ridge ended up being one of my favorite ridge climbs in the Tenmile Range thus far and I’d highly recommend it. It can be kept at class 3 and mellower snow slopes by going around the large tower or can be spiced up a bit by taking the large tower head-on. I’m glad we were able to fit this nice little ridge climb in on this Saturday morning, especially before heading off to the tropics of Belize with Kristine, which was fantastic in itself. Pictures and stories of our island vacation to come soon.

7 Summits Wall of Composites

Well, we finally finished our wall of fame (or shame) with the completion of the final custom framed Vinson picture and plaque. These custom framed pictures and plaques have been a work in progress for 8 years now ever since I climbed Aconcagua for the first time in January 2006 and my dad surprised me with the first custom framed composite including the summit picture, plaque, and permit of this series of composite pictures. I loved this very thoughtful present from my dad so much I decided to continue this same idea with each additional mountain of the 7 Summits we would climb. Yes, its expensive to do, especially with the plaque and custom framing, but I think worthwhile in the long run to have these framed composites for our lifetimes and for the memories. We always try to locate the climbing permit below the plaque in the composite, but Kosciuszko and Vinson did not have any permits. I think we could have used the Kosciuszko National Park pass, but that’s not very exciting and I believe we just drove past the entrance gate anyway and didn’t even get a pass. Whoops. As for Vinson, there was no climbing permit as no one country owns Antarctica, but we used a reduced size version of the Vail Daily article in the location on the composite where a permit would go.

Vinson composite

Vinson composite

Unfortunately, the original Aconcagua composite picture has been relegated to the guest bedroom, but totally understandable as it wasn’t part of Kristine and my 7 Summits endeavor. So, I guess wherever we go or move to or new home we may buy down the road, these composites will come with us to remind us of the wonderful 7 Summits journey we experienced together.

The complete Wall of Fame (or Shame)

The complete Wall of Fame (or Shame)

Mt. Silverheels – The Adventuresome Way

Kristine, the dogs, and myself had hiked the high centennial 13er Mt. Silverheels (13,822′) in the fall of 2013 from Colorado Highway 9. However, when Ben & Brian suggested we climb the lengthy east ridge and ski the elusive southeast gully, I was on board to check out this less explored side to the mighty Silverheels. Mike and I met Ben, Brian, & Dillon in the crossroads town of Como at 8am off Highway 285 and proceeded up the Boreas Pass dirt road and basically parked on the side of this road adjacent Tarryall Creek. We could see the east ridge of Silverheels miles away and what looked like a decent drainage in which to access the ridge. Now, we knew the route information on this side of the mountain was limited and that the approximate RT mileage was around 10 miles with maybe 3,500′ vertical gain, but the day turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than we had expected with a bit more vertical and mileage. Not that we all don’t like vertical and mileage and some route finding, it was just slightly more of an adventurous day than we had initially thought. Plus, Ben, Brian, & Dillon were rolling in that morning on fumes having just driven all the way to Taos, NM the day before to climb and ski the highest peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak. After we were literally 1 minute from the cars and into the skin, we had to cross Tarryall Creek. Nothing that a little shot-putting of skis across the creek and tiptoeing across rocks couldn’t take care of, though. We skinned up the South Tarryall Creek drainage past several frozen ponds and entered the woods. It took a bit of route finding and bushwhacking to eventually get our bearing and head for the steep treed slope which would eventually dump us out on the east ridge proper right at treeline at around 11,500′. After a few hours in the woods, it certainly was nice to get above treeline so that we could actually see where we were going and see our intended ski line.

The view from treeline of our east ridge ascent route and its numerous bumps along the right skyline. Our ski line down  the southeast gully is in red

The view from treeline of our east ridge ascent route and its numerous bumps along the right skyline. Our ski line down the southeast gully is in red

The sun was out and the skies were bluebird. The only disappointment was the number of bumps along the east ridge we would have to go up and over. It was about 2.5 miles to the summit along the extensive east ridge with lots of vertical gain and loss. We could also see the wind whipping across the ridge and creating small vortices of snow. Our good fortune with no wind would only last so long this day as it typically does up high on winter summits.

The boys skinning up the lower portion of the east ridge with Little Baldy Mountain (12,146') behind

The boys skinning up the lower portion of the east ridge with Little Baldy Mountain (12,142′) behind

Ben & Dillon with Bald Mountain (left) and Boreas Mountain (right) to the north

Ben & Dillon with Bald Mountain (left) and Boreas Mountain (right) to the north. Mt. Guyot is dead center in the distance

Ben on the east ridge

Ben on the east ridge

Getting higher on the east ridge

Getting higher on the east ridge

Brian & Dillon

Brian & Dillon

The final 500' or so up the east ridge to the top of the southeast gully

The final 500′ or so up the east ridge to the top of the southeast gully

Ben and crew behind him

Ben and crew behind him

Getting closer

Getting closer

The long east ridge of Silverheels

The long east ridge of Silverheels

The skin up the east ridge was long and arduous, especially with the wind, but we all eventually made it to the top of the southeast gully, which turned out to be yet another bump along the ridge. The true summit of Silverheels was still yet another few hundred yards away to the southwest. That wasn’t the concern. The concern was the ferocious wind whipping across the ridge and at the summit. However, Ben, Dillon, and I continued onto the summit sometimes bracing ourselves as to not get blown off the ridge. It was some of the more intense wind I can remember in a long time. Gusts between 50-60 mph were not out of the question.

Dillon on his way over to the summit

Dillon on his way over to the summit

Dillon, Ben, and I on the summit of Mt. Silverheels (13,822')

Dillon, Ben, and I on the summit of Mt. Silverheels (13,822′)

Ben de-skinning and getting ready to ski. As you can see it was a gorgeous day despite the wind

Ben de-skinning and getting ready to ski. As you can see it was a gorgeous day despite the wind

Quandary Peak looking caked with snow from the summit of Mt. Silverheels

Quandary Peak looking caked with snow from the summit of Mt. Silverheels

Anyway, we topped out, took a few pics, and boogied back to the top of the southeast gully as quick as possible to join up with Brian & Mike. Ben skied the ridge, I skinned it, and Dillon was on his snowshoes. We quickly threw our skins in our bag, strapped into our skis, and started our way down the southeast gully skiing one at a time safe zone to safe zone. Dillon used the east ridge as his descent route since he was snowshoeing. Right away we realized the snow was absolutely bulletproof and would take an earthquake to shake it loose, which was great from an avalanche perspective. What was awful from a  skier’s perspective was the breakable wind slab crust intermixed with bulletproof ice. It was probably the worst ski descent I have ever experienced, especially being on my telemark skis. I think everyone else agreed as well, though Ben & Brian said it was their second worst ski descent and these guys have no shortage of ski descents. I was just very careful and deliberate with my turns and mindful as to not break my leg or tear my ACL or something worse.

Ben skiing off the top bump into the southeast gully with the wind still whipping and swirling around him

Ben skiing off the top bump into the southeast gully with the wind still whipping and swirling around him

Brian and the long southeast gully descent ahead of him

Brian and the long southeast gully descent ahead of him

Brian is a strong skier and this breakable wind slab snow even through him around some

Brian is a strong skier and this breakable wind slab snow even through him around some

 

Ben starting his way down

Ben starting his way down

Ben making it look better than it was. Notice the wind slab snow in his wake

Ben making it look better than it was. Notice the wind slab snow in his wake

Ben skiing with Dillon barely visible on one of the eight bumps at upper right

Ben skiing with Dillon barely visible on one of the eight bumps at upper right

Ben & Brian with a beautiful backdrop

Ben & Brian with a beautiful backdrop

Me doing my best to make a tele turn without breaking my leg

Me doing my best to make a tele turn without breaking my leg. Photo by Ben

Me skiing the southeast gully. Photo by Ben

Me skiing the southeast gully. Photo by Ben

I think we were all happy to escape that ski descent without incident or injury. However, in looking at the 2,500′ gully from afar, I realized how fun of a ski it truly would be in spring corn conditions. We then veered northeast and traversed a ways until we had to start the uphill climb back to the east ridge proper to rejoin our ascent route.

Left to right: Mike, Brian, & Ben with the southeast gully behind

Left to right: Mike, Brian, & Ben with the southeast gully behind

Ben skinning back up to the east ridge through a burned tree area

Ben skinning back up to the east ridge through a burned tree area

The burned tree area made for beautiful pics, though

The burned tree area made for beautiful pics, though

Silverheel's southeast gully

Silverheel’s southeast gully

After regaining approximately 500′, we all took a break at treeline on the ridge, I finished my PB&J and drank some water, and we all gathered ourselves for the remaining ski descent through tight trees.

A lone tree with Bald Mountain and Boreas Mountain as the backdrop

A lone tree with Bald Mountain and Boreas Mountain as the backdrop

The descent took awhile and many thanks to Ben & Brian for waiting for Mike and myself. I know we slowed you guys down. It was 3pm now and we had to find our ascent route. After a bit of wandering in the woods, we finally found our tracks and skied the rest of the way down the steep treed slope following our ascent route. We then took a hard left and took the South Tarryall Creek drainage all the way back to the Tarryall Creek crossing and finally our cars on Boreas Pass Road finally arriving back at our cars around 5pm for a 8.5 hour RT day. Dillon, of course, beat us back to the cars. We all thought the total mileage was more like 11-12 miles (rather than 10 miles) and including all eight bumps along the east ridge and our 500′ re-ascent of the east ridge the total vertical gain was probably more like 4,500′. Whatever the totals, it was a longer day than expected though fun all the same. The winds intensified throughout the day and Silverheels looked like it was getting hammered in the fading daylight by the time we reached the cars.

Silverheels from the east along Boreas Pass Road

Silverheels from the east along Boreas Pass Road

A fun day out with a great crew, though it may be awhile before I venture up Silverheels again.

The Coin Slot & Bald Mountain

The weather forecast this past Saturday was for snow showers and cruddy weather in general which would make any higher alpine pursuit above treeline fairly unpleasant. J and I attended our friends Ben Conners & Brian Miller’s new book presentation in Edwards on Friday night. Their new book, Climbing and Skiing Colorado’s Mountains: 50 Select Ski Descents, is a wonderful addition to any ski mountaineer’s collection of books and knowledge. These two very accomplished ski-mountaineers put forth a lot of effort with this book and it really showed. Its a spectacular book ranging from beginner ski descents like Quandary’s east face to the extreme such as North Maroon Peak’s north face. Plus, Brian gives his expert recommendations on where to eat after each climb and ski descent, which is just about as important as the adventure itself. The next morning Ben, Brian, J, myself, and Rick Thompson all met at the Mt. Royal trailhead in Frisco at 8am to give this nifty little ski line dubbed The Coin Slot a solid attempt. This ski line is at or below treeline in order to avoid any harsher weather and wind on this day and is also north facing so it should hold better snow being not nearly sun-affected as other aspects. The Coin Slot just simply sounds like a fun adventure down the steep north side of Mt. Royal to looker’s right of the 1,500′ rock climb called The Royal Flush, which we have climbed a few times. Additionally, there is a 50 ft rappel into the 45 degree chute, so what’s not to like?!

The Coin Slot as viewed from I-70

The Coin Slot as viewed from I-70

We met Ben & Brian’s friend Elliot Halverson, a very knowledgeable and accomplished ski-mountaineer, who skinned up the Mt. Royal trail with us and showed us where to go for The Coin Slot. Elliot’s crew then went on to ski a supposed new line down Mt. Royal’s north face. The 1,500′ skin went by pretty fast and once we hit the ridge the wind and weather was pretty intense. We quickly donned harnesses and put the skis on the packs and descended steep and loose slopes for a few hundred feet to the rappel point. We unpacked my two 8mm/30m ropes, hitched them together, and slung it through the webbing and rap anchors already in place around the tree.

Me setting up the rappel

Me setting up the rappel. Photo by Ben

Left to right at the rappel point: Rick, J, Ben, & Brian

Left to right at the rappel point: Rick, J, Ben, & Brian

Looking down the rappel

Looking down the rappel

The boys then insisted I go first (probably because we all knew I would be last on the ski down since I am a telemarker and the fact that J, Rick, Ben, and Brian can just plain rip on skis). I made the rappel into the steep chute and set up myself to get my skis on my feet, probably the hardest task for me this day. The boys came down after me (Brian rappelling with his skis on his feet, which was interesting yet efficient) and we all proceeded to ski the steep chute one at a time. J said it was the tightest chute he has ever skied. I would bet so considering at its choke its probably only 6-7 ft wide. Let’s just say I wasn’t making telemark turns in this narrow chute. Anyway, it was a really fun adventure down a steep, narrow line on the north face of Mt. Royal. Enjoy the pics:

Brian on rappel with his skis on his feet

Brian on rappel with his skis on his feet

Everyone in the chute now

Everyone in the chute now

Looking down The Coin Slot to I-70

Looking down The Coin Slot to I-70

Ben (left) and J (right)

Ben (left) and J (right)

Left to right: J, me, & Rick. Photo by Ben

Left to right: J, me, & Rick. Photo by Ben

Brian slashing and spraying his way down the narrow chute

Brian slashing and spraying his way down the narrow chute

Ben's turn

Ben’s turn

Ben's point of view down the narrowest portion. Photo by Ben

Ben’s point of view down the narrowest portion. Photo by Ben

J coming down

J coming down

J doing his jump turns down the narrowest portion of the chute

J doing his jump turns down the narrowest portion of the chute

The remaining portion of the steep chute after the very narrow section. Photo by Ben

The remaining portion of the steep chute after the very narrow section. Photo by Ben

Brian on the descent. Photo by Ben

Brian on the descent. Photo by Ben

J on the lower section

J on the lower section

I was actually really looking forward to skiing the much more open and lower-angled apron, but the conditions were so variable (breakable crust to powder) that it was survival skiing at its worst. We all regrouped at the cars and were going to take another lap down the J-Chute or something similar but the southeast facing snow conditions below treeline were atrocious in that I would rather just hike down than take skis back up. So, we called it a day and went into Frisco and ate lunch at Lost Cajun as recommended in Ben & Brian’s new guidebook. Yum.

The Coin Slot

The Coin Slot

The next day, in much better weather (absolutely bluebird skies and full sun), Kristine and I had a ski tour date up our local 12,136′ peak named Bald Mountain just north of Vail Village. Despite being so close to us and located in our favorite Gore Range, we had yet to climb this peak for one reason or another. While only a 12er, Bald Mountain boasts quite the vertical gain and mileage at around 4,000′ and 10 miles roundtrip. After dropping Rainier off at Sarah & Keith’s house and picking up their dog, Molly, we drove to Vail and essentially parked at the main Vail Village exit. From there we started the ascent of Bald’s long and broad southwest ridge through gorgeous glades and thick trees around 9:30am.

Kristine starting the skin with the Vail Village exit down below

Kristine starting the skin with the Vail Village exit down below

We had to put the skis on our packs for the initial few hundred vertical feet, but then we got to mellower slopes and were able to skin the entire way to Bald’s summit. We quickly noticed that there was a Black Hawk helicopter running all day up in the Spraddle Creek, Middle Creek, and Bald Mountain areas. We also noticed the chopper was dropping folks off on the west ridge of Bald Mountain and pretty soon our fears were realized. We came upon a few search and rescue (SAR) volunteers in the woods and they told us a man from Indiana had been missing since Friday en route to the backcountry Eiseman Hut north of Bald Mountain. We had been to the Eiseman Hut on a few backcountry skiing excursions/hut trips and certainly know how difficult the terrain and locating the hut can be, especially in bad weather. However, when he went missing last Friday, the weather was good and apparently he deliberately separated from his group saying he would meet them at the hut. By the time his friends arrived at the hut, the man was not there. SAR crews had been searching all weekend and still to this day there is no sign of the missing person. Its a tragic situation and it seems that every year someone gets lost en route to/from the Eiseman Hut. I certainly hope the gentleman is found alive.

Kristine skinning thru gladed areas with Vail ski mountain behind

Kristine skinning through gladed areas with Vail ski mountain behind

Bald Mountain still a good distance away

Bald Mountain still a good distance away

Open glades along Bald's broad southwest ridge

Open glades along Bald’s broad southwest ridge

Bald's south face

Bald’s south face

Kristine and I proceeded to have a fantastic day together skinning to the summit of Bald Mountain for outstanding views of Vail ski resort, the northern Sawatch Range, and of course the Gores the entire way up.

Kristine beginning the skin up Bald's west ridge once above treeline

Kristine beginning the skin up Bald’s west ridge once above treeline

Kristine & Kona

Kristine & Kona

IMG_0414

Kristine topping out on a new Gore Range 12er for us

Kristine topping out on a new Gore Range 12er for us

There is nothing better than a PB&J on a summit with very light wind, warm sunshine, gorgeous views, and your terrific wife. The Black Hawk came fairly close to us on the summit searching for the missing hiker.

Kristine & Kona on Bald Mountain's summit with Vail ski resort and the northern Sawatch Range behind

Kristine & Kona on Bald Mountain’s summit with Vail ski resort and the northern Sawatch Range behind

The Black Hawk

The Black Hawk

The Black Hawk with Ripsaw Ridge as the backdrop

The Black Hawk with Ripsaw Ridge as the backdrop

Molly taking the views in

Molly taking in the views

Kona catching some zzzz's on Bald's summit with East & West Partner Peaks behind

Kona catching some zzzz’s on Bald’s summit with East & West Partner Peaks behind

The Chalks on Bald Mountain's summit (12,136') minus a Rainier

The Chalks (minus a Rainier) on Bald Mountain’s summit (12,136′)

Just a gorgeous winter day

Just a gorgeous winter day

Vail ski resort with 14er Mt. of the Holy Cross in the distance as seen from Bald Mountain's summit

Vail ski resort with 14er Mt. of the Holy Cross in the distance as seen from Bald Mountain’s summit

After about 3 hours and 45 minutes up, 30 minutes on the summit, we started the ski down our ascent route.

Kristine and the dogs skiing off Bald's summit

Kristine and the dogs skiing off Bald’s summit

It was tight skiing in the trees and tough to find our skin track at points due to the several skin and ski tracks made by the SAR crews, but we made it back down to the car in about an hour and a half. We did enjoy some enjoyable spring corn turns on low-angled slopes at the bottom of the southwest ridge. Spring is almost here. All in all, it was  a leisurely and very enjoyable 6 hour roundtrip ski tour. I think we’d both highly recommend Bald’s southwest ridge as a fun and mellow ski tour if your willing to do a bit of your own routefinding and navigation. A map of the route is below:

Bald Mountain southwest ridge route

Bald Mountain’s southwest ridge route

Fun in the Sun on Uneva Peak

Uneva Peak is one of our favorite go-to 12,000′ peaks on any kind of day in any kind of season. Its relatively easy access from Vail Pass and moderate slopes make it a nice, safe half-day outing whether just hiking, snowshoeing, or skinning and skiing. While we’ve been up it now too many times to count, I have never posted pics on our adventures up and down the peak. However, I figured I would do so now considering the gorgeous sunny day we had this past Saturday with good friends (W&L fraternity brothers and their spouses) who were visiting us from Colorado Springs, Chicago, and St. Louis. Jamie Buckley and Dave & Sarah Levinson climbed Kilimanjaro with us back in August of 2011. We all arrived at Vail Pass at the early alpine start of 10:45am. Shortly after 11:15am, Kristine and I set off on our skins and skis while the rest of the crew set out on snowshoes and the dogs on their paws.

The crew with 13er Jacque Peak in the distance. Right to left: Jamie, Eileen, Sarah, Dave, & Kristine

The crew with 13er Jacque Peak in the distance. Right to left: Jamie, Eileen, Sarah, Dave, & Kristine

Mellow slopes lead up to the shallow bowl we have dubbed "Uneva Bowl"

Mellow slopes lead up to the shallow bowl we have dubbed “Uneva Bowl”

Moonscape

Moonscape

Uneva Bowl

Uneva Bowl

I have rarely had a sunny, windless day up on Uneva, but this day took the cake. It was absolutely gorgeous. And the shallow bowl and ridgeline leading up to Uneva were completely caked with soft snow to boot. After about 2 1/2 hours in the soft snow, we reached the ridgeline/saddle where we could peer over into Summit County and down to Frisco and Silverthorne. This saddle was the start of the southeast ridge up and over the Point 12,340′ false summit and onto Uneva’s summit.

Rainier and the start of the southeast ridge up to Uneva  Peak's false summit, Point 12,340'

Rainier and the start of the southeast ridge up to Uneva Peak’s false summit, Point 12,340′

Our adopted dog for the day, Molly, with Copper Mountain ski resort and the Tenmile Range behind

Our adopted dog for the day, Molly, with Copper Mountain ski resort and the Tenmile Range behind

Uneva Peak's false summit on the left and true summit on the right as viewed from the ridgeline/saddle

Uneva Peak’s false summit on the left and true summit on the right as viewed from the ridgeline/saddle

Jamie & Eileen Buckley from Chicago

Jamie & Eileen Buckley from Chicago

Dave & Sarah Levinson from St. Louis

Dave & Sarah Levinson from St. Louis

Everyone was doing so well considering 4 of our 5 friends were from close to sea level and had just arrived 2 days prior. Chris Sutton was from Colorado Springs and was doing well as always. Chris had been up here before with me and Rainier, but had never tagged Uneva’s true summit. After we all hung out at the saddle a bit, ate our PB&J sandwiches, and enjoyed the sun and the views, we discussed going on to Uneva’s summit. The sea level folks had done so well all day and we were all happy that they had reached the ridgeline. While Sarah, Dave, Eileen, and Jamie were happy with the day’s efforts and decided to descend, Chris wanted to continue on to the summit as did the Chalks. I continued the rocky skin up the ridge while Kristine left her skis and booted it while Chris snowshoed.

Molly on Point 12,340' with the Gore Range ebhind

Molly on top of Uneva’s fale summit, Point 12,340′, with the Gore Range behind

Kona, Chris, and Kristine approaching Point 12,340'

Kona, Chris, and Kristine approaching Point 12,340′

The saddle between the false summit and Uneva's true summit

The saddle between the false summit and Uneva’s true summit

We reached Uneva’s gorgeous summit about 30 minutes later under a warm sun and calm skies. We stayed up on the summit for a good 30 minutes soaking in the sun and admiring the views of the Gore Range laid out before us to the north.

Rainier lounging on the summit of Uneva Peak (12,522')

Rainier lounging on the summit of Uneva Peak (12,522′)

Kona coming up to the summit with the mighty Gores behind

Kona coming up to the summit with the mighty Gores behind

Looking north to the Silverthorne massif (center), Zodiac View (lower left), Red Peak (far right), and Zodiac Ridge barely visible connecting Red Peak to the Silverthorne massif

Looking north to the southern Gores. The Silverthorne massif (center), Zodiac View (lower left), Red Peak (far right), and Zodiac Ridge connecting Red Peak to the Silverthorne massif are all visible

Molly and east vail, aka Benchmark Peak & Bowl

Molly and the Vail sidecountry terrain called East Vail, aka Benchmark Peak & Bowl

Looking northwest to the central & northern Gores

Looking northwest to the central & northern Gores

Chris on the summit of Uneva Peak

Chris on the summit of Uneva Peak

The Chalks on Uneva's summit

The Chalks on Uneva’s summit

Chris, Kristine, and me

Chris, Kristine, and me

Rainier again did so well. Its getting tougher and tougher for her on these peaks with her now being over 11 years old, but Uneva is definitely still within her limits

Rainier again did so well. Its getting tougher and tougher for her on these peaks with her now being over 11 years old, but Uneva is definitely still within her limits

Kristine and the pups

Kristine and the pups

We then retraced our steps back down to the saddle below Point 12,340′ where Kristine clicked into her skis. I skinned/skied my way down from Uneva’s summit over fairly rocky terrain, but managed to not ding my skis too bad. We then skied out to the mellow Uneva Bowl and descended down 25 degree terrain back to our ascent track.

Chris descending the mellow ridge before dropping into Uneva Bowl

Chris descending the mellow ridge before dropping into Uneva Bowl with the Sawatch range in the distance to the south

Sun, sun, sun

Sun, sun, sun

Kristine making the snow look better than it actually was

Kristine making the snow look better than it actually was

After carrying Rainie a bit in the deep, sloppy powder while I skied, we all reached Vail Pass an hour or so later. It was a fine day out with good friends from afar.

Silverton Powder Days

It sure is tough to come back to work and sit at a desk after the best powder days I believe I have ever had in my life. Now I’m no hard core ski fanatic, but I’ve done my fair share of powder skiing and this past weekend at Silverton Mountain was at the top of the list for myself as well as for about everyone in our Silverton crew. The guides down in Silverton even said it was the best weekend at Silverton Mountain in 3 years. I know the previous two years definitely were not high snow years, but still 3 years is 3 years. We just hit it right. Our good friend Gavin Chapman who works for Rocky Mountain Trane company in Denver takes a crew of our small engineering office every year to Silverton for some great camaraderie and good skiing. We even planned this weekend months in advance and boy did we luck out with the conditions. I believe the mountain got somewhere between 3 feet of snow between Thursday night and Sunday morning. At least it felt like that much! It was an extremely solid crew and Gavin is a true superstar for loving backcountry skiing and powder skiing as much as we all do (and skiing it better than most of us) and for treating us to an awesome weekend in Silverton. All of our thanks, Gavin! It sure would be tough to top this past weekend, but I know we are all so looking forward to next year! Also, thanks to Shockley, our guide, for an outstanding 2 days of guided skiing and good laughs. Shockley also understood my desire to photo document our crew in these powder conditions and he really helped me out in advising me on good positions for photo opportunities. Instead of trying to be so specific in labeling all of the Silverton Mountain runs we skied (I have no idea what runs are what), Im just going to post a photo report of our weekend in Silverton. Hope you enjoy the pics!

Saturday late afternoon tele crew. Left to right: Shockley, Gavin, Jake, Zac, & myself

Saturday late afternoon tele crew. Left to right: Shockley, Gavin, Jake, Zac, & myself

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Zac on his teles

Zac on his teles

Gavin dropping the knee

Gavin dropping the knee

Jake in the trenches

Jake in the trenches

Sunday morning. Left to right: Jake, Mike, Eric, & Nick

Sunday morning. Left to right: Jake, Mike, Eric, & Nick

Shockley explaining the route

Shockley explaining the route

Nick

Nick

Eric

Eric

"Zac attack!"

“Zac attack!”

Mikey

Mikey

Gavin

Gavin

Jake

Jake

Jake

Jake

Jake & Zac brawl waiting for the bus back to the lift

Jake & Zac brawl waiting for the bus back to the lift

Eric cruising

Eric cruising

Nick in good form

Nick in good form

Jake

Jake

Nick and clearing skies

Nick and clearing skies

The lone boarder, Mikey

The lone boarder, Mikey

Taylor

Taylor

Gorgeous terrain

Gorgeous terrain

Strapping in for run #3 on Sunday, I believe

Strapping in for run #3 on Sunday, I believe

Mikey walking the ridge

Mikey walking the ridge

Shockley laying down tracks

Shockley laying down tracks

Shockley

Shockley

Gavin

Gavin

Zac

Zac

Zac and a view

Zac and a view

Nick

Nick

Taylor

Taylor

Mike

Mike

Mike with a heck of a spray

Mike with a heck of a spray

Mikey

Mikey

Jake can telemark

Jake can telemark

Zac

Zac

Zac coming out of his spray

Zac coming out of his spray

Eric

Eric

Jake in deep

Jake in deep

Hiking to run #5 on Sunday

Hiking to run #5 on Sunday

Looking down run #5

Looking down run #5

Zac targeting the cliff

Zac targeting the cliff

He launched it, didn't land it, and Gavin was $20 richer

He launched it, didn’t land it, and Gavin was $20 richer

Shockley

Shockley

Gavin

Gavin

Jake

Jake

Jake harvesting his turns

Jake harvesting his turns

Jake is a tele machine

Jake is a tele machine

Views

Views

Finally, some pics of me on run #6 on Sunday courtesy of Zac

Finally, some pics of me on run #6 on Sunday courtesy of Zac

Just the best snow

Just the best snow

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I love my jump turns on the teles

I love my jump turns on the teles

And out...

And out…

The last men standing (& Bella) before the long drive home

The last men standing (& Bella) before the long drive home

Vail Uphill Race & “The” Copper Mountain

This past Saturday was the annual Vail Uphill Race in honor of our good friend Sylvan Ellefon’s father, Lyndon Ellefson. Its always a great event put on by our friend Ellen Miller who does a stellar job. While we’re not really into the whole racing scene, this is one we try and do every year if we are in town as it honors the Ellefsons and is such a great way to start the day with like-minded outdoorsy folks. The only drawback is the crack of dawn 7am start. I have no problem getting up to climb a mountain, but when it comes to doing an all-out race pushing yourself to your threshold that early in the morning, it gets a bit tougher. However, a few cups of coffee got me wide-eyed and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, Kristine was in Washington, DC visiting her sister and her family and was unable to race this year. My good friend Reid Jennings came up and stayed with me this weekend to do the race for his first time. Over the last few years the Eddie Bauer winter games in Vail has incorporated this race into their games, but because of the World Alpine Ski Championships in 2015, the winter games are being postponed for whatever reason(s). At least the Vail Uphill race is still an annual event spearheaded by Ellen Miller and her wonderful efforts. You can read more about the race course in this post from last year. I still used my Koflach mountaineering boot/Silvretta 404 binding setup like last year as it is a bit lighter than my telemark setup and gives me an extra bit of speed on the uphill. I’m just not willing nor interested in investing in the super lightweight AT race ski setup as the skiers ahead of me in the race were sporting. I’m fine with just pushing myself as hard as I can with what I have. Again, any of these ski setups are considered the “Heavy Metal” category in the Vail Uphill race which is what I entered again. However, in my humble opinion, these lightweight AT ski setups are hardly “heavy metal”. I’d love to see these setups in the backcountry or charging down powder-filled couloirs on the higher peaks. Any reasonable person would never use these race setups for any other reason than racing uphill. But, it is what it is and I just go as fast as I can with my heavier/clunkier setup. All I’m ever doing is racing against myself. Some friends have said to me “why don’t you get a lightweight AT ski race setup and do more ski-mountaineering races”. But, honestly, I’d rather be doing winter mountaineering and real ski-mountaineering adventures in the high peaks with good friends than being a race guru with ski-mountaineering races every other weekend. With all that said, I’m pretty pleased with my result of 45 minutes and 45 seconds to cover the 2.06 miles and 2,475 vertical feet on my ski setup, which was 18 seconds faster than my time last year. I may just enter the “open” category next year and see what I can do there with my trail runners and microspikes – I think I could shave minutes off my time. Reid did very well in the “open” category with a time of 50 minutes and 49 seconds. The results are below:VailDaily (3)An awesome breakfast at Eagle’s Nest ensued full of eggs, bacon, etc. I didn’t quite make the “podium” this time (4th in the ski category), but got some good swag and a bottle of wine. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning with friends and familiar faces.

The next day Reid, myself, and good friend Derek Drechsel were targeting a climb up the high 13er Pacific Peak’s west ridge, but the forecast for the winds was not what the doctor ordered, especially since this is an exposed ridge facing west and we would feel the brunt of the 50mph gusts the whole day. I then remembered the intriguing 13er Jacque Peak south of Copper Mountain, which you can see as the large pyramidal peak to the southeast when driving east down Vail Pass. The plus with climbing this peak is that we could climb from the east pretty much the whole time up to about 12,500′ and then hopefully just deal with the ferocious west winds the final 700′ up the northeast ridge. I had read reliable information on a few winter ascents up Copper Creek from Highway 91 to the base of the Blackjack lift on the backside of Copper Mountain, on up into Copper Bowl, and then onto Jacque’s northeast ridge. We parked 4.2 miles south of I-70 & Copper right off Highway 91 at the entrance to the private access road to the Tailings Ponds. It was an enjoyable snowshoe through the woods up into the Copper Creek drainage breaking trail in a good 6-8″ of fresh powder on top of a firmer base. We then found pieces of red and blue tape on trees every so often (put up by Copper ski patrol) to lead the way up to the ski resort boundary and the base of the Blackjack lift. I believe these markers are to help guide folks skiing the sidecountry run from Copper Ski Resort out to Highway 91. After hopping the rope and continuing our snowshoe up the catwalk into Copper Bowl passing the Mountain Chief lift as well, we were greeted by Copper Mountain ski patrol on their way down the snowcat groomed trail from where Copper offers cat-skiing in upper Copper Bowl. Bad news from ski patrol dampened our spirits. They were nice about it and I didn’t feel like arguing, but they said Copper Mountain Ski Resort does not allow uphill access during operating hours and would not allow us to use their cat walk (in-bounds) and then leave the ski area to access Jacque Peak. I was pretty surprised – I had not heard of this before. There was no way we could have stayed off the cat walk, which is on the ski resort boundary, due to the high avalanche slopes coming off Turner Mountain’s north face to the south. They stated that because we used their in-bounds terrain we could not continue uphill and leave the ski resort. They continued to tell us there is high avalanche danger, which of course we knew and therefore planned this safe winter route up the low-angled Copper Bowl to a ridge, but obviously they are just doing as they are told and the common denominator is that the ski resort is afraid of getting sued if we used their terrain and then were caught in an subsequent accident (avalanche or whatever). Self-reliance these days seems to have all gone out the window. And, of course the ski patrol didn’t know us apart from some tourist who had never stepped in the backcountry before. They are just trying to protect their hides. Its unfortunate that the whole ski resort/uphilling issue has come down to this. But its inevitable when people are searching for someone to blame when an accident happens.

The catwalk at the bottom of the Blackjack & Mountain Chief lifts heading up into Copper Bowl with Jacque Peak in the distance

The catwalk at the bottom of the Blackjack & Mountain Chief lifts heading up into Copper Bowl with Jacque Peak in the distance

Jacque Peak's northeast ridge at the head of Copper Bowl. The Copper Mountain snowcat can be seen for cat-skiing in upper Copper Bowl

Jacque Peak’s northeast ridge at the head of Copper Bowl. The Copper Mountain snowcat can be seen for cat-skiing in upper Copper Bowl

Nevertheless, we bid the ski patrol adieu and turned around to go back down the catwalk. Wanting to do a bit more with the day, I suggested to the boys to climb up to the summit of “The” Copper Mountain – the mountain Copper is named for as the ski resort resides on Copper Mountain’s northern slopes. To hopefully get a jump on the Sunday ski traffic, Reid & Derek decided to descend back to the cars and make the drive back to Denver. I decided to head up to Copper Mountain’s summit and ascended the treed slopes to the east of the ski resort boundary through deep powder.

Breaking out of the trees with Copper Mountain's southwest ridge up and to the right

Breaking out of the trees with Copper Mountain’s southwest ridge up and to the right

After 30 minutes I broke out of the trees and then ascended Copper Mountain’s southwest ridge keeping outside of the ski resort the entire time for another 30 minutes to the brutally windy and cold summit at 12,441′. However, the sun was out and the views were nice. This was a vista I had yet to visit and the views of the Tenmile Range to the east and the Gores to the north were all new for me. A skier a hundred feet below me who had apparently hiked up a bit from the top lift to the north gave me a wave and a funny look.

Looking north from Copper Mountain's summit

Looking north from Copper Mountain’s summit

Looking southwest to Jacque Peak from Copper Mountain's summit

Looking southwest to Jacque Peak from Copper Mountain’s summit

The Tenmile Peaks to the east. Left to right: Pacific, Atlantic, Fletcher, and Drift

The Tenmile Peaks to the east. Left to right: Pacific, Atlantic, Fletcher, and Drift

Looking south to Mt. Arkansas and its northwest/north ridge

Looking south to Mt. Arkansas and its northwest/north ridge

Looking south over the Tailings Ponds to the Sawatch Range (Mt. Elbert stands tallest at right in picture)

Looking south over the Tailings Ponds to the Sawatch Range (Mt. Elbert stands tallest at right in picture)

Jacque Peak and its northeast ridge from the summit of Copper Mountain

Jacque Peak and its northeast ridge from the summit of Copper Mountain

Looking north to Buffalo Mountain (far right) and Red Peak (left) in the Gores

Looking north to Buffalo Mountain (far right) and Red Peak (left) in the Gores

Northern Gores a bit socked-in with clouds

Northern Gores a bit socked-in with clouds

I-70 over Vail Pass with Bencmark Peak and East Vail at left and the 12er Bald Mountain above Vail Village at right

I-70 over Vail Pass with Bencmark Peak and East Vail at left and the 12er Bald Mountain above Vail Village at right

Summit picture with Jacque Peak benind

Copper Mountain summit picture with Jacque Peak benind

Here’s a little video just to show how windy it was up on top:

After a good 20 minutes on the summit of Copper Mountain, I retraced my snowshoe tracks all the way back to my truck arriving at 1pm. It was still over a 2,200′ ascent from my truck to the summit and so a pretty good workout and some new terrain for me. Here’s a map showing the Copper Creek route to Jacque Peak (in red) and my route up Copper Mountain (in black):

Map of the Copper Creek drainage route (red) up to Jacque Peak. We actually took the alternative yellow route just to the south of Copper Creek to avoid being in the ditch of teh creek itself. Also, my route up Copper Mountain is shown in black

Map of the Copper Creek drainage route (red) up to Jacque Peak. We actually took the alternative yellow route just to the south of Copper Creek to avoid being in the ditch of the creek itself. Also, my route up Copper Mountain is shown in black

All in all, a nice half-day adventure on the backside of Copper Mountain. In retrospect, I think its best just to try and avoid ski resorts altogether in trying to access other terrain (at least during ski resort operating hours). Speaking of non-operating hours, perhaps we’ll just do a full moon night ascent up the Copper Creek route. Now that sounds like a nice way to spend a full moon evening.

Homestake Peak

We were reminded that every Sunday should be spent the way we spent this past Sunday. Our small Vail crew (me, Kristine, J, and Mikey) met up with a Denver team with whom we have been in touch for years but have actually never gotten out in the mountains together. Kristine & I had met Brian Miller before years ago as well as Dillon Sarnelli last fall in the Gores on Mt. Valhalla, but we all met Ben Conners, David Yarian, & Rick Thompson for the first time. It was a stellar crew and everyone got along very well. These guys have an awesome website/blog going of their adventures in the Rockies, of which I am a subscriber, so check them out at Explore The Rockies. Ben suggested the 13er Homestake Peak near Tennessee Pass, which none of us had been up, so we were definitely on board and given the bluebird forecast it was to be a great day up high. The roundtrip length was around 11 miles and 3,200′ of vertical gain, so not all too long especially on skis. Poor Dillon was the lonesome fellow on snowshoes but he sure can move.

Skinning into the 10th Mountain Hut with Homestake Peak looming above. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Skinning into the 10th Mountain Hut with Homestake Peak looming above. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

J, Kristine, & Mikey skinning in open meadows to gain Homestake's gentle east ridge. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

J, Kristine, & Mikey skinning in open meadows to gain Homestake’s gentle east ridge. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

On the east ridge looking west at the Tenmile Range and Ski Cooper

On the east ridge looking west at the Tenmile Range and Ski Cooper

Left to right: Me, Kristine, David, & Ben. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Left to right: Me, Kristine, David, & Ben. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Ben skinning the steepest portion of the east ridge

Ben skinning the steepest portion of the east ridge

Mikey skinning high on the east ridge

Mikey skinning high on the east ridge

To the summit - J is visible on top. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

To the summit – J is visible on top. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

I've never seen this perspective of Mt. Massive & Mt. Elbert to the south before

I’ve never seen this perspective of Mt. Massive & Mt. Elbert to the south before

Once we got up on the east ridge, the wind came in bursts and was fairly stiff, but fortunately it wasn’t sustained. The summit was pretty chilly with the wind but the views were gorgeous of the Gores & Holy Cross Wilderness to the north, the Tenmile Range to the east, the Sawatch Range 14ers to the south, and the Elks to the southwest.

Summit views to the southwest and Elk Range near Aspen. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Summit views to the southwest and Elk Range near Aspen. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Homestake Peak summit marker

Homestake Peak summit marker

Our awesome crew on the summit of Homestake Peak (13,209')

Our awesome crew on the summit of Homestake Peak (13,209′)

Kristine, J, & Mikey on the summit of Homestake Peak (13,209')

Kristine, J, & Mikey on the summit of Homestake Peak (13,209′)

The ski down the east ridge was pretty wind-scoured sastrugi, but there were pockets of softer recycled powder to be harvested. One thing about this Denver crew is that they can rip on skis. Brian charged down a northeast facing slope to the basin below and so we all followed. It was actually pretty darn good powder. Much better than expected. The slope was only around 25 degrees so avalanche concerns were minimal. It was a fun ski for sure and am glad we just didn’t keep meandering down the gentle east ridge to treeline.

Our crew on the descent of the east ridge. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Our crew on the descent of the east ridge. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Rick making variable conditions look like butter. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Rick making variable conditions look like butter. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Kristine on the descent. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Kristine on the descent. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

J entering the fun northeast slope down to the basin below

J entering the fun northeast slope down to the basin below

Kristine & I and the really fun slope we skied down from the east ridge behind

Kristine & I and the really fun slope we skied down from the east ridge behind

A perk of skinning in and climbing Homestake from the east near Tennessee Pass was that we got to visit the 10th Mountain Hut on the way out, one of the few huts we had yet to visit. We all met up back on the deck of the hut and enjoyed the sun and the views and some snacks and sandwiches. We then were able to stay fairly high on the small ridge and ski most of the way out back to the cars down one of the packed down winter approaches to the hut. We all actually expected the trip would take us longer than the 6 hours or so it did roundtrip, but no complaints here. It was a great way to spend a Sunday and we all look forward to getting out together again soon.

Relaxing back on the deck of the 10th Mountain Hut

Relaxing back on the deck of the 10th Mountain Hut. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

The 10th Mountain Hut and Homestake Peak. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

The 10th Mountain Hut and Homestake Peak. Photo by Dillon Sarnelli

Homestake Peak from the 10th Mtn Hut

Homestake Peak from the 10th Mtn Hut

Vail Daily Newspaper Article

Kristine & I both think Randy Wyrick with the Vail Daily did a good job writing a fun and complimentary article regarding our recent Vinson climb and the 7 Summits in general. I took a snapshot of the online edition and converted it to an image file, so I hope you enjoy.Vail Daily Vinson ArticleThe only correction I must make is Australia’s highest mountain is not Puncak Jaya but in fact Mt. Kosciuszko at 7,310′. Puncak Jaya or commonly referred to as Cartensz Pyramid at 16,024′ located on the island of Papua New Guinea is the highest mountain in all of Oceania, the region consisting of all the islands of Indonesia & New Zealand as well as the continent of Australia. Furthermore, Carstensz Pyramid is the highest mountain on the Australian continental plate, which consists of the continent of Australia and the islands of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Kosciuszko is the highest mountain on the continent of Australia. While its not a goal of ours to really travel & climb Carstensz Pyramid, if we do get the opportunity sometime in our lifetimes, we sure wouldn’t turn it down.

Vinson Trip Report

Well, after many hours over the last week, I think I finally finished the long-winded trip report of our Vinson experience. I apologize for the length of it (much longer than the other 7 Summits reports), but Vinson was our last of the 7 Summits and so it has a right to be long, right? So, if you have a good chunk of time and want to check it out, the report is located under our Expeditions tab or just click Vinson Trip Report. Hope you enjoy!