100th Post!

So welcome to post number 100! I guess that means I have been busy since I moved here. Well it was another busy weekend, chock full from end to end! On Saturday I met up with Karlin, Wells, Chad and one of Chad's clients at Vail for some skiing and snowboarding on 4 inches+ of new snow. We started out with a couple of warm-up groomers and then started to hit the bowls. We got some nice fresh tracks over in Game Creek Bowl down Deuces Wild, probably the nicest run of the day. There was still good snow in Sun Down Bowl, we tracked out along the traverse until we got to a spot that looked nice. Then we did a couple of runs in China Bowl, including popping through the trees of Shangri-La. After skiing a few runs we headed back down the front for some tacos and enchiladas at Los Amigos at the base of the mountain. From here we got a nice view of people as they got in a little over their heads on Pepi's Face. The base of Vail steepens just a bit, and those who do not take the traverse around the steep face sometimes find themselves sliding down while their gear litters the run (otherwise known as a "yard sale"). It was a great day on the mountain, and we had a lot fun.

Sunday despite a great powder day on the slopes, I had plans for going hiking near Copper with my friends Tracy and Kevin. The trailhead had a few other people as well, but they were all going backcountry skiing. There was some great looking slopes, and I hope to someday head back to this same area for some skiing myself. The first maybe mile and a half is a road in summer, and leads to an old abandoned mine. We started snowshoeing up the road, breaking trail in close to a foot of new snow. Luckily underneath was well packed out as it is a popular area. We then decided to climb up to the ridge above us, which eventually leads to the summit of Atlantic Peak, one I climbed back in June. The steepening slopes were hard work to snowshoe through, and made for a nice work out. We got to the ridge proper and the wind and blowing snow were really ripping. We hiked part of the ridge, but decided the summit was not in the cards on this particular day with such windy conditions. We turned back around and snowshoed back down the slope and the road to the cars. I headed to Frisco for gas and a late lunch, but unfortunately my timing was the same as that of the mass exodus of skier traffic. It was bumper to bumper and not moving at all through Frisco. I ended up taking a few parking lot and side road shortcuts to bypass what I oould, but still found myself in the thick of it all. Luckily for me, I was going west when I got to the highway and only had to put up with the nightmare traffic for a few miles. I don't think I could ever see myself commuting from Denver every weekend to go skiing if it means dealing with this much traffic. Even back at my house at 9 o'clock the "traffic cams" on TV still were just a sea of headlights headed east. I don't know how you all do it who live there!


Hiking in the Park

Well my knee was still not 100% from twisting it while skiing at Crested Butte. So I decided not to ski this weekend as a similar fall would probably not feel too good. Instead I had been emailing back and forth with my friend Tracy about climbing a peak for weeks but we have never had a good window with weather and other commitments to get back up out there together. Sunday she was headed to Rocky Mtn National Park to head up the Longs Peak trail for a hike with some friends of hers and asked if I wanted to come along. Seeing as exercise is good for my knee recovery, I said "of course" and met up with them at the trailhead Sunday morning. We made good time on the packed down trail through the trees and didn't even put on our snowshoes. As we got close to treeline the packed out trail fizzled out and we made our way up into the upper basin. This is where the views really started to impress as Longs Peak was coming into view in front of us, and we could see the flat plains to our east peeking over Twins Sisters Mtn behind us. We hiked up into the basin and to the saddle where the trail splits for Chasm Lake. From here the views of Longs' imressive East Face, known as The Diamond, came into view as did the east ridge of Mt Meeker. We were all feeling pretty good and decided to keep heading up, right up the peak in front of us. This happened to be Mt Lady Washington, a 13,281' sub-peak of Longs and one of the best places to view the Diamond. There was still a decent amount of vertical to be had up steep snow covered rocks, but the majority of the rocks were exposed enough to not have to sink in the snow to climb. Careful route planning kept us on rocky surfaces 95% of the time, and we soon reached the summit and the stunning up-close view of the Diamond. The Diamond is a serious undertaking for any mountaineer and holds several classic technical ascents. Even the easiest routes on The Diamond are rated at 5.10a, and involve 5 to 8 pitches of climbing. For those not familiar rock climbing, ratings start at 5.0 and go up. The higher ratings, starting at 5.10 also have letters associated with them to further refine the difficulty. I have never done anyting rated higher than 5.8, and even that was only about 40 or 50 feet of climbing. The Diamond routes can easily encompass 1000 feet of total climbing! Needless to say, that was not on our agenda for Sunday, and we were happy to have a quick snack on Mt Lady Washington, admire The Diamond, and head back down. It was a great day to be out, and surprisingly not too windy in that area, which has a reputation for winds. Hopefully next weekend skiing will be back on the menu, and weather permitting another climb is already being planned, hopefully work goes by fast!


Ski to work

This weekend we took an office trip to Crested Butte to both look at our project and to ski the Butte. Friday my boss and I left in mid morning so that we could take care of the business end of the trip. The project is really coming along, some of the units will be ready for final inspections soon and then they can begin to close as soon as the building gets it certificate of occupancy from the town. The model unit is now furnished, and everything is looking good! Later that evening we met up with a bunch of other people from the office that were coming down for the weekend. We then all went out to dinner with a few former employees that now work in Crested Butte. Saturday we had breakfast and then had a quick site tour with the office before hitting the slopes. We started out easy with a couple of groomed runs before my friend Ryan and I split from the group to tackle some of Crested Butte's famed extreme terrain. We headed up to the North Face and came down the main face there where there is consistently a 35-40 degree slope. The steeps at the Butte are much longer than those at the local resorts, and there is no faking your way down! We convinced a few others from the group to hit the North Face with us for a run, using the argument that the extremes are what the Butte is known for. They did really well, but one run was enough for them. Ryan and I then hit "Rambo", a 40+ degree run, that was really fun, but could have used a little more snow. Negotiating through the top was a little tricky due to some stumps and other debris that hadn't been fully covered in the snow. The bottom of the run had great snow though and the last few turns were some of the most fun on the whole trip. After skiing we relaxed at the hotel for a little bit, then took a quick full moon snowshoe hike with the office. We didn't even need headlamps as the moonlight was enough to illuminate the trail. We then headed out to dinner at one of Crested Butte's institutions, Slogar. The Slogar is a restaurant that basically only serves one thing: Fried Chicken. They do it family style with all the right sides for a nice complete meal.

Sunday it was back to the slopes before heading home, and once again it was Ryan and I hitting the steeps while our co-workers hit the groomers. This time we decided to get a few different areas than just the North Face and started out by hitting the Headwall. Headwall was even steeper, probably more like 45 degrees in some spots. It was a great confidence booster to make it two runs in a row with no falls! The snow there was great, and it was starting to fall from the sky as well. We then treked over to the Outer Limits, starting out with Spellbound Bowl, before migrating to Phoenix Bowl below. This area had some really extreme terrain around us, but also has a nice open face down the middle. Sticking to the middle is still no picnic as it is 40 degrees the whole way down, but some of the tree chutes nearby have cliff sections that require a minimum of 20 feet of air! We avoided those spots, but did hit a chute that approached 50 degrees. The cover was a little thin and I even had to side step over a couple of rocks in the middle. The run then opened up again before the traverse back to the main mountain. There was still one area we needed to explore, the main peak. The signature runs (Banana Chute and Banana Funnel) were closed still, but we were able to ski their neighbors, Peel and Forest. Just like all the other double blacks at Crested Butte, these were steep runs that require your full attention. The snow was good, but in a couple of areas got windpacked. There was a nice gladed section through the aspen trees at the bottom before a traverse back to the base. Crested Butte was a fun place to ski, and definitely lived up to its reputation. These are true double black diamond runs: variable terrain, variable snow conditions, steep, rocky, and very difficult! Some of them when you see them from the bottom you can't believe anyone would ever ski it, no wonder why they have hosted the World Extreme Championships 14 times!


First Climb of 2006

It had been a while since I had gotten in any peak climbing, and the opportunity came up to get a chance for a January fourteener, so I decided to give it a shot. Despite all of the snow we have been having in the northern and central mountains, the southern mountains have actually been really dry, the Sangre de Christo's in particular. In fact in New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley (in the Sangres), only has about 20 of their 110 runs open, and mostly on manmade snow. The Colorado Sangres are in the same boat, and despite the calendar reading January, conditions for climbing are more akin to October. My friend and I met at the trailhead for Kit Carson Peak at 6am, and started off before sunrise on the trail. We continued up the trail as the sun rose, and reached an area of an old forest fire. This area has a lot of fallen trees, some of which make nice balance beams, others of which you have to climb over to keep following the trail. At the end of this burned area we got a good look at the famous south ridge known as The Prow. This was not our route as it a 5.8 technical rock climb, but it was an impressive sight to see! Our route was still a steep route, the southwest face, directly alongside The Prow. The lower slopes had a little snow on them, but were class 2 and easily negotitated. The slope then started to steepen into a class 3 slope. Overall there was over 1000 feet of scrambling on this face. The last 100 or so feet started to steepen and actualy were class 4. The difference between class 3 and class 4 is subtle, basically most people would face in to downclimb a class 4 pitch, while they could face out on class 3. At the top of this wall we reached the Kit Carson avenue, a long ledge that wraps the mountains upper cliffs to reach easier terrain. There was some snow on this ledge, and I am sure in a normal winter it would have made passage too difficult, but we were fortunate to be able to make it smoothly to the final summit pitch. This gully is an easy class 3 which flattened out just before the summit. From the summit we had a great view of the surrounding valleys over 6000' below us. We descended an easier path, a steep snow filled gully known as the south couloir. This gully is no steeper than a black diamond ski run at any of the local resorts. There was some snow, but it wasn't too deep. A couple of places we sunk to our knees, but being prepared for winter climbing I had on my ski pants and stayed warm and dry. The hike out was long after our climb, and by the time we reached the trailhead the sun had set once again. That is one of the problems of winter climbing, short days! It was worth it all to get a peak that normally is considered too tough to climb in the winter, our names were the first ones in the register for 2006, so that was something nice as well.

After a long but dry and clear day climbing, the drive home actually had some snow in Leadville, once again the northern and central mountains keep piling it on, while the southern mountains continue to be in a drought. Here we are at 175% our normal winter snowfall for this time of year, but down south they are under 50 in some parts. Incredible what a difference geography can make, I guess the storms coming from the NW just can't get over the big mountains in the middle of the state to get down south. Today was a day of rest after beating myself up with a long hike, then tomorrow it is back to the grind!


Happy New Year

Well the visit home for the holidays went well. It is always kind of hectic running around, and unfortunately at Christmastime a lot of people I would like to visit are out of town, so I apologize if I didn’t get to see you. I made it back up into the mountains safely; somehow I managed to fly back in between snow storms and had smooth sailing over the mountain passes. The next couple of days were icy and snowy and had a lot of accidents on the highways including a pair of jack-knifed tractor trailers that closed Vail Pass so I was glad I traveled when I did to avoid that mess. With my pass blacked out for the holidays it wasn’t too bad to be at work. Still blacked out on Saturday I did a bit of shopping instead, including finalizing ordering my new fridge and bathroom vanity. This is next phase of home renovation, courtesy of this years Christmas bonus. Sunday it was back to the slopes, and with the minimal crowds at Beaver Creek (I guess they all had too much fun on New Year’s Eve) I was able to get a full day of skiing in half a days time. I was able to get in about 15 runs in just 4 hours, including most of my favorites at the resort. There was some new snow overnight to the tune of about 4 inches, but with the minimal crowds fresh tracks were easy to come by most of the morning. They now have the site of the World Cup races open for public skiing again, and that was pretty fun, especially with the new snow on top. They ice the course down for the racers, so usually it takes close to a month after the races before they get enough natural snow to soften it back up for normal people to enjoy. Even then, as it gets skied it can sometimes have a few icy patches, especially in some of the steeper sections that don’t hold snow as well. Monday was the observed holiday, so I headed over to Vail hoping the crowds would have headed back to Denver to fly back home. Unfortunately that was not the case, and the lift lines were surprising long. It wasn’t too bad though, the lift lines sort of acted as a forced rest in between runs. This was the first time this season I had been there when the full Back Bowls and Blue Sky were open, so I was able to ski a lot of the areas for the first time this season. Despite some of the crowds in the lift lines, the majority of the runs I was on were not that crowded, I guess that is one of the benefits of skiing the steeper stuff, it scares off a lot of the masses. It was kind of funny actually, from the lift you could see the whole bowl and 90% of the people were on the small swatch of groomed run down the middle, while the rest was virtually empty. I guess they wanted to be able to say that they skied the Back Bowls before they went home from vacation. To my surprise there were still some fresh tracks to be had, but those needed to be earned. The farthest out of all of the bowls is Mongolia Bowl, which is reached via a traverse and a platter style surface lift. From the top of this lift you can traverse the catwalk to reach the bowl, or hike to the ridge and gain some extra vertical for your descent. I chose the latter, because the slopes above the catwalk were largely untracked for the day. This turned out to be a worthwhile hike as I was able to get boot deep fresh tracks above the main part of the bowl. The rest of the resort was in good shape too, even though it was all tracked out there weren’t really any serious moguls and the snow was soft and easy to carve. Hopefully these conditions continue, so far we have had a great early season, and judging by the crowds here over the holidays is seems that business was good for the resorts.