Climbing and Skiing

Since that big storm we got two weeks ago it has pretty much been dry around the Vail area. Some warmer temperatures the end part of last week helped to further reduce our snowpack and ensure that skiing conditions would be less than adequate all weekend long. What to do? Well fortunate for me, two of my friends had some climbing plans in the nearby Tenmile Range this weekend and I was more than happy to skip a ski day to join them. We met up Saturday around 8am at the Mayflower Gulch trailhead. This trailhead is accessed by a paved road that is accessible year round as it is the main north-south route to connect Leadville and I-70. We started up the snowcovered old mining road in our snowshoes and shortly thereafter left the road to follow a snowshoe track along side the creek. Our goal was Crystal Peak (13,852'), a peak I had climbed before a few Augusts back. In order to get to Crystal, first you have to follow a fork in the creek drainage that takes you past the base of nearby Pacific and Atlantic Peaks. After a steep climb along this side creek we were in a large flat basin at around 12,500' where we trudged on through the snow. Soon we were past the neighboring peaks and ready to begin our ascent to the 13,220' saddle connecting Pacific to Crystal. There was enough snow here to connect patches of snow and leave our snowshoes on but we decided to store our snowshoes in some rocks for the rest of the climb. The upper ridge was mostly rocks as the wind had blown the snow away from the ridge crest. We followed the ridge over a 13,500' false summit and to the true summit where the cold winds kept us from taking much of a break. After a few photos it was back down to the saddle and our snowshoes where the wind was really blowing now. We put our snowshoes on and got down to a nice calm area in the flats before taking a break. The rest of the hike out was uneventful and we were back at the trailhead with daylight to spare at 4pm. After dinner together in Frisco we parted ways and my friends headed back to Boulder.

Sunday I got up early to meet some other friends from Boulder and some other areas to ski at Vail. We met up at the top of chair 3 and our group of 6 headed out to the back bowls. The snow here was just as expected, crusty. The bowls face south and had been hammered with the warm sun the week before only to freeze up now that the weekend had brought a return to chilly temperatures. We decided to head to Blue Sky Basin and find some areas where the sun doesn't get to the snow and were able to find some much softer and more enjoyable areas to ski. We took a break to barbeque at the picnic area atop Blue Sky and then started to work our way back to the front of the mountain before heading home around 3. Even though in some areas the conditions were less than ideal, Vail is so large that there are always some pockets of good snow to be had! It was a fun busy weekend out doing the things I like best, hopefully a few more of those will be in my future this winter!