Life as a twentysomething in the West (with a small stop on the East Coast)

The End of a Season… or is it?

I wrote this post three months ago, but didn’t have time/pictures to post until now. However, now that I’m on a blogroll, I’ve been shamed into ignoring all my grad school work and making this a top priority. Enjoy!

Well, the ski season has wrapped up, at least for the time being. Now that I’ve just watched Teton Gravity Research’s trailer for their new ski film, out this coming fall, I’m itching to get back out there. I’ve never skied in July or August, but this could be the year that happens, all thanks to the record snowfall. If only these 90*F days would go away, it might stick around a little longer!

Well, we’ve made the best of it, hitting a good line on James Peak (Sky Pilot):

Heading towards the peak. Photo: A.Mention

Hiking Jamaica Plains, with Grays & Torreys in the background

Looking north over the Continental Divide

First turns for Andy M, on the new Dynafit setup

Andy G. takes the 55* entrance in stride

Me through the mouth of the couloir

Climbing out of the cirque. Photo: A. Mention

I was feeling less-than-stellar this weekend, possibly due to a vaccine reaction. This didn’t hold up our plans for making it a “super sport” weekend, however. As soon as we got food in our system in Idaho Springs we were off to Buena Vista to meet Matt and Heidi for a Class 3/4 whitewater adventure in the Brown’s Canyon section of the Arkansas. Despite three out of the four paddlers spending some time in the 32* whitewater, a good time was had by all. Needless to say we were exhausted, and when our early alarm went off the next morning, we opted instead to sleep in and ski Independence Pass later in the day. In the meantime, we dawdled a little bit.

Trying to get the kite to fly, on a beautiful morning in Twin Lakes.

We finally moseyed our way towards the pass, only to find ourselves in decent company with a fair handful of backcountry skiers who were happy to point us in the right direction. During the climb up, Andy and I looked to the south and saw… beauty. In mountain form. A perfect, glorious looking couloir just brimming with snow. Grizzly Peak A, at 13, 988 ft, is the closest “almost” 14er in Colorado, and in fact was listed as one until the USGS measured it again in 1980 and gave it the elevation it bears today. Bears, get it? :)

Grizzly is the prominent peak in the distance with the wide stripe of snow from the summit. Photo: A. Mention

Skiing corn & suncups of doom on Independence Pass, June 2011. Photo: A. Mention

Well, we couldn’t exactly look at something like that and not possibly attempt it. MaryClaire was finally in town (in nearby Carbondale) and after some research and a failed attempt to climb Dead Dog, we left for Carbondale on Friday afternoon.

Heading up Steven's Gulch towards Dead Dog. Photo: A. Mention

Andy and me approaching the beast. Photo: M. Dyson

Mark and Andy making headway.

Andy's view looking down Dead Dog. Photo: A. Mention

Mark, after navigating the "runnel of doom".

One of my only fine moments, thankfully Mark caught it. Photo: M. Dyson

We made great time, stopping to take a look at the overflowing, rushing, and frankly terrifying-looking Colorado rushing past Glenwood Springs. Of course, Andy wished he had his kayak. We arrived in Carbondale just past dark, got ourselves situated and packed, and set the alarm for very early the next morning.

Unfortunately, the temperature reading at 4 am was a toasty 40*F. As our plan was to try to do the double of Castle/Conundrum, it was not in the cards to try to go any further. We promptly turned around and went back to bed. At a proper hour, we headed up towards Independence Pass for our 2nd round, and the snow had melted significantly since our previous outing. Since I had the unfortunate accident of a liter of water spilling into one of my ski boots, and with Taiga injured from a tweaked muscle while sprinting around in the snow, I sat this one out while Andy and M.C. did a quick hike for some turns.

MC and Andy heading out.

Fortunately, the trailhead for Grizzly is just off the pass, and we made good time and got our pick of campsites.

Campsite win

Then, it was time for bed. Another early morning…

Me, MC heading up towards Grizzly, pre-dawn. Photo: A. Mention

For an incredible first view of the peak.

First light, with ominous clouds, on Grizzly.

Climbing up, skins were doing the trick for a while

The clouds were threatening, and leaving Taiga at the trailhead was stressful. Luckily, everything worked out for the better. Despite some suncups at the top (it was late June after all), most of the descent was actually in decent shape.

MC and Andy at the top

Looking down the first few turns. Nice and steep.

Andy navigating the suncups of doom at the top

Nice turns in softer snow

MaryClaire rockin' the tele turns

The author through the apron. Photo: A. Mention

MaryClaire at the end of the run.

An incredible descent to knock off the list. I feel that I could be here for a lifetime and not experience all the great skiing in this state.

A great day!

And it looks like there’s still some more snow to ski. Or, alternatively, we can pack our bags and head into the blizzards occurring in South America this time of year. That’s what Sweetgrass Productions has been up to for the past two years. I’m excited to see people skiing/boarding backcountry in some of my favorite mountains in the Andes.

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