Add Heading HereOn Saturday, December 16, 2006, at 6:00 a.m., Larry V. and I left my apartment in Golden. We arrived at the summit of Hoosier Pass and were on the trail by around 8:00. We were greeted by a light breeze and temps in the 20s. We headed up the Continental Divide towards our mountain, stopping frequently to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery behind us of Mt. Bross, Mt. Lincoln, North Star, and Quandary in the morning light. The snow deepened and we quickly put snowshoes on. Soon we broke out on top of a small peak and stashed our snowshoes in a safe place where they wouldn’t blow away. The wind had really picked up by then. We met another group that was headed for Hoosier Ridge. Then we continued on towards Mt. Silverheels, braving the strong winds. We had to drop down a few hundred feet into the basin between us, Beaver Ridge, and Mt. Silverheels. At this point I glissaded downhill just for the fun of it, and to practice my self-arrest skills with my ice axe. I discovered that I need more practice. =)
Then I hurried across the basin below Larry and met up with him on our connecting ridge. The wind continued to increase, and I was very grateful for my new balaclava. The wind was most severe on the connecting ridge—making it difficult to walk, stinging any exposed skin on our faces, and packing occasional gusts that made us hug the ground. As we crossed underneath the 230kV powerline, it sounded like a deafening roar. We continued bravely up the ridge to the face of Mt. Silverheels, which at this point looked like it might be too steep and slippery. But as we approached we discovered that it wasn’t too bad. It was mostly windblown rock, and we even found a trail. The mountain sheltered us from the brunt of the westerly winds, and we made it up to the summit at a little before noon. The wind was raging (~50 mph or worse?) on the summit, as expected. We took our gloves off long enough to take some photos; it was too cold to do anything else. I had planned to leave a register on top for the Colorado Mountain Club, but my hands were too cold to get into my pack, dig it out, sign it, and secure it. As I opened up my camera, the wind ripped my lens cap off my cold hands, and before I knew what was happening, it was twenty feet in the air and off the summit. Oh well…We descended, in awe of the beautiful scenery that God created, and before long we were back on the ridge that connected us to the Continental Divide. The wind was even worse—some gusts must have been at least 60 or 70 mph. Not having goggles, my eyeballs were repeatedly stung by windblown snow and ice crystals. We re-traced our steps from the morning back to the Continental Divide. This time I followed Larry’s steps from the morning (I had glissaded and was below him in the morning); between the wind and my lack of balance and coordination, I found it necessary to cut steps for myself with my ice axe to cross the hard-packed snowy slope; it was only 40 degrees at the worst, but I am inexperienced and not too confident on stuff like that. By 2:45, we made it to our snowshoes, braving extreme winds and blowing snow. We carried them downhill, and just before treeline put them on. We made it to the car by about 3:00, exhausted but grateful for our adventure, our safety, and our accomplishment!! This was my first summit in the month of December. Over eight miles, 3200 vertical feet, and a high 13er.