A bluebird day in March.
Relatively mild temperatures.
Low avalanche risk.
Moderately low winds (in the morning).
An incredibly handsome Continental Divide Thirteener.
Today is a fabulous day to be in the mountains and Mount Guyot, with a steeply cirqued and corniced east face, is a fabulous place to be.
Approaching the Northwest Ridge
The walk along the road past the winter closure gate is not particularly thrilling, but provides a good opportunity to chatter and get to better know your fellow climbers.
We begin the steep ascent to gain the Northwest Ridge. The chatter ceases. All I can hear is snowshoes on consolidated powder, my own labored breathing, and my pulse keeping time in my temples.
Northwest Ridge to Summit RidgeUpon gaining the Northwest Ridge, the views all around explode, particularly those to the south. Bald Mountain looms like a snowy giant. The smooth snow on the upper reaches of Frenchman Gulch is sliced by the curving paths of backcountry skiers who visited the day before. An existing bootpath broken by a previous climber eases our progress and we proceed along the plateau of the Northwest Ridge. The summit of Mount Guyot, unfortunately, looks a very long way off from this vantage point.
Soon the incline steepens and our conga line is kicking steps up a scree slope, thankfully a more pleasant process in the winter when consolidated snow acts like glue holding the scree in place. Jovial bantering again ceases and each climber moves upward, head down, tiring and breathing hard, but determined to reach the top.
Gaining the Summit
At last the slope relents. We’ve reached the summit ridge. A powerful wind knocks several of us off-balance. The east face is heavily corniced and the vertical drop down the steep eastern cirque hypnotizes. Our last few steps bring us to the summit of Mt. Guyot. We layer-up and grab quick bites of food and drinks of frigid water. Initially, many of us ignore the biting cold and bone-chilling winds, transfixed by the views. Swiveling in every direction we identify familiar peaks.
• North Twin Cone Peak & South Twin Cone Peak have almost no snow on them – not good.
• There’s Observatory Rock in The Tarryall.
• Look at the Sawatch Range, far in the distance.
• ...and Boreas Mountain, Mount Silverheels…just look at Bald Mountain, striking an especially formidable and handsome pose!
• The Tenmile Range shines in the mid-day sun, cloaked in winter snows.
• There’s the Eagles Nest Wilderness…you can recognize Buffalo Mountain by its prominent avalanche chutes.
• Continue swiveling now toward the Loveland Pass area. Wow, Torreys Peak and Grays Peak sure dominate the horizon in that direction.
Descent & Going HomeDropping off the summit ridge brings little relief from the cold breeze; the wind has picked up for the day and our descent is greeted by swirling spindrift. Down we go, alternately making fast progress plunge-stepping and picking our way slowly down tricky talus and scree.
We reach our snowshoe stash where, shielded from the wind, we suddenly experience spring conditions: warm sun and mushy snow. We continue down-ridge, into the trees, through deep, pillowy snow that has the group giggling, joking, laughing and frolicking like kids.
Our steep snow shoe descent brings us, at last, to the level snow path that returns us to the mouth of Frenchman Gulch where we remove our snowshoes for the speedy walk back to the trucks.