PrologueMountains: Mt. San Luis (14,014’)
Route: Started at the Equity Mine (11,000’) TH and climbed the NE Ridge to summit.
Elevation Gain - 5200’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage – 14 miles (approx)
Crew: Sarah, Kevin, Dwight, Matt, Ben, Brian, Prakash (first 3 on snowshoes, last 4 on skis)
Time to summit - ~7 hours, Descent ~4:30 hours
The weather looked good for Saturday and finding no takers for Blanca I had settled on a resort skiing weekend when my friend Alyson told me about Kevin’s (shknbke on summitpost) plans to climb San Luis. I called him right after I hung up with her. An hour later I was driving to Creede with all my gear packed into WallE. I was anxious to climb with Kevin again after the Rosalie debacle. It would be cool to get out again with Sarah and Brian and to meet Dwight, Matt and Ben whose reports I’d often drooled over. San Luis in winter is not necessarily one of the easier 14ers to climb in a day in winter and I wondered how I’d fare in a group as strong as this. I met up with Sarah, Dwight and Kevin at Boogie’s Restaurant in Del Norte and we drove together from there to Creede. We reached the Equity Mine soon enough and were in bed by 10PM. Brian, Ben and Matt were expected at 11PM. I slept peacefully and woke up at 4:15AM. We were to begin hiking at 5. I ate my typical breakfast of two raisin toast + tomato jam sandwiches which are like spinach to me if I’m Popeye the sailor.
The ApproachWe started off up the trail at ~5:15AM.
We stayed above and to climbers left of the creek bed until we gained some elevation and curved right towards San Luis pass. We lost and regained some elevation crossing the creek.
We circumvented a ~12,500’ point to its right…
At ~7AM we glanced at San Luis for the first time… it looked very close but we were all quietly aware of the steep descent and much wasted elevation before we could make this summit and return… yet there was no griping or moping… this was a very cheerful, upbeat team throughout the day and an absolute pleasure to be out with.
The sun began its lazy voyage across the blue…
Looking back at the basin we emerged out of on our way over the pass…
At the top of the pass we broke for some food and water. Here the skiers shed our skins and prepared to ski off the cornice through low angle terrain into the basin below. The snowshoers began hiking down while we were gearing up.
The WallowWe skied down after the snowshoers and reconvened at treeline. We would ski through the trees and circumnavigate a small ridge to get to the base of the SW face of San Luis. There we planned to evaluate the snow in the gully and either climb that or an adjoining ridge.
The trees were thick and skiing through those was a blast. Ben skied past at one point yelling “This is like a powder day at Winter Park”. It wasn’t all downhill though and we eventually had to stop again to re-apply skins and struggle upwards breaking trail through deep snow. The snowshoers caught up to us here and followed the skin tracks to the base of the SW face.
The Climb and SummitWe broke for more food at the base of our ascent couloirs up the SW face. The snow looked good… nice and crusty for the ascent. We skiers skinned up the bottom part but shouldered skis and booted up most of it. Two of the snowshoers left their shoes at the top of our ascent couloirs at 13000 feet. We also broke for food at 13000. I brewed up some ramen noodles for the group as is the custom. We stayed here for several minutes and left at ~11AM. All of us skiers decided to haul skis to the top in search of a summit descent.
We all made summit a little before ~noon… it was a fantastic day up there. The wind was not too bad by winter standards and we were hoping for somewhat soft snow on the descent.
Centennial Peak (top 100 in Colorado) Stewart and Baldy Alto as seen from the summit of San Luis…
The DescentWe stayed long enough to eat and drink something, geared up and began skiing down the summit ridge to the top of our couloirs of choice. We took turns skiing the whole gully one by one… Ben enters the couloirs off the summit ridge and rips down it as the winds pick up…
After my first couple turns down the couloirs I lost a powder basket and was resigned to ski the rest with one and a half poles. The descent was a continuous snowline of ~3000 feet down to where we needed to wallow through trees once more with skins on.
More WallowingThe wallow through the trees was painful. Glop coated the base of our skins. Glop grew like an abominable plague… we pleaded with Glop to spare our lives… we threatened Glop even, but he/she (Glop is an asexual species and feminists may often refer to Glop as Glopita or Gloparelda) remained steadfast in his/her adherence to our skins… at times the buildup of Glop was so tall that we felt like we were walking on Glop-stilts… we realized later that although we loathed Glop in the field that day, Glop-stilts could potentially be of use to the skier in the manner that I have described below in pictorial fashion…
Hence, using Glop-stilts you may actually accelerate your elevation gain rather than be affected by it. Therefore you must strongly consider befriending the Glop… "Help Glop Help You"... avoid Glop-stopper wax.
Once out of the warm slush in the trees, the Glop situation improved markedly… it would be a tiring push through winds to the pass but we would not be weighted down by Glop anymore. At about 3:30PM we made it back up to the pass.
We took another break to remove skins, lock down, eat and drink. By 3:50PM we were ready to ski the last stretch down to the cars. We turned to look back once more at our ski line… (the turns depicted in the line are accurate to the best of my knowledge - not)
The rest of the way went very quick and we were back at the cars between 4:30 – 5 for a fantastic day out with a great group. We decided to go down to the Old Miners Inn in Creede for pizza and discussed the day, the Glop issue (and its immutable advantages) and old climbing stories, until it was time to depart in our respective directions.