Intro/StatsTucker Mtn (12421')-unranked
Jacque Pk attempt (13205')- CO Rank 481
January 1, 2007
5.7 miles RT, 2500' gain
via east slopes
Participants: Layne Bracy, Rob Steiner, and Kevin Baker
The forecast for New Years Day looked great for a climb and I was itching to find an accessible, reasonable day on a 13er as time is ticking away for acclimating for Kili. I sent out some invites looking for takers and Layne Bracy and Rob Steiner were up for some punishment. Every time I have skied at Copper I have admired the ascetic ridgelines of 13er Jacque Pk to the s.w. It stands pretty much by itself on the southern edge of the Gore range and offers a couple safe, reasonable ridge routes in calendar winter if the snow is right.
I was kind of worried at how well I would feel on this hike, as I only got 2 1/2 hrs of sleep from the New Years festivities and was nursing an annoying cold. I met Layne and Rob at the exit 259 park-n-ride on I-70 and we carpooled in my car from there. This was the first time Layne and I had hiked with Rob and we all had a nice time together. We joked at the start how often Layne and I end up getting into an epic death march or more than we bargained for, so we gave Rob a disclaimer. Of the 9 hikes Layne and I have done together, I would say 6 of them would fall under these categories!
In researching this peak, it looked like the most reasonable route with deep snow would be via its' s.e. ridge, although it would mean trespassing on the Climax mine property. Another option that Layne saw on Kane Engelbert's fine summitpost page was the n.e. ridge, which involved going over unranked 12er Tucker Mtn. I noted a mining road on the map that could get us to the base of Tucker Gulch, but it must not be plowed because there was no sign of it off Hwy 91. We turned around and parked at pullout adjacent to a s.w. trending road at 10200'. The road was gated but plowed, so we decided to snowshoe up the east slopes of Tucker Mtn and do Jacques' n.e. ridge. We probably should have continued on the road to the ridge adjacent to Tucker Gulch, as the snow would probably be shallower there with easier access to the s.e. ridge.
The Monster WallowfestI didn't have my thermometer, but temps were probably in the single digits as we started out at 7:36am. The gate was posted, but we were only going to follow the road a short ways before plunging into the woods. We left the road after about .6 mile, and the easy walking was over. The snow was not quite as deep as we feared initially, but it quickly deepened and was bottomless sugar snow with no support. The slope steepened as we entered the trees and Layne was the first to be the unfortunate trail breaker.
I have done a few brutal snowshoes in winter, but this one ranked right up there as one of the toughest. A climb of 1400' in only .7 mile awaited us in the trees, and it only got worse the higher we climbed. We took turns every 10-15 minutes breaking trail. It was amazing to see the contrasts in the level of effort between the front man and the sweep man. I was hardly breathing in the back but was in serious oxygen debt up front. Layne probably did the best job with his long legs. It would sometimes take me 4-5 seconds just to take one foot forward and it was comical when you fell. I clamored onto a log with a little cornice over it and it busted off sending me into the depths. The followers were either feeling sorry for the leader or laughing!
After what seemed like an eternity, we reached our temporary victory breaking treeline at 11800' in a record time of 3 hrs, 10min from the road, a whopping pace of .22 mph! I felt like I was going .001 at times. We were hoping to find windswept talus slopes, but there was still some postholing to be had.
Our next problem was trying to figure out how to get around Pt 12337, the lower summit of Tucker. The conditions didn't look favorable for a direct assault up it's steep east slopes, so we contoured around to the north side where we found a more wind scoured slope.
The problem is this put us inside Copper's ski boundary, and as we topped out a ski patrol guy approached us. He told us we shouldn't be up here and radioed his foreman to see if we could proceed. The foreman was nice and was impressed that we had made it up here from Hwy 91 and said we could proceed to Jacque at our own risk. The employee warned us of considerable avy danger on Jacque's east slopes. We told him we would gain the n.e. ridge ASAP and would make a call on the top of Tucker when we could get a better look.
We followed snow cat tracks to the mellow summit of Tucker, arriving around noon to a depressing view. Jacque was only about a mile away in direct distance, but there was still plenty of snow to contend with. On the map, it looked like you could easily gain the n.e. ridge without avy risk as the contours were wide, but it looked different from a mile away. It looked like we would have to traverse below slopes of at least 30 degrees, and there were only a few pockets of exposed rock visible. We all agreed today wasn't the day to try it with this risk combined with the time and being hammered from the slog. The views halfway made up for our futile attempt as they were exceptional on this bluebird day.
We watched some skiers as we had lunch and headed down around 12:25. We let the ski patrol guys know we decided to bail as we headed back over to Tucker's false summit. The descent was pretty annoying as anticipated as the bobsled run down our massive trench commenced. I had to use the aspens as tree belays at points to keep my balance. We made good time in our trench and were back at the car at 2:25. It's safe to say that if we would have continued to Jacque we would have been down well after dark. Our trench to Tucker may be there for a few more days, so get your discount tickets while they last!