Don Warbritton and myself decided to climb Crag Crest on Jan 24. This would be my third winter ascent of Crag Crest and Don's first. It would also be my first non-solo winter ascent of the peak.
The surrounding valleys had been blanketed with thick fog for the last several weeks. The Grand Junction area had been very cold with temperatures from well below to near zero for the past several weeks. While the valleys had been "fogged in" the mountains had been calm and sunny.
Once we left the Grand Valley on the drive the canyons and mesa were bathed in sunshine. We left the trailhead at 8:30 AM. The recent sunny and dry weather (but with a good snowpack and cold nights) made perfect snowshoe-ing conditions. The snow was firm enough not to sink too far yet soft enough to get a good grip with snowshoes while traveling up hill. Skiing the Crag Crest is very difficult and slow, so snowshoes are the perfered mode of travel in winter. We made the Crest rather quickly and took a small rest at point 11,112. The views and weather were just glorious. My previous two winter ascents were accompanied by high gale force winds and blizzard conditions. The crux part of the ridge was in good condition too, which made the traverse much easier than on my previous trips. We enjoyed the incredibly spectacular views all along the top of the ridge. The San Juans, Elks, West elks, Book Cliffs, and La Sal Mountains were all cloaked in their winter glory. We found a good place to glissade directly down to Butts Lake. Great glissade! Instead of following the summer trail back to the trailhead, we followed the snowmobile track directly accross the lakes and west to the Grand Mesa visitor center. It was then a short road walk to the trailhead. We had completed the 11 mile loop in 5 1/2 hours which isn't bad for winter on snowshoes. What a glorious winter day! Sure beats the fog back in the valleys!
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