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After Wednesday’s battle with Buckskin, my bedraggled body went to sleep not overly excited about another round of winter mountaineering the following day.
Thursday morning was a different story as I awoke refreshed and ready to meet Kiefer and Caroline for a tangle with Horseshoe. We made quick work of the now familiar drive along 285 through Fairplay and pulled onto the quiet Fourmile Creek Road. We almost made it to Leavick in December on the Sherman trip; hopefully we can do the same today. Nope, drifts of sugar snow stop us dead in our tracks at 11,000 feet. Oh well, it’s only a half-mile short of our intended goal.
We’re on the trail for another alpine start just after 9:00am. There isn’t much of a trench but it’s obvious where to walk. Be careful, that sinking feeling lurks just inches away for those who elect to stray from the packed line.
The road passes quickly and we reach the Horseshoe turnoff within an hour. The standard road-blocking snowdrift is there to greet us. Does that thing ever melt? From here we’re on our own. Treeline isn’t far off but the eerie feeling of postholing hell is ever present in my mind. Fortunately, the snow had been blown around and travel along this side road was enjoyable.
After a quick break, we head east through the trees towards Peerless’ east slopes. Mild breaking ensues, but we survive and reach treeline before any damage occurs. While looking for a spot to cache our snowshoes, Kiefer leads us across a snow-covered treed area. Whoompf! The mother of all postholes occurs and we find ourselves stuck in a mess of tree branches….and our snowshoes are caught somewhere down there. How do we get out of this trap? After a few minutes of struggling, we slowly revive ourselves from this demon’s trap. Back up, go around, and don’t follow Kiefer. Okay, that works, we should be just fine.
We cache the snowshoes at the base of the ridge and head up. Unfortunately, the devils are there to greet us. We walk for a couple minutes and then brace ourselves against the anger of the mountain gods. You want to fight for Horseshoe? Really? Go pick on someone else! Such is the life.
With growing dread, we approach the Horseshoe-Peerless saddle. If the winds are that bad down here then what’ll happen when we…Nah, I don’t care to ponder that. Let’s keep plugging away. To our much-welcomed surprise, the wind isn’t there to greet us on the saddle. What’s going on here? Better not ask, let’s go. With the appreciated weather break, we casually stroll up the ridge and reach the summit at 1:40. Not bad group, let’s go hide in the cabin!
Aw, what’s this? All the snow in the area has been blown into the cabin? And here comes the wind. This must be the work of the mountain gods, a dirty trick to say the least. Some water, a few summit shots, a bite to eat, and down we run! The winds are back, guess we weren’t quiet enough. Down the ridge we scurry, a short glissade here and there to help quicken progress. All the while, the wind is relentless. Who’d we bother? Don’t you know we’re leaving?
With the predicted arctic front steadily approaching, we return to our cache and plow our way back into the trees. Whew! The death march proves to be nicer than imaginable and we reach the truck around 4:30. Nice job guys.
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