Intro/StatsMarble Mtn (13266')
Sangre de Cristo Range
9.4 miles RT, 4500' gain
From South Colony Rd. (8900')
Participants: Pete Krzanowsky & Kevin Baker
My boss gave me a comp day for working on a Saturday this month, so I decided to use it on a mid-week hike when the forecast was nice. "Nice" is a relative term in the high country though. I enjoyed a nice snowshoe outing in the Sangres with my wife, cousin, and friends over the weekend, so I decided to head back and take advantage of the decent snow conditions. Pete was the only taker for this mid-week hike, and it turned out to be a classic with views I will never forget.
Pete and I left C. Springs and we noticed some spindrift coming off some of the buildings. Not a good sign! We made the familiar drive down to Westcliffe and made our way up our old friend South Colony Rd (CR-120). The road is plowed to CR-121 at 8600'. I put the 4Runner in four low and decided to see if I could get to the pullout just beyond the 2WD trailhead. I followed a snowmobile track for a bit until the wheels started sinking. We called it good at 8900'. It was entertaining going down this as there wasn't enough room to turn around without getting stuck!
Easy Street Down Low
As expected, it was just a bit nippy as we were out in the open with a brisk n.w. wind blowing. We set out at 6:40am, enjoying not only a snowmobile track but also a recent snowshoe track. I got by with gloves but my fingers were stinging for the first few minutes. Once in the trees, we quickly warmed up and got rid of a layer. We enjoyed the fine track all the way to the Rainbow Trail 1.75 miles up the road. This place sure looks different in winter! Our snowshoe friend didn't do us a favor and head up the Rainbow Trail, so we decided to hop on the Krzanowsky Beeline Direct to the ridge since the Rainbow Trail wasn't broke.
We were quite surprised at the quality of the snow for late Jan on a north facing slope. There was 6 inches to a foot of powder on top of a pretty solid layer. Apparently the recent warming trend has really helped the snowpack here. Pete did a great job breaking trail to the ridge, and from there we continued to enjoy fine snowshoeing conditions. The bushwacking was pretty mellow as the trees were nicely spaced out for the most part. The trees were loaded with snow, making for some fine eye candy.
We were able to take longer shifts with the trailbreaking duties until we got higher up.
Into the Fray: Banshees & Spindrift & Peeps, Oh My!
As we neared treeline, the wind as expected began to pickup. Spindrift occassionally blew through the trees, so we knew things were about to change. As the legendary Ken Nolan would say, the banshees are on the prowl looking for some poor hikers to sabotage! The breaking got more strenuous as we climbed, but it still wasn't bad at all. We made great time to treeline at 11600', at which point we put on full body armor and loaded up with food and drink for the task at hand. Pete put on an extra pair of pants and I headed on up to stay warm. Into the fray we go and bullocks to the naysayers!
Discouraging view from treeline:
The NOAA forecast was probably spot on with the wind speeds as it was calling for 35-40 mph gusts. To combat this, we tried to stay below the ridgecrest on the leeward side in search of a wind shadow, but there wasn't much of one. We got our first view of the Crestones along the ridge and it was absolutely jaw dropping. I made an extra effort to get a good shot of it trying to keep my hands still and it paid off. This is why I hike in winter!
On a nice day, you can enjoy this view all the way up the ridge. Bummer that we had to stay a bit below the ridge, but the summit would give us a fine reward for our efforts. For some reason I was feeling really good today. I'm not sure if it was the 5 Peeps I ate, a Rock Star energy drink, or a fine ravioli dinner the night before. I ran out of gas though about 200 feet below the summit as the battering was taking its toll. The rest step did the trick though, but the summit didn't seem to get much closer. We finally topped out at 11:40. I must say this is this was the most spectacular view I have had on a winter summit. Here's a video of the final few steps to the summit and the inspiring view you get when you top out.
It was worth the price of admission!
Broken Hand Peak & The Crestones from Marble summit:
Milwaukee cloaked under a winter mantel of snow:
The views in winter are sure worth the effort! We only hung around for about 10 minutes or so before heading down. Pete stayed on the ridgecrest so his small frame could be blown down like a kite while I plunge stepped down a sastrugi snowfield that was fun. We retrieved our snowshoes and enjoyed a nice descent down the ridge. The only problem was the wind had obliterated most of our tracks, so we had to break trail again. We rode the MSR bobsled run down to the road and kept our snowshoes on the rest of the way, arriving back at the car at 2:35pm. I would highly recommend Marble as a safe, virtually zero avy risk (as long as you stay on the ridge) winter hike with a staggering summit view that is hard to beat.
Parting shot of Marble: