I had lofty goals for my last big ski weekend of the year. Two 13ers and two 14ers. The weekend got off to a mellow start with Blue Peak
from Independance Pass as the goal. With cold temperatures forecast we didn't leave the pass until 7:30am. We meandered our way past Blarney Peak to Blue, everything sparkling with a fresh coat of white from the past storm. Only three inches but fresh, cold powder in June was a change from the past few weeks. We reached the summit of Blue in short order with the goal of skiing the Twining Couloir on its north face. There seemed to be several options for descent, we decided on the one with easiest entry and longest descent. Dust on crust was the sliding surface. Fun was had by all as we skied almost all the way to the Upper Hairpin Trailhead. An easy shuttle back to the pass meant we had 600 feet more descent than we climbed.
Here is a link
to GR's trip report on TGR.
Coca - Conundrum and Castle
After descending Blue I went into Aspen to get a bit of R and R before heading up the Pearl Pass Road towards Montezuma Basin. The goals for tomorrow being the Conundrum Couloir
and the North Face of Castle Peak
. My car didn't make it past the first creek crossing, so we decided to pack it in from there. After hitching a ride for another mile or so we reached snow and could go no further except on foot. Weighted down with heavy packs - tents, bags, skis, etc we crawled our way towards treeline and made camp at about 11,400 feet on the Montezuma Basin Road. Got to sleep early and woke up at 4:15am for an early start on the days goals. I had skied Castle's North face before but not the Conundrum Couloir so I was excited to make an attempt on it. After a couple of hours of hiking up the road we finally reached continuous snow and put on our crampons at the base of the basin headwall.
jcwhite showed up, moving very fast, and as luck would have it, had the same plan as I for the day. So we headed on up the couloir. The bottom was full of rough snow, the middle hard and icy and the top, which was the steepest section, perfect styrofoam snow for climbing. I really enjoyed the ladder as I tried to keep up with jcwhite.
We topped out to the right of the cornice. After chatting to drex27 (14ers.com) who was doing the same routes as us, and a vain attempt at waiting for the snow to soften (we gave up) we decided to ski the couloir. It was about 8am and we didn't want to miss our window for the north face. We entered the couloir skiers left of the cornice and after a couple of turns already reached the icy choke. I decided to side slip through this section as I prefered to live than riccochet between ice and rock. Finally near the bottom the snow softened up as we straight lined it to the base of Castle. As we switched from skis to crampons we had a great view of what we had just skied.
And then the climb began again straight up the north face couloir. It was very cold and windy. A couple of gusts had me digging in my ice axe and I was wishing I hadn't left my winter gloves in the closet. However we quickly reached the summit where it was much warmer. We quickly descended the north face couloir - 4 mins top to bottom! We then skied all the way to 11,600 for 2,600 foot of vert - not bad for June! Here is a link
to drex27's trip report on 14ers.com that has some pictures of us skiing Conundrum.
Chuting the Grizzly
At 13,988 feet Grizzly Peak
is almost a 14er, and I had been wanting to climb and ski the Grizzly Chute for a long time. So after abit more post COCA R+R in Aspen I met up with Seth and Scott at the Portal Campground at the end of the Lincoln Creek Road. We were on the trail by 6am and moved swiftly to make the summit by 9am. The route was popular - I think I counted between 15 and 20 others there that day.
We scrambled over to the summit to bag another one of Colorado's highest 100 and then we were down to business. We slayed the griz! The chute was styrafoam up top, turned to corn in the middle and fairly slushy by the bottom. Excellent skiing. Took the skis off after 2,800 feet of descent. I'm not very good with numbers but that added up for a weekend total of: 8,700 feet skied, 10,700 feet climbed and about 22 miles. Slightly less than two weekends ago but still a mega ski weekend especially for June.