Route: Southeast Face to Outward Bound Couloir
Team: Ted, Chris Davenport
We weren’t going to get anything done sitting at home— I agreed with Dav’s thought. It was December and he had a short list of peaks left to ski and when he mentioned the Sangres, well, I needed most of them too, so I was in. Which peaks would have snow? It was so early in winter, we would just have to go and see.
The long drive to Westcliffe ended with a bummer of a view of Humboldt Peak, through the binoculars we could see there wasn’t enough snow. The Crestone Needle looked pretty bad as well. Southward we drove where we noticed Little Bear looking pretty rough, maybe filled in just enough to put a ski descent together, maybe not. Then we saw Blanca looking real desperate. The day so far was real disappointing and now it was getting dark and we weren’t yet with a plan. The only remaining peak that we both needed to ski was Kit Carson, but we couldn’t catch a view. Since the others were definitely out, we decided to go up to Kit Carson, and keep our fingers crossed.
Earlier in the week I saw some recent pictures from Willow Lake and it looked snowy, which was reassuring. We wouldn’t know about the conditions higher up the mountain though, in the Outward Bound(O.B.) Couloir or the southeast facing summit section, until we got there. It would be kind of a gamble.
After spending the cold December night on the ground of the Willow Lake trailhead parking area, we were up well before dawn, making the three hour hike up to the lake. Soon enough, from high in the basin, the O.B. couloir came into view and it was all filled with snow, which was great to see. We made our way up, knowing that at its top the Southeast Face and summit would finally show itself and we’d know if our efforts today would be rewarded with a ski from the top. We’d also finally catch some sun, it was cold.
Totally psyched is an understatement, as I reached the col and saw the snow loaded summit I looked back to Chris and he knew what I knew— we would get this one today. I recalled reading somewhere Lou Dawson needed six or so trips to get this one done as his final peak, and here we were, taking a chance and nailing it on our first try, in mid-December no less. It was still fall according to the calendar. I felt pretty fortunate.
On the summit we were cold but excited and the turns off the top were some of the best I’ve found high on a 14er— light new snow. Back down to the col we skied where the descent down the O.B. was quick. It was getting late and the winds had picked up. Before long we were back down at the lake and then cruising back to the truck, arriving just before dark.
We drove home that night, happy with our decision to go for it despite uncertain conditions- even a speeding ticket on Hwy 285 didn’t phase Chris (read his take on the day here). Sometimes you just have to go and see what you find. You’re not going to get anything done sitting at home.