Last Saturday, Anda, Christy, and I went on a little St. Patrick’s Day ski tour that circumnavigated our local Star Peak.
The 20-mile “Star Peak Traverse” loop is a pretty obvious linkup of established local trails. Start at Ashcroft and head up towards the Tagert and Green-Wilson huts, following the snow covered jeep road all the way to Pearl Pass. From the 12,705 foot pass, descend into the Crested Butte zone of the Elk Mountains, towards the Friends Hut. From the vicinity of the hut, make your way up to Star Pass, along the same route used by the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. Descend from Star Pass and continue along the Grand Traverse route, heading across Taylor Basin to Taylor Pass. A five mile descent down Express Creek Road will bring you back to the trail head at Ashcroft, closing the loop.
Which direction is better? It depends on what you want from the day. Since the Grand Traverse (GT) is coming up, we followed the route counter-clockwise to get a look at the mid-section of the course (Friends Hut to Taylor Pass) in the direction we’ll see it. Had we gone in the clockwise direction though, we would have passed by the Pine Creek Cookhouse, a real convenient beer-stop, as we finished. We ended up going there anyway, but it added a short skin up the road after we finished the loop.
As an added bonus to the day, as we got ready to start, Murray Cunningham dropped off two haggard-looking skiers who were heading back to the Butte via our same route. Our friend Pat O’Neil and Dave Penney, both prior GT winners, had started in Crested Butte at 9pm and completed the whole GT course, arriving in Aspen around seven. The 45-minute shuttle up Castle Creek Road was all the break they would get before heading home via Pearl, along with us. They were thrilled to have a couple of blond “domestiques” and a little peloton of sorts to help them back over the mountains. It’s an annual trip for those guys, one that we figured measured about 60 miles in length. That should explain why I called our day a “little” tour in the introduction. It’s no wonder the Traverse winners are usually from CB, they really put in the effort.