The view from the summit of Mount Adams. Click for enlarged view.
As far as Colorado ski mountaineering is concerned, I’ve always considered the 3rd week in May to be my favorite stretch of time. The random weather that tends to sweep through the state earlier in the season usually gives way to a dry and sunny summer pattern. That in turn allows for cold clear nights and a reliable corn cycle on nearly all aspects and elevations. Up high, the frozen snow can be easily climbed and the trails at lower elevations are melted out which can allow for fast, early morning approaches. And when the temperatures are warm and the snow is in this spring cycle, you don’t need to carry as much gear and clothing.
When I look back to all of the years past, it seems like this 3rd week in May is perfectly designed for big days on the local high peaks. And this year was no exception, Christy and I headed out on a Centennial 13er road trip and skied five new summits in as many days. We started in Lake City with Unnamed 13832 and Half Peak, and then moved to Creede. We skied Phoenix Peak outside of that small town and continued east to Crestone, where we had an awesome day upon Mount Adams, and then wrapped it all up with an easy day on Huerfano Peak, in the southern Sangres.
It was the kind of road trip you might not appreciate until it’s over. We finished tired and beat up but loved every minute of it—there’s no better way to see the state up close than through these road trip/mountain adventures.
Back in January, Christy and I skied Unnamed 13811, outside of Lake City. The Centennial summit actually has a taller sibling, also unnamed, which we returned to here to start our peak bagging adventure. Located down the ridge from the 14er Redcloud Peak, Unnamed 13832 is skinable to its small summit and has ski lines on nearly every aspect.
We were late in arriving to camp the night before, which meant we were late in getting out of bed. One thing about this time of May is that it can be hot and early starts are required. We found ourselves a little behind the clock and ended up skiing mushy snow under building storm clouds.
Half Peak 13,841 ft.
Heading up Cataract Creek, a beautiful place.
Christy, Dav, and Half Peak’s summit. We went right up the snow and through the rocks to the broad summit plateau.
After skinning, 150 feet of booting brought us to the flat top of the moutain.
Skiing back down the East Face.
Phoenix Peak 13,895 ft.
Phoenix, the high hump just left of center, isn’t exactly what you’d call an exciting ski. Thankfully there’s a steep north and east face on it’s backside we were able to ski and then climb back up to the mellow face pictured here.
A closer view, the low angled south face is to the right, and our ski line fell from the summit down to the valley to the left.
Dav, off the summit.
A little Dav/Christy fist bump after the fun line from the top.
Mount Adams 13,931 ft.
Adams, the tall peak in center, and our direct ski line in plain view. Seen nearly 6000 feet below is the town of Crestone.
From above South Crestone Lake, our route presented itself- direct towards the summit.
We could skin to the base of the face and then had to switch to crampons for the final 1500 vertical.
On the summit! With some of the best views of the week.
We were all happy to get this one done, especially Christy.
The ski line faces northwest. Wind and the late-sun aspect didn’t allow the snow to soften.
Above the lake, where’s Waldo(Dav)?
In an effort to ski as far as possible and carry our skis and boots the least distance, Chris, Christy, and I often find ourselves abandoning the known trail to explore new exit routes on the snowier north sides of valleys. It may work for a short while, but the snow inevitably drys up and we find ourselves in a heinous bushwhack, isothermic snow, or willow traps. A joking declaration to the “North Side Crew” mocks our insistence that we can find a better way. The lesson– stick to the trail!
Huerfano Peak 13,828 ft.
And on the fifth day we headed up the Huerfano Valley to the Centennial peak that bears it’s name.
Tired from five consecutive days, we were thankful that the ascent was straightforward– we were able to skin all the way to Huerfano’s summit, here.
We’re each others favorite partners!
Our ski season is pretty much all wrapped up, our first running race is already upon us. Time to ease into summer.