We caught a really good view of the 13,000 foot summits last week on our flight to CB for the Grand Traverse. Armed with a couple of photos and a good idea of the terrain having skied up in the Ashcroft area for so many years, we finally went out to get them checked off the list.
After mapping it out in advance we knew it would be a fairly long backcountry tour, about 16 miles and with 7000 vertical feet gained. We determined it was more prudent to first set our sights on Taylor Peak by itself and then assess the weather, temperatures, and time, before deciding if it was reasonable to go for Star Peak too. We’d be happy to just get the one peak skied if that’s all the conditions allowed.
Lucky for us it was a cold morning, the first in a while, and as we headed up towards the broad North Ridge of Taylor Peak, 13,435 ft., we got an added blessing with the arrival of wind. Normally these conditions would be a bit of a bummer but we were kind of happy about it because it meant things might not get too hot, and that we might be able to climb Star as well.
Without getting ahead of ourselves, we made our way towards the windy summit of Taylor, bumping into some friends who were staying at the Opa’s Hut nearby and had the same idea. Four of us reached the top of Taylor in driving winds. Our friends dropped in off the east side, and Christy and I clicked into our skis and headed down the Southeast Face, which put us in a great spot to take a break, have something to eat, and assess.
Going for Star Peak just made sense. The time was early, the temperatures were still pretty cold, and the snow was firm. Our planned route up and down was on the North Ridge/Northeast Face which wouldn’t get much direct sun. So after a quick break to eat, we started up.
We could skin up to a col where we could look back down on the Aspen side of the mountains, and from there we put on crampons to boot up the North Ridge to the summit. It was the first time we’ve been climbing steep snow this year and it felt good to be back doing what we love. Once at the top we could see Crested Butte more closely than we could Aspen, it felt like we were pretty far from where we started.
We poked our way down along the North Ridge. It wasn’t the prettiest skiing but we were concerned about wind slabs so we opted to follow a safer line (though less aesthetic) down and along the ridge we climbed. It got us down off the steep face, and with that we had managed to finally ski Taylor and Star. Now all we had to do was climb up over a nearby col to then ski back down Cooper Creek, towards Lindley Hut, and then back to the truck down in Ashcroft.
That final ski was actually the best of the day, a great finish to an awesome tour. Hopefully we have more days like this in the spring season.
Here’s a Trimble Map of the day-