Descent Route: South Ridge To West Slopes
South Ridge to West Slopes
May 14, 2006
Ski Descent #41
Today was as easy as ski descents come on the Colorado fourteeners. I was up and down Mt. Bierstadt from the Guanella Pass trailhead in 2:35, and am writing this update from a coffee house in Idaho Springs. My family and I left Aspen two days ago and drove the RV over to Arapahoe Basin. We camped in the upper parking lot for the night, then got up at 6:30 a.m. and drove down to the main lot, where we parked front and center at ?the beach?, A-Basin?s spring-time party zone. The kids woke up to find we were parked only feet away from the chairlifts, and were excited for a day of spring skiing. The weather and snow conditions were ideal for a mid-May day, and we took full advantage of it, skiing until the kids were cooked. We ran into lots of friends in the parking lot and on the mountain, and I want to say ?hey?, to the guys that were parked next to us and have been following my fourteeners? progress all season. After a full day we drove over Loveland Pass and down I-70 to Georgetown, where we took the RV a few miles up Guanella Pass and parked for the night. Having my family along with me in the RV has been awesome, and we all vowed to do more family trips to places like Alaska, Scandinavia, and Europe in an RV.
I woke up at 7:00 a.m. this morning to the sound of a truck pulling in next to us. My friend Ted Mahon from Aspen drove over to meet me for a few more fourteeners. Ted and I had skied Pyramid, Sherman, and Quandary together, and would have done more this spring had Ted not been skiing in AK and then Greenland last week. I was psyched to have Ted along. As we pulled into the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead however, Ted?s stoke ceased to exist as we both stared at the dry looking west slopes of the mountain. Bierstadt has been a bit of a thorn in my side this season. I already tried it once back in early March, but turned back due to no snow. This time it did not look much better, but I was determined to give it a try and see what happened. Ted, on the other hand, chose the higher ground and went back to the RV for a coffee.
So I set out by myself, fired up to give Bierstadt a ?speed ascent? if nothing else. The snow on the summer trail was frozen hard, so I was able to make very fast progress up the mountain. I carried my skis and boots on my back, and hiked easily in my trail shoes. I passed a big group of eight or nine skiers making their way up the route, as well as a few hikers. At 10:00 a.m. I topped out, 1:34 after leaving the truck. To my satisfaction the east side of the mountain, which we could not see from the trailhead, had a lot more snow caked on it, and a nice cornice along the summit ridge. I spent a few minutes taking photos, and snapped a shot for two guys that came up to the top after me. Because I was alone and was in ?speed? mode, I got my gear together, scarfed a bag of Clif Shot Bloks, and began my ski descent.
Sticking to the summit ridge snow was easy. The ridge descends for four or five hundred vertical feet before a shallow saddle lead me to the right and down the West Slopes. At only one point did I have to walk across some rocks to link the snow together, and this was short. I skied low-angle, fast turns all the way down to the thick willow groves and the summer trail at 11,800?, where I put the skis on my back again and motored back across the broad flats to the truck. I finished the Mt. Bierstadt mission in 2:30, a good time and one that gave me a bit of a fitness test. I was glad to feel as though all the hard work I have done over the last month has paid off with a bit of strength and form in the mountains.
Ted and I are now headed to Pikes Peak to give the ?Y Couloir? route on the north side of the mountain a try.
Happy Mother?s Day Mom,Jesse, and my sisters Kate and Ashley! I love you.
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