Descent Route: North Side
Friday May 26, 2006
Ski Descent #44
It has been more than a week since my last ski descent of a Colorado 14er, and I?m sure many of you are wondering what has been going on here. For those of you that live in Colorado you know what a hot, dry spring it has been. We have hardly had any measurable precipitation since April, and the snow is melting very quickly. Most rivers around the state are peaking weeks ahead of time, and all of this does not bode well for farmers, cities, and the ever-present fire danger in our state. Mother Nature blessed some parts of Colorado (The Elks, the northern Sawatch, and the northern mountains) with ample moisture this winter, while depriving the rest of the state from much at all. Then she turned the faucet off in April and we have been watching our beautiful snowpack disappear daily. With forty-four peaks done and only a chance to get one or two more this spring, my hope is that the moisture will return with a vengeance this fall and I will be able to finish the remaining peaks on my list by December 31st.
Today the road up to the summit of Mt. Evans opened for the summer season. This long, winding mountain road allows tourists, climbers, cyclists, and skiers access to the upper reaches of the mountain, and provides fantastic views of the eastern plains, the Front Range peaks, and the Ten Mile/ Mosquito Range peaks. Ted Mahon and I left
Aspen at 5:30 a.m. and drove over the now open Independence Pass. We ran into a group of Aspen friends on the summit of the pass heading out for some great skiing on Mountain Boy Peak. For those of you interested in skiing up on Independence, get up there soon because the snow is going quickly. We made the gate at the Mount Evans road at 8:00 a.m., just as it opened, and drove up to Summit Lake to scout the possibilities. As with Bierstadt, Pikes, and Columbia, my hopes were dubious for getting a ski descent off the summit today. Evans is about as bare as I have ever seen it for this time of year. The Forest Service gal at the road gate saw our skis and made a point of telling us several times that there was no snow up there for us skiers. But we had to give it a try.
At Summit Lake we were not surprised to see many of the couloirs that drop from the summit ridge pretty thin and dry at their tops. Our only hope was a round ridge that drops from the exact summit down to the road a quarter mile past the Summit Lake parking lot. So we continued driving to the summit and walked up the trail from the parking lot to the top. On top I was once again amazed to find a line that was skiable, even if it was thin and rocky. Excited and relieved, we walked back down to the truck and geared up for our ski descent. With boots on and skis on our backs we hiked back up to the true summit and prepared to tick Evans off the list. I stepped into my bindings on top of a summit boulder and jumped down onto the snow. Working slowly through the sparse patches, Ted and I connected the dots down to more extensive snow cover. Once there we enjoyed excellent spring corn snow for 1400? down to the road. At times we had to stop and traverse over grass patches to reach the next snow, but all in all it was a decent, complete descent with high quality snow. I certainly would have preferred to ski one of the steeper couloirs that descend from the summit ridge towards Summit Lake, but skiing these lines could not have been considered a true summit ski descent.
Happy and satisfied, we turned right around and began hiking back up our line of descent. The thought of thumbing a ride back up to our car crossed both our minds, but I?m glad to say we opted for the more noble deed of climbing back up to ?earn our turns?, even if it was in reverse order. We jumped back in the truck and sped back to Aspen, arriving home at 2:00 p.m. It was a short and unexciting day of skiing, but at this point I?m just trying to pick off a few more peaks to give myself more of a chance in the fall and winter. Next up will be Mount of the Holy Cross, next week, and with a fun group of friends. We are already busy working on our film of this project, which we hope to submit to the Banff Film Festival this fall, and have out on DVD in October.
Thanks for reading, and look for a report from Holy Cross next week. Have a safe and active Memorial Day weekend!
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