Descent Route: Northeast Face
April 3-4, 2006
Ski descent #18
*** Trip report continued from Sunshine Peak page.
One of my favorite aspects of the fourteeners is the altitude itself, specifically spending as much time as possible as high as possible. The mile long ridge walk between Sunshine and Redcloud keeps you above 13,700? the entire time, and you can almost feel acclimatization taking place in your body while your up there. As we approached the top of Redcloud Peak, our ski line was again hidden from view. Like on the west side of Sunshine, the west face of Redcloud was barren and rocky. When the view down the Northeast Face finally appeared, we were rewarded with another magnificent ski run. Similar in many ways to the face we had just skied on Sunshine, the Northeast Face of Redcloud Peak gave great snow, a very steep 40-degree pitch, and a line that was sustained for 1300?. We again set up for some film shots, and after waiting for twenty minutes for a blue hole in the sky to appear, I dropped in on my final run of the day. Jon followed me down the face, and we wrapped around the ridge to the south to meet Mike, who skied the north side of the mountain.
Now it was time for the long ski/ walk out to the car. Because the afternoon had been so warm, the snow was now totally unconsolidated and we continually broke through to the ground. Frustrated yet happy, we arrived at the Silver Creek Trailhead, where we had stashed our hiking shoes in the bathroom. After a quick break to down some Red Bulls and Clif Shots, we continued descending the last three and a half miles down the road to the truck. It was exhausting work skating across the flats of the Shelf Road. I reached the dry part of the road and switched to the hiking shoes, stopping long enough to throw on my iPod with some Led Zeppelin cranking for the last hours walk.
We arrived back at the truck at sunset, exactly 12.5 hours after starting out. Today was a long day, time wise, but fairly easy technically. Still, we were very tired, hungry, and ready for a real meal. We drove quickly into Lake City, knowing that most places close around 7 p.m. By the time we arrived the only establishment that was open was a bar, and they were only able to serve us two frozen pizzas. We fired those down, and went looking for a hotel. I had stayed at the Matterhorn Motel before, but it was closed, as was every other place in town. Dejected, we drove out of town, found a patch of dirt on the side of the road, and set up our tents to get some sleep. A bed and pillow would have been better, but sleep came easily, and at 11 p.m. we were out
P.S. As I drove into Lake City after climbing Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks, my cell phone lit up with many voice and text messages. You know that feeling when you all of the sudden see lots of voice messages on your phone? Well, I knew something bad had happened. My good friend Doug Coombs has died in a skiing accident in France. Most of you have probably already read the news. Doug was a real inspiration to me, and one of the most passionate people I have ever met. I have known him since first skiing with him in Las Lenas, Argentina in 1995, and most recently spent a week in Bella Coola with him in February, filming for a new ski documentary on the history of big mountain skiing. Doug was careful, calculated, smart, and confident in the mountains, and I enjoyed every moment I ever got to spend with him. The thoughts and wishes of my family go out to Emily and their young son, David. I have a family as well, and losing a friend like Doug really puts what I?m doing out here on the Colorado 14ers in perspective. While the mountains are almost always fun, they can be dangerous and deadly. My goal with this project is to ski these peaks safely, and I?ll now do so carrying Doug?s memory with me.
Thursday, April 6, 2006
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