Skiing the Last Weekend of August

I missed skiing in July, otherwise I would have skied every month this year. I have a friend that has skied 24 straight months, very impressive. But in the depths of summer you really have to earn your turns.

I love that Eric is always trying to get me out, but when Eric hit me up to hike to Isabelle Glacier in the Indian Peaks I tried to find something else to do. A full day of hiking with my skis on my back is not my favorite activity. But when I didn’t have anything else to do I said what the hell.

Eric Poore and his roommate Steve picked me up at 6am to head to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, and by the time we get to the trailhead the parking lot is overflowing. We finally find a spot an additional mile away from the trailhead and start booting it past Lost Lake and towards the Isabelle Glacier.

Steve and Eric greet the sun with skis. Note Eric’s broken wrist. 

Lake Isabelle looking pretty low

Steve and I took the riverbed instead of the meandering trail. I have a condition where I hate meandering trails and try to go in the straightest line possible. 

Eric and Steve try to decide what they want to ski and how many times. We ended up skiing the small ribbon between the two glaciers.

A small alpine lake, Eric debated “pond skimming” it.

Higher alpine pond. If it were a few feet fuller I think it would be a pretty incredible infinite pond.

Shoshoni Peak’s South Buttress over Isabelle Glacier. There are several 5.10 trad routes up there that would be cool to do 

 It was a long 4.5 mile hike in. There’s a lot of almost flat walking interrupted by steep shelves that gain you elevation. Once we reached the boulder field it was scrambling over surprisingly loose boulders that kept attempting to dump you into dark pits and crush you.

Eric and Steve pull out glacier crampons from their packs…I didn’t even consider that as an option. So instead of try to toe point in my ski boots, I elected to keep my approach shoes on and climb the granite slab to the top of the couloir.

Eric climbing with only one functioning hand.

The couloir kept going up and to the right pretty far beyond what I could see from here. 

After shooting Eric from a perch where I thought would be a great vantage to see them skiing down, Eric informed me that there was a lot more couloir and I should get higher. I climbed further up the slab until it cliffed out. I had a few different options for how to climb the cliff, but only one looked doable with skis on my back. The rock on the slab had been bomber granite, but the cliff disintegrated into a band of molting rock. Every move I did I pulled off several loose rocks before committing to it. I climbed up the constriction a couple different ways and kept down climbing because I didn’t feel good about the moves and the prospect of falling. Finally, after again trying to downclimb another way I figured out a stemming move that allowed my skis to fit under the roof and put me in a good position to pull up a flake to top out. At the time this crux felt like alpine 5.7/5.8 to me, but it was probably enhanced by the fact that I couldn’t do a lot of movement with the skis on my back. I was psyched to be out of that constriction and to the top of the couloir where I could see Steve and Eric getting ready to ski.

Steve skiing in style

Eric running it out with Lake Isabelle in the background. The mountains were incredibly hazy, filled with smoke from all of the wildfires around the west that week. 

 I downclimbed a loose band of the cliff to get down to the snow, put my boots and skis on, made several glorious turns in the sun softened snow which might have taken me 60 seconds to descend, pulled up next to Eric and Steve to celebrate the awesomeness we just partook, and quickly took my boots off. I think I might have been in my ski boots for a total of 120 seconds, probably my quickest record yet! We then ‘skied’ down the scree field in our approach shoes and made the 4.5 mile hike out, our A-Frame skies hitting the back of our calves the entire way out (seriously, there’s got to be a better way!).

Eric descends through a field of alpine tundra flora

As always with these kinds of trips, mostly type 2 fun, we were psyched to get back to the car. But also, as always, we can’t wait until our next adventure. It will probably be to ski the glacier behind Eric in the above photo.