Spring Skiing: Citadel Peak

Springtime is the season for long walks with your skis. The snowpack is generally more stable and you can hit big alpine lines. A couple weeks ago, I went on two long walks with skis.

I first tried to get to Flattop Gully with my old roommate, forgetting how far back Flattop goes. We didn’t quite make it all the way to the gully but skied a fun north slope I’d assume doesn’t get skied very often because of how long the walk is. The exit is one of my least favorite I’ve done, second probably to Silver Couloir on Buffalo Peak.

Bindu Pomeroy, of Vail, and I had been trying to get out since we met at Outdoor Retailer. Three days before the Loveland Pass area received somewhere around 20 inches of new snow, and he thought Citadel Peak would still be good. I haven’t skied too much in that area, so was open to skiing something new.

I left my house at 2:30am to be at the trailhead at 4am. Bindu and his fellow split-boarder, Jon Adgate, show up a few minutes after me. We shuttle a car to the Herman Gulch Trailhead, where we’ll finish, and drive to the gate at Dry Gulch.

The moon, while not full, was bright enough that we didn’t need headlamps for the start of our skin. You follow a low angle road for about a mile before turning uphill, pulling up your heal risers, and walking up the steep creek – hearing the water running under the thin snow cover.  We had to traverse under a face that I would not want to be under in unstable snow conditions, then go straight up to the saddle between Hagar and a few false summits from Bethel.

I figured out with my Fritschi Ttecton binding, if I partially took it out of walk-mode the brakes would drop, which allowed me to walk almost straight up the hard-frozen steep face. I also found that this technique stops working when the sun warms up the snow, you just slide back down, the brakes sliding through like butter.

Bindu puts on his crampons for the final push, to the top of the rocky peak behind him

We walk the ridge and skirt to the northwest of the Citadel to find someone had oh-so-kindly already put in a boot pack up the steep snow slog. As we gained the summit ridge, we were finding the snow was softening up very quickly.

Looking to the northeast to Pettingell Peak

By the time we are set to go, a few wet slides and pilling are going off on east facing slopes. Bindu and Jon (carving in the photo above) choose the left route down the couloir (which looks far less steep at super-wide angle in the photo than it is in reality). After both of them are out of slide danger, I pick the shoulder on the right. It took me maybe 10 minutes to finish shooting and get set to ski and in that time the snow had warmed up considerably. I made a couple jump turns and set off a wet slide that pulled the top layer off the rest of couloir. I wait for it to settle before straightlinging out to the major slope. The east facing snow was some of the strangest I’ve ever skied in, both soft and crunchy, grabby and super fast. My skis sunk to ankle deep or so and the snow grabbed my tails, making it almost impossible to turn. I could make large sweeping turns which were not sufficient to control my speed. I’m not sure if I didn’t fully clip into my binding, but about halfway down the slope my right ski took off on its own. It took me too long to retreive it, wallowing in the wet snow in avalanche danger area. Getting my ski back on, I made it over to Bindu’s position, “Damn, it feels like I’ve never skied before!”. I hate that feeling. The snowboarders didn’t seem to have the same problem, claiming the snow was great for carving. I’m going to attribute it to their greater surface area and not sinking into the grabby mess (and not my lack of abilities…).

The ski out is 4 miles of generally downhill but very low angle skiing that goes by pretty quickly, except for the dirt patches you have to gingerly walk across. The last quarter mile or so we had to put the skis on the packs and awkwardly walk with ski boots (I guess the snowboarders less awkwardly walked in their more comfortable boots). High alpine adventures are fun, but I think I’m about ready to hang up my skis for the summer. It’s rock climbing and mountain biking season!

Climbing the East Face of Notch Top with Skis

I was supposed to be in Indian Creek, but scheduling got a bit messed up. So I was unexpectedly in Boulder for the weekend. My buddy Eric Poore hit me up and asked if I wanted to ski the East Face of Notch Top in Rocky Mountain National Park. I didn’t really know what that entailed, but I said sure.

The East Face of Notch Top

The trail to the base of Notchtop is relatively flat, but skinning over the iced over bootpacks was less than enjoyable. I decided I didn’t really want to do the traverse back.

Eric gearing up to lead a short rock pitch before gaining the snow climb

Eric races skimo, meaning he skis uphill really fast, skis down really fast, and repeats. He’s fit. He absolutely destroyed me on the bootpack. I asked him to stop so I’d have something to take photos of.

Photo Credit: Eric Poore. Fully loaded, climbing styrafoam ice with non-existent gear. The nut on my left was just good enough to stay in un-weighted.

Eric just below the 3rd pitch of ice. Most of the bottom section disintegrated as I kicked in.

Photo Credit: Eric Poore. Me slogging my way up the last pitch of snow to the ridgeline where we dropped into Notchtop Spire Couloir.
The giant cornice over the East Face. We tried to stay out from under it as much as possible.
View down Notchtop Spire Couloir and across to Flattop and Flattop Gully, which we climbed to get out of Odessa Gorge
The sun had been hitting the east and south faces pretty hard, and the conditions were pretty soft. We elected not to ski the East Face, but down the Spire Couloir, which skied pretty fantastically.

Eric looking back at what we just skied
Getting out of Odessa Gorge we decided to not climb the easy way out, the slope above us, but the “S” couloir of Flattop Gully. It was a bit longer, definitely steeper, but maybe more entertaining?
View from Flattop Gully of Notchtop.

The last climb out spent the last of my energy. The snow wasn’t being cooperative, and I kept sinking back with every step. Within 100 feet of the summit I decided to try mix climbing the rocks instead. I got stumped by a featureless bulge and was about to head back to the snow when I found a small crack seam that took me in the direction I wanted to go. Laying back on the seam, yarding on my ice tools, I got myself probably 30 or 40 feet above my starting point. The crack petered out and I had to do some balancy slab climbing moves, scary in crampons. Getting locked into another crack system I made my way to the summit, glad that scaring myself drytooling didn’t turn out badly. As soon as I reached the summit I found out that I barely had control of my legs on flat ground. They were exhausted. Apparently I need to train for Skimo races with Eric.

The walk across the snowless summit of Flattop took me far too long. We decided to drop into Tyndall Gorge via the Tyndall Headwall, which was incredibly steep. It skied pretty well, but soon all of Tyndall Gorge was in shadow and the sun softened snow hardened immediately.

Without full control of my legs and wretched snow conditions, I felt like I’d never skied before. Thankfully, Eric was waiting patiently for me at Emerald Lake. I’d asked for a big day, and he had delivered. I haven’t been that tired in a while.

Alpine Meadows, Tahoe

Last year I skied Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows for the first time and we blown away. I went back this year and skied Alpine Meadows two days in February. I was there just in time for a Sierra Cement dump that caused a partial shutdown of the resort on a Friday and Saturday.

Driving my sister’s Hyundai with no snow tires, I made it up the slightly inclined road leading to Alpine Meadows, begging the cars in front of me to not slow down too much, or I wouldn’t be able to start going again. I crested a hill and found a line of unmoving traffic. I crept forward as cars bailed from the queue, hearing the snowpatrol blasting for avalanches above us. Finally, the line started moving and I found a parking spot. My early start didn’t pay off, I arrived after opening chair. Walking to the ticket office, I saw the main chair wasn’t spinning yet. I called my friend Kelsey who’s a coach for the free ride comp that supposed to be going on. The ski area hadn’t cleared the lifts yet…so everyone is just chilling in the lodge. I end up sleeping on the lodge floor till the lifts finally start spinning around 1pm. I saw another friend, Riley Bathurst, waiting in line and end up jumping on the lift with him. He invited me to ride with him.


The foot of fresh snow was heavier than anything I’ve ever skied. It’s called Sierra Cement for a reason. But it was a fun couple hours of skiing one lift (the management, KSL, couldn’t get the rest of the mountain open).

I spent the night on Kelsey’s couch and got to Alpine early Saturday. The line of traffic from San Francisco had already started, but was much worse at Squaw. Again, the lifts were not running when I got there. Lifts were supposed to open at 8:30, but this was the Roundhouse Express line around 9:30am…no one moving.

The Hot Wheels lift was spinning, but it only accessed a flat flat green run, so I didn’t give it any thought. Finally, around 9:45 Roundhouse started loading. I was close-ish to the front of the line and immediately made my way to the Scott Chair, which accessed the best terrain that would be open. The line was already HUGE! I made the (wrong) decision to not get in the singles line, and wait amongst the groups. Finally, the Scott Chair started loading. I watched the first few skiers get to enjoy surprisingly light, deep snow. Despite not getting any new snow, the cement must have had frozen over night and gotten lighter. I then spend 45 minutes watching the beautiful face get all-but-completely skied out. It was even more painful because I watched the guy from Chair 2 make 3 laps through the singles line before I made it onto the chair. Painful.

I found an unskied line through some cliff bands and made it back to Scott Chair. Now the singles line started about 100 yards away from the the lane dividers, giving me another 45 minute wait. I skied a few more lines, waiting 45 minutes each time, and decided I’d had enough queuing.

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but resort skiing on a weekend sucks. It was made worse by terrible management not knowing how to deal with actual snowfall. They had advertised like crazy around California for how much snow they were getting, but when everyone came for said snow, they couldn’t open more than 2 lifts? We were told they couldn’t open Summit Express because of wind gusts of….wait for it….35 MPH!!! No resort in Colorado would have any lifts running if they had to shut down because of 35mph winds.

I took one more run down a different side and called it quits. In two days of skiing, I got maybe 5 hours of actual ride time in. I love the terrain at Squaw/Alpine, but they’ve got to figure their operations out if they want people to keep coming back.

Some of that sticky Sierra Cement.

Sorry for the complaining, just needed to get that out.

Skiing in Red Mountain Pass

I was asked to join Paradox Sports for their ice climbing trip in Ouray, CO. It was impressive seeing the adaptive climbing on things most people would never dream of getting up. On Sunday, I was able to break away with Maury Birdwell and Lucas Onan to get some back country turns in at Red Mountain Pass. Great terrain that’s pretty easy to access made for a good morning.

A stitched panorama made from some 27 images that create an image that’s 5.6 feet x 3.12 feet at it’s native resolution!

I love driving US 285. It’s a beautiful drive that takes your past the Black Canyon of Gunnison and the Monarch Pass. I had to stop and take advantage of the light.

Skiing Lake Tahoe

I went to Reno for my birthday to see my sister and my mom, and mostly to ski! I got connected with a few great athletes, Kenzie Morris, Riley Bathurst, Brandon Craddock, and Kelsey Hyche, who showed me around. I spent Sunday skiing with my sister and nephew at the locals’ (and the Japanese tourists’) resort, Mt Rose – impressively fun and steep terrain!

I met up with Kenzie, Riley and Brandon at the Mt Rose Pass parking lot, and we went for a quick afternoon tour. It had been warm, it was definitely spring skiing conditions.

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Kinzie smiling despite her new boots killing her.


Brandon taking the first crack at the cornice


Kinzie carving down a short spine




Brandon hiking the ridge line for the ‘enth time.

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The backcountry was warm, the snow thick, and we got out a little too late in the day, but it was still fun. It was nice skinning at 9,000 ft feeling super fit (I’m used to skinning at 11,000 ft and dragging.) The ski out on the west side, towards lake Tahoe was just the right mixture of soft and flowy to be fun spring skiing. I hitch hiked back to Reno

I hitch hiked back to Reno, and got picked up by a couple of Bolivian Catholic missionaries. It was Easter, and it provided for some…interesting…conversation. I was glad when they pulled into the Starbucks parking lot, just after the man started talking about a prophet that he follows that’s predicting the end times is happening now.

That night it snowed over a foot in Reno. My sister drove me up to Sqauw Valley to meet up with Brandon Craddock and Kelsey Hyche. Squaw got somewhere between 4-6 inches, and made for some great turns, just enough to smooth over the sun crust of the past few days.

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Brandon enjoying the white room

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Brandon gave me the gift of my very own white room!

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Brandon climbs some sketchy snow to get the shot.


Definitely worth the effort

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At times, the snow was super heavy and made autofocus next to impossible.


Brandon stood at the top of the rockslide, contemplating. “You really don’t have to do this!” I yelled up to him. “I’m doing it!” came the reply.
“I hope you got that. I’m not doing it again.”


I spent my birthday hanging out with some awesome people and playing cards against humanity. If I have to be away from my friends for my birthday, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it.

For day two, Kelsey wanted to show me around Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley’s sister resort.


Brandon getting sendy early.


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Brandon had to go to work, so Kelsey took me on a hike to ski an area called Cartoonland. Pretty accurate name, if you think of a cartoon version of perfect mountains.


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The sidecountry off of Alpine was some of my favorite, so many awesome zones. It kicks you out into a residential area where we had to carefully make our way back to the road, where a resort shuttle picked us up.

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Squaw and Alpine quickly became two of my favorite resorts in the country. I’m definitely excited to go back next year! It was great working with Kelsey and Brandon inbounds, and getting shown all their secret stashes. I think I improved my skiing just by the necessity of keeping up with these two.

First Snow of the Season

After months of waiting for a fresh coating of the white, powdery cocaine, snow is finally filling the mountains of Colorado. Like addicts falling off the wagon, Eric Poore and I met before dawn to get our fix. We headed to St Mary’s Glacier, where we were guaranteed at least some rock free skiing with a layer of fresh on top.

We were the only car in the parking lot. I was giddy taking my first gliding steps uphill, the nylon skins gripping the heavy, wet snow. God, I’ve missed this!

Navigating through the rocky trail we made it to the lake to find a beautiful winter wonderland. Needless to say, I’m excited for more of this.

Eric has had his right hand in a cast all summer with a broken wrist. He’s psyched for the freedom of the brace, but can’t wait till he can fully use his hand again.

Eric flips his binding’s risers as we get onto the glacier.

It was white out conditions when we got to the top of the glacier.

Halfway down our first run Eric swaps out his Dynafit skis for a pair of snow blades.

Eric scopes out the slope skier’s right of the glacier.

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Eric really wanted to ski the couloir we skied back in early August. He had broken his skins earlier and was having to boot-pack, so he decided to boot-pack the couloir to see what the conditions were like. I skinned around to the top and waited for him. I loved this tree weighted by the burden of the fresh snow.
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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. 

Skiing in August

I woke up too early to meet up with Eric Poore and Ian Bolliger Sunday morning. We were determined to do some ski turns in August, so we drove up to St. Mary’s Glacier. Positioned on the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks, the glacier has a snowpack year round.

With only a 3/4 mile approach, whether or not there was actually snow to ski, it was little effort to get to the base.

Ian and Eric bootpack to the top of the glacier (to something like 11,200ft) 

Ian watches Eric make some epic turns on the top of the glacier

Even with a broken wrist, Eric was super excited to be back on skis! 

He couldn’t contain himself.

Eric makes a slash above St Mary’s Lake
There was a steep couloir to the south of the main glacier that still had snowback, so we decided to ski it as well. 

Eric bootpacks the slope for a second run

Eric had to get 3rd run in…good laps for August

Ian modeling his Prana shorts

Wild Flowers! 

It was great to be back on skis and to get out again with Eric. Can’t wait for more adventures this fall! 

A Full Moon Ski in June

Tuesday night I was invited to join a group of friends from Golden, Colorado on a full moon tour of Loveland Ski Area. We left Golden around 9:30pm and started skinning uphill around 11pm, after a brief encounter with an agro security guard.

Most of the snow had been chopped up by what looked like 1,000 snowmobiles, and had refrozen into a sea of rock-hard rough tracks – not the most pleasant conditions. Up high, the untouched snow was also rock hard, but it was at least fun to skate on.

The full moon illuminated the entire mountain range and the bright stars filled the endless sky. We reached the hut at the top of Chair 2, drank a beer, and descended, mostly without incident. The snowmobile and snow-cat tracks took some navigation to get through and rivers flowed where trails once were. But carrying our skis through the mud at the base area of Loveland, we shared nothing but laughter and stoke.

What can you wear when skinning in June but jorts? 

The view from the top makes any bit of suffering uphill worth it

Skiing in the San Juans

Over new years I spent a week in Ouray, CO, a little mountain town about an hour from Telluride that is famous with climbers for the amazing ice climbing in the area. I did go there mostly to ice climb, but I couldn’t resist bringing my skis.

The first day I skied with three snowboarders on snowshoes at Red Mountain Pass. I didn’t get as many laps as I wanted, but it was good to be on the skis. My camera somehow froze to my clip and I couldn’t get it off of my backpack, so I didn’t get any photos.

The next day we drove to Telluride and met Dave Chew, an engineer for Wagner Custom Skis who took us on an amazing ski tour straight out his front door! We climbed over 3,000 feet and were back by lunch.

Vincent sporting the snowshoe look. He now has a mighty fine AT ski set up and will no long have to suffer on the way up! 

Snowboard transitions will be a thing of the past

The views on the hike up kept getting better and better

Dave Chew charging up his backyard playground, something he does almost daily. I’m definitely jealous of this guy. 

Dave doing his usual, waiting for us “lowlanders”.

The views from our high point. Spectacular.

Vincent enjoy the view

Dave Chew crushing the downhill as well

Vincent can’t help but have a shit-eating grin

Dave Chew getting some airtime in his backyard

After a late night on New Years Eve in the bustling streets of Ouray, Andrew McLean and I get a late start and head to Red Mountain Pass again. There wasn’t really any new snow but the conditions were still pretty decent.

The McMillan Peak area has so many amazing looking yurts and cabins. Would definitely be fun to spend a few days back there.

The terrain is seemingly endless. 

Andrew remembering how to skin on his first day out of the season. (First day on a recovered ACL) 

I love the white stuff

An old mining building

Andrew rides out the steepest part of the couloir. It sluffed on me a bit, but was overall really nice conditions. 

Skiing out of the couloir with an audience in the parking lot.

I love the San Juans. I both wish they were closer to Boulder and am glad they are not. If they were any closer they’d be skied and climbed out like everything else in the Front Range, but then I would have better access to them. It’s good to have a destination to go to. I will definitely be back. 

Skiing in June – Mt Toll

I skied in June. 
Some people make it a goal to ski 12 months out of the year, which in Colorado is definitely possible. I maybe I’ll try to do this next year. But this was my first time skiing in June, and it was awesome. 
My buddy Alex Vidal invited me out with another friend to go on a early morning mission to Brainard Lake to ski Mt Toll, one of the snowy peaks easily seen from downtown Boulder. 

We start the drive well before sunrise and get to the Brainard Welcome Center just as the sun is coming up. There are a few other cars in the parking lot, but we don’t really see anyone else on the trail. The road to Brainard lake was still closed for a few more days so we brought our bikes to ride the 4 miles up the road.

A moose! 

These guys were always waiting for me. 

 I found out I was not in biking shape. Both of the others were on single speed bikes, just cruising up the hills. I, on my stiff tail converted commuter 21 speed bike, found myself walking several of the hills. My legs were done before we had even started. We got to the trailhead and switched our shoes out for ski boots and started skinning uphill. I had thought after the bike ride there would be no possible way to keep up, but funny thing, skiing uphill uses different muscles than biking. I have those muscles!

Middle June, bluebird day. It was quite warm going up hill. 

First views of Mt. Toll. We skied the left face off the peak. 

Debating our approach route. 

We skied uphill as long as we could. It eventually got too steep, and we had to boot pack. 

Alex at the summit

The sun baked snow gave us some high quality turns. Soft enough for great control, but not too slushy.  Views over the Indian Peaks were fantastic. 

Crazy hole in the snow over the creek.

This was the theme of the walk/ski back to the trailhead. 

I was absolutely exhausted (and quite a bit sick) when we got back to the trailhead. I was more than happy that I got to put my shoes back on and ride a bike downhill for four miles.

It’s now October. Arapaho Basin has already opened for the season. I’m really hoping this is the epic season some forecasters are predicting. I’m hoping to beat last year’s record of 21 days on the slopes. Need to start soon! 

Backcountry Skiing Above Emerald Lake on Halletts Peak

I’ve gotten more ski days in this year than ever before. I think I have 17 days on snow, which is not a high number for many Coloradans. But it’s a huge improvement, and I’ve spent many of those days in the backcountry. I’m excited for spring skiing and getting out more.

A couple weeks ago I got out with Will Butler to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, on a warm Saturday morning in early March. The skin up to Emerald Lake is not difficult and goes by quickly. It was my first time in the backcountry with my new Black Diamond and Dynafit set up (and it was glorious!)

We had met two friends in the parking lot who had never been up in this zone and invited them to come with us. It was good to fill out the group.

I know I already posted this, but, well, I like it. The view of Halletts Peak from Emerald Lake. Dead Elk and Dragonstail coulouirs are the steep couloirs on the right face. 

Will Butler, Garth Fasano, and Peggy Tautz skinning up below Dragonstail Couloir. It is steeper than this photo makes it look.

We debated what to go up. There were some natural wet avalanches being triggered in and around Dragonstail, but the slope between Dragonstail and Dead Elk looked to be more stable, and others had already skied it this morning. We follow their skin track to a safe zone between the two couloirs. Garth and Will contemplate trying to cross the slope to a larger ridge line past Dead Elk, but since things are sliding around us I thought it best to get down as quickly as possible in the zone we just came up.

As Garth and Will try to get a better look a slide comes down Dead Elk solidifying that we should get down as soon as possible and we should stay in the zone we “know” is solid.

Garth crosses some of the debris to get to some fresh snow. I follow him up, staying in the debris field a little longer. When I pop into the fresh snow, its much heavier than I expected, having been warmed in the sun all day. It was still bouncy, grin inducing skiing. 
Will cuts some turns in the soft but heavy, super wet snow below Dead Elk Couloir. All the debris around are from wet avalanches from the day’s heat. 

 We decide to stay on the north face and end up in some really nice snow directly below Halletts  Chimney. This snow, protected by the mountain, was in much better health. It’s amazing how much aspect makes a difference in snow conditions.

Another group preparing to drop in

Making some pretty tele turns down the steeps. 

 We take one more quick lap before calling it a day. I will definitely be back up here. I’m looking at you, Dragonstail!

Garth enjoying some fine powder.

Peggy making a slash

Gear Review: Black Diamond Convert Touring Skis

I sold my AT skis before I was ready, and RIGHT in the middle of powder season. Huge mistake. But, on the flipside, I was tired of skiing uphill with lead weights on my feet and turning huge powder boards on so-so snow.

When I buy gear, or anything really, I tend to do a lot of research. I’d been looking at the Black Diamond Convert for a while and had only seen glowing reviews. Coming in at just over 7lbs for the pair and combined with Dynafit Radical FT, they feel ridiculously light weight in comparison.

Radical FT tech binding. Photo from the Dynafit website. 

My old set up topped the scales at almost 25lbs including skis, boots, and bindings! That’s 12.5 extra pounds for every step you take. Simply too much.

I missed a couple weeks of great snow in the meantime.

Seventeen Pounds. Dynafit boots & bindings & BD Skis come in at 17lbs, a savings of 4lbs per foot per step, which is incredibly significant!

I took my new skis for test drive a Keystone Resort on a mediocre snow day. The groomers were fast, the moguls soft, but the trees were less than ideal. I was nervous using my tech bindings, two metal pins that somehow hold your boot in while you’re screaming down the mountain. I had had issues with being ejected once before on a pair of demo skis, but I had no such problems on this day.

They RIP!!! I had a blast carving at full speed on the groomers. I attacked moguls harder and faster than I ever have before, I think due to how light they are I can really throw them around. There were times when I thought I had lost a ski when I lift my foot only to see it fully connected with no hint of coming off. It was so light I just barely felt it. Honestly, I was psyched, except my first time in my boots, as with first time in any ski boot, was extremely painful (After 4 days in them they are MUCH better).

I went on a tour up to Hallitt’s Peak the next weekend. Holy Amazeballs! Going up is so easy! The Mercury boots walk so incredibly well, each stride almost twice as long as in my Salomon boots. With the tech binding you’re not lifting the back of the binding with every step, which saves a ton of energy. And everything is just so much lighter. Heaven.

By the way, Emerald Lake and Hallitt’s Peak are beautiful. 

On a warm day we skied the line between Dragon’s Tail Coulouir and Dead Elk Coulouir, mostly because of the avy danger. The Converts cut through the crud and bounced in the warm, springish slush. 
The Convert’s dimensions I have deemed to be about perfect. 105mm underfoot, 133mm in the tip and 117mm in the tail. Fat enough for most powder days, the tip floats, the tail sinks and you just enjoy the smile inducing powdery ride. 
ME! Getting some airtime on a cornice at the closed ski resort Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park

Skiing East Portal – Accessible Backcountry

Last season I only really got out into the backcountry in one area, Butlers Gulch. It’s good, but has a few downsides: It’s prone to avalanche, it gets skied out like a resort, and mostly, you still have to drive I-70 to get there (I-70 on the weekends is practically impassible). This year I’ve discovered several new areas.

One of the best, which happens to be the closest, is East Portal near Rollinsville. It takes just about an hour to get there from Boulder and you never have to get on the interstate. The approach in the valley to the steep skin track is relatively short. It’s trafficked enough that the main skin track stays firm but it doesn’t get too skied out. There are plenty of trees to for protection even when the avalanche danger is high and winds are unbearable elsewhere.

A couple of weekends ago I got out with Patrick Shehan and Lee France for a Saturday/Sunday one/two punch. As you can see from the photos, it was incredible! I’m so excited to get back up there.

Patrick Hucking

Lee blasting through

And eating some soft pow pow

Despite enough head injuries to make me nervous, Patrick loves to drop pillows. As he should. Having now also dropped pillows, it’s addicting. 
Myself hitting it hard, my camera on my shoulder held on by the trusty Peak Design Capture2! Photo by Patrick Shehan, aka @sanjuansherpa 
This looked much bigger than it turned out to be. 

The creek bed is incredibly fun and far too short. It culminates with a quick duck. 

Face full of the pow pow. I want to be back there. 
Sadly, the next day I sold my AT setup. BUT for good reason! I’m getting a much lighter set up! Hoping to drop roughly 4-5lbs per foot! Will be so much better for going up, and I’m excited for my new Black Diamond Skis for going down. I will have a review of my new gear once I’ve used it. 

Sometimes It’s Not Perfect

The last couple of months have been great for my adventure needs; I’ve gotten out and done something adventurous every weekend since the end of October! This summer I had been feeling, well, adventureless. I know, I went to Peru and had an epic, but besides that I don’t feel like I did anything really awesome. I got out and climbed around Colorado, and I did get to raft the South Platte river which lightened my spirit quite a bit, but all  of that wasn’t enough. Spending two consecutive weekends on Long’s Peak was a great start to what I hope will continue to be an adventurous year.

Last weekend I got out for my dose of adventure, but both jaunts into the wild were less than ideal – I’d even say disappointing.

Besides climbing Dreamweaver at the beginning of November, with zero ice on the route, I haven’t gotten out to ice climb yet this year. Disappointing. Friday I finally got out with Matt Lloyd, excited to get into some good water ice in Vail, but we decided to go to Officer’s Gulch instead, mostly because it’s slightly closer. You can see the Shroud from I-70 and it usually looks quite fat. The approach is a ten minute walk on a flat bike path, about as easy as it gets in Colorado without rapping into the Ouray Ice Park. 

The Shroud was not looking particularly fat as we approached. What is usually one very solid slab of blue water ice was nearly two separate pillars of dripping chandelier ice. Dripping. The temperature is flirting with 0ºF and the ice is dripping! Not a little but showering you as you climb, making it almost impossible to look up, soaking your climbing gloves making your fingers unusable, and finally freezing to every part of your outer shell making you an icy coat of armor. You start an ice screw into the chandelier ice and feel it sink hollowly in with little resistance, not inspiring confidence in it’s ability to catch you if you fall. Hanging off your tools with hands that are beyond numb, forearms unbelievably pumped, and feet slipping off the featureless ice you will yourself to continue. It’s easier to go up.

On top of the first vertical section snow gathers on the low angle shelf, your ice tools tear through a layer of unconsolidated ice that starts to avalanche on top of you. You push that aside and get a solid foot, relaxing a bit as you make your way to the second tier of vertical ice. This time, as you swing your ax into the ice it shatters all around, breaking off and exposing the granite beneath. You lightly pick at the ice to create a hole strong enough to hold you but not too deep, but your tool is dull from dry tooling, refusing to sink into the hole. You inch higher, kicking your crampons into columns of ice you could reach both hands around. Your last ice screw is full of ice and won’t start. It’s useless. You have to just push through to the anchors. As you lower back down what you just ascended you think to yourself, “man, I love ice climbing!”

Suffice to say, the conditions of the ice on the Shroud were less than optimal. Matt and I did a couple of laps each, I ran up a mixed route to practice dry tooling, and we headed home. Not a lot of climbing for the hour and half drive.

Lee pulls off the skins from his splitboard, preparing to ride down what looked like great snow

Sunday I head out with my buddy, Lee France, to check out Hoosier Pass for some backcountry skiing. We picked it because we could get there without getting on I-70, which is always choked with traffic on the weekend. Hoosier Pass is just south of Breckenridge on highway 9, and surrounded by 14ers, Lincoln and Quandary. It’s been snowing a decent amount this early season so we thought that in the least it would be skiable. We skin up the trail for two hours debating where to ski. Do we drop over the north side into the bowl or stay below the treeline and ski down to the reservoir on the south side? Lee is a cartographer for National Geographic, and he created a map showing the angles of the faces that would be susceptible to avalanches. The danger above the treeline was considerable so we elected to ski down to the reservoir in the trees. We take two turns in moderately good powder (woo…) and the mountain says, “That’s all you get!” We’re stopped. The snow on low angle will barely slide under my skis. We wallow over to the a steeper gully and every turn is greeted by the equivalent of nails raking down a chalk board: rocks. There’s little more than a couple of inches over some of them. At one point I just am sliding down a granite slab with less than an inch of snow under me. We’ve been beaten. Reluctantly I take my skis off. I believed longer than Lee, he was already stumbling down the mountain, falling in the scree, with his snowboard in his hands. The snow hides the inconsistencies of the route you choose, one step you’re on a rock, your knee against your chest, the next  you sink to your waist and fall over. Every step comes with a curse under your breath. This. is. awful.

We put our skins on at the bottom and ready ourselves for another two hour trip back up the mountain to where we started. We’re on residential roads, passing empty, expensive summer cabins. A couple cars pass us. I wanted to stick my thumb out, but I didn’t. This is why we get our right? For the exercise? I think about how heavy my skis and boots are and how badly I want a much lighter Dynafit set up. Every step I take, with each foot I’m dragging an extra 12.5 pounds. I think about how many steps I’ve taken. How much does that mean I’ve lifted today? I don’t want to be – I want to be a machine – but I’m a baby when it comes to carrying weight uphill. I’ll blame it on the 26 years of living at the grand elevation of 900ft or less. I just keep repeating to myself, “this is training. I’m getting fit. This is training. How the hell am I supposed to keep up with the athletes I’m shooting?”

Not every adventure is grand, and not every one is a success. This day was definitely not a success. But on to the next! Also, pray for snow! Do the snow dance. Do something. I want amazeball snow. Maybe I shouldn’t expect that in Colorado.