The Deck at Janet’s gets a New Look

Lenticulars on Jne 1st. Must be windy

June first, & I’m loaded for bear and skiing up Guller Creek and Janet’s Cabin. Last summer we noticed that the 20 year old deck on the south side of the cabin had seen its better days and was in need of a rebuild.
I’d made one other quick trip in the week prior to haul clothes and steel tools in. Lot of weight. There’s still a lot of snow and I could ski right from the base of Union Creek. Pretty impressive for June 1.

Janet's Cabin at the end of May

To start the project we needed two weekends of shovel detail to get a trench dug around the deck. In places the trench must be 12 feet deep. Hard hard work.

Mike & Dan shoveling the trench

June 1 was the typical Colorado day, blue sky, comfortably cool, and windy. Smoke from a couple of big fires along the New Mexico border soon changed the blue skies to haze.
You could actually smell smoke in the air. As I sit and write this the smoke has returned on June 4. This is not a good sign. It could be a really bad summer for fires.

Smoke from New Mexico over Peak 1

The trip into the hut is about 6 or so miles this time of year. It’s pretty quiet around Copper Mountain after the ski area closes. That’s pretty cool, quiet, a cool ski, and a beautiful basin below Searle Pass.
After I got my pack off at the cabin the old back seized up. Now that’s bad timing, as I had an awful lot of work to do. Shoveling, demo, water collection, and an amazing amount of lifting and bending over for the next three days. Lot’s of aspirin was my only hope.
It some how worked because I finished what I had hoped to get done. It was pretty much beautiful the whole trip. June is a pretty righteous month in Colorado.

Down into the pit

I’m not in construction shape anymore, so this trip was tough on the hands. I wore gloves most of the time but sometimes you just forget. Still, it’s a good feeling to work with your hands, and actually see something for your labor. Over the next month or so I’ll be back in my prime again I’m sure.

Day 3, starting to build up some scrap piles

There’s still a lot more to go, but it will all hopefully be back together by July 17th. Hopefully Steve & Willy can start as soon as possible so we can get this baby in the can.

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Francies Cabin is closed for the season.

Today I had room in my schedule to close Francie’s Cabin for the 2010-2011 season. The last guests checked out on Sunday. I spaced a nice metal water bottle at the cabin on Sunday & it was gone when I got to the cabin Tuesday afternoon, bummer. Oh well, quelle vie.
Since I had the whole day I convinced Elke to get up early & climb & ski 13,852 ft Crystal Peak. I’ve easily climbed & skied off this peak far more than any other. I guess it would be safe to say it’s one of my favorite trips. The day started with a great freeze and sunshine hitting the east face of the peak.

Elek below Crystal Peak

I have no way of really knowing, but I suspect I’ve skied Crystal Peak a couple dozen times. From the Breckenridge house it’s probably 3,652 vertical. Not to shabby a back yard.  Last fall I spread some of Bob Stevenson’s ashes off the summit. It’s been a regular on the July 4th ski circuit. This year I expect there will be a number of different options for our annual 4th of July ski.

A 340 cm probe pole not touching ground

We got very lucky with the weather, it wasn’t too windy, we hung on the summit for awhile waiting for a patch of blue as the clouds were building rapidly. Along the tour today we saw a few dozen Rosie Finches doing aerial acrobatics. They were probably getting one last alpine fly day in before the next blizzard moves in.  The next winter storm rolls in tonight. Probably powder skiing on Thursday & Friday. There’s no way to fight it so might as well accept it and run with the regular winter options. Skiing big peaks is not a bad past time by any means. It’s so much easier to summit & by far easier getting back down. Skiing is a gravity sport.

Elke and the 13,852 ft summit of Crystal Peak

Crystal Peak is fairly central in the state, there are just huge views from Pikes Peak to Longs Peak to the Maroon Bells and Snowmass Peak. From our Breckenridge house it’s a 2.5 to 3 hour tour to the summit, at least if I’m in shape and the snow is fast.

Elke with Peak 10 in the background

So we skied the standard line, right down the east face, through the steep pitch above Lower Crystal Lake & back to Francies Cabin. The three skiers on the south side of Peak 10 were having a lunch on the deck. I had to settle in to the close-down schedule. Plenty to do at the cabins, from the compost toilet to shoveling to cleaning up after a winter’s worth of visitors. The cabin gets a lot of use/abuse. There was still 92″ of snow at the cabin. The highest total since the stake went in 12 years ago. After finishing at the hut I skied down to the Burro Trail and back to the house. Along the Burro Trail, about half way to the house, I saw some fresh bear tracks coming out of the woods and onto the trail. Looks like the denning season is over. Lot’s of wild life above our house. Earlier this spring I met two USFS guys that were trapping and collaring Lynx. Apparently there is at least one lynx with kits above the house.

The south side of Francies Cabin, the sunny side

On May 16th I helped with the CDOT Independence Pass control day. I got to fly in a Huey/Bell 502 for a while. That’s a pretty nice treat. I’ll be spending some time there over the next few weeks. Rob Hunker goes on vacation to Hawaii next Sunday & I’ll be covering for him while he’s gone. I should get some awesome tours in. With that I’ll sign off.

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Marble, the second half of the ‘vacation’.

Four days in Marble makes for a lot of time to get to new terrain. After a sweet day on Whitehouse the gang decided to check out Treasure Mountain, one of the higher peaks in the area. This is one big hill, with a long ridge running from Whitehouse all the way to Yule Creek Pass. The terrain has everything, from wicked steep to just plain steep. There’s also lots of wild life. On the ascent of Treasure we got a view of three mountain goats traversing the ridgeline. All in full winter coats.
We also got to see a male sage grouse in full drum mode.

Drumming sage grouse

Since I hadn’t been up Treasure before there was plenty of looky looing to be done. Looking down the east face towards Crystal Creek was impressive, but very complex terrain with lots of cliffs.

Ann & the author take a peak over to the east side

The ski back towards Whitehouse was our best bet. Winds were getting pretty rowdy and terrain with some tree cover worked best for finding soft snow and some protection. We scored a nice line with great snow.

Looking west towards Justice

Views in either direction made for a nice descent. We took the lookers right side of the Y well down the path & stopped for a little lunch. Then it was back at it & we had a steep climb back to Whitehouse to ski the lookers left side of the Y. Big day, lots of vert.

Carl in action.

Hiking bach up for round number 2

We found a narrow chute that took us right of the top of Whitehouse for a several thousand foot run back to our waiting vehicle and cold brewskis. We had a bit of powder and a bit of corn. Hasn’t been much of that corn stuff this year. Lots of soft snow, but lacking on spring conditions.

Ann and the author at the old Strauss Quarry on Treasure Mountain

The author ascending for round two, day 3.

And of course a second later I looked up for a facebook shot (What’s Facebook?)

Having fun yet?

With day three in the bag we sat at the truck, looked at terrain and imbibed with a couple cold ones.

Yule Creek marble mine entrances

With day three done, it was time to head back to the barn for a couple martinis and a little R&R. At the current rate, day four will probably be big.
Day four brought a Marble Peak, Mud, Twin, & Carbonate day. That’s a lot of turns. All of these we had done at some point in the past, though we did get some nice variations in steeper terrain.

Looking into one of the 'Alleys'

By the end of day four my legs would be just about toast. Sunday would finally bring about a wee rest. All in all the trip was successful, no injuries, no fouls. Just a good trip into the backcountry with friends. That is something to be very happy about.

Looking down Carbonate and into the town of Marble

Saturday night would bring more cold beer, a big dinner and a good nights sleep.

Rasberry Ridge.

What a place. I suspect I will return again

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Bluebird and time for a vitamin D fix

It’s been a really good year for snow coverage in our Backyard Beau. Some of the best and most supportable snow I have ever seen back there.
On Tuesday I took a probe pole to the front yard. In places it was 265 cm deep, that’s over 8.5 feet to melt before I see the ground again.

Looking down at the deck from a 280 cm probe pole stuck-in almost all the way

Somewhere down there is a snowcave Beau & I dug last Christmas before his mom snuck him out of town on me. That was a bad day.

The view from Beau's room. Another snowy day

This last foto was taken on Tuesday. With all the new snow I got inspired for a quick lap to Francies Cabin. There is so much snow on Beau’s trail that it was hard to find and get to the Burro Trail. But eventually I got a great ski in, broke trail the whole way & great turns back to the house.

Another view from the deck outside Beau's room

On Wednesday I had my end of season performance review. I had some thought that it could have been my last day as an avalanche forecaster. A lot has to happen in the next year. I will be spending more time with my boy, I just don’t know how I am physically going to be able to do it. It will mean a lot of nights sleeping in my car, this summer & next winter. Beau is priority number 1, work is number 2. Boss was understanding & I am still employed, but for how long?
So knowing it was going to be a tough day I got up early & did another lap to Francies with more new snow.
I start right of the deck & get on Beau’s trail & up to the Burro Trail.

On Beau's Trail, almost to the Burro Trail

Getting the ski in first thing probably cleared my head of enough angst that I could pull through the review. Good thing.
So today I knew we had bluebird skies, which meant a Vitamin D fix was required. So one more trip to Beau’s trail then straight into Carter Gulch. This has been a great year for traveling in Lodgepole forest. The snow is so deep it actually has a base. Breckenridge claimed over 500 inches of snow this season. Yikes.

A buried Carter Lake & Bald and Boreas Mountains in the back.

You can see my ski track across the lake. I climbed a couple hundred feet above the 11,454 ft Carter Lake as there was a nice line through the trees that I thought needed attention.

Dad's line in Carter Gulch

This is a really pretty basin. I’ve been in it several times now this winter. Once Bob Stevenson, Jeff Herbertz & I snowshoed & skied into here under much worse snow conditions. Took hours of hard work. Not this year, takes maybe an hour to an hour and a half to get to the lake from Beau’s deck. Bob used to hunt back in here while he was around. Some big Elk in this remote basin in Beau’s and my backyard. This will be a really cool place for us to hike to someday Beau.

Carter Lake Basin

The lake sits on the lookers right side of the basin, just at treeline. The basin itself sits between the SE & NE ridges of Peak 10 proper. There is great beginner terrain for a back-country ski novice, at least until you get near and above treeline. There hard slabs rule. I saw one HSNR2D1.5O on a NE aspect of the SE ridge of Peak 10. It was about 18″X125X 200 in size. Might have hurt someone. The snow pack was tender today so low angle was the name of the game. Just a spectacularly beautiful day.

Taken from the high point of the tour...600 feet below the ridge, 600 feet above the lake.

I got back home about 1 pm & fixed a nice lunch and got caught up on lots of errands. Sat on the deck & bagged some rays. When spring is here it really doesn’t get any better.
By Friday night another cold front, and more snow. It will be a tough drive to Boulder in a blizzard for my last full shift of the season.

The two day old hard slab on Peak 10

Both neighbor dogs, Jigs and Chaser joined me for the ski. They enjoyed it as much as I did. Dog heaven back in here. Snowshoe Bunny tracks, but no sign of a Lynx, though I know they are here.

Chaser with Bald Mt behind

As long as these guys have sticks to chase they are quite content.

Jigs with my touring gear at the high point.

That made for day 94 this year. It will be easy to get 100 this year. Still have two hut shifts and of course the annual 4th of July ski. A big spring season is just around the corner.

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Quandary Peak

I thought I had a post out re: Quandary Peak on April 20, 2011, but I can’t find it. Dr Smoke. Must have burned.
Anyway, I had just finished a 4 of 6 day shift in Boulder & Ellen Hollinshead emailed & said “Lets do Quandary.” Well, I rallied and off we went, even at Bankers Hours. An 8:30 am start got us to the summit, 14,245 ft or something, and the weather was beautimous.
I had never skied the east face, several laps on the south and north. With about 7″ new and little wind this was going to be a treat.

The east ridge of Quandary Peak from Red Mountain

Ellen had talked Ann St Claire along so we had a party of three. We’ve had so few blue sky days in April this season that you just have to rally and go big when they arrive. This was a nice day to Rally.

Gaining the east ridge the views really open up

We parked in Monte Cristo Gulch and hiked north to the ridge. From there we passed a couple slower groups and made the summit in around 2.5 hours.

There was a 1-2 foot fresh wind slab along the north side of the ridge, but it didn’t extend at all out onto the face, just nice powder snow. Had our share of that stuff this winter.

Ann, the upper east face, and Ellen.

Pretty nicce, bag a big peak with blue skies and powder, home by mid-afternoon.
I first climbed Quandary back in the late 1970’s with Bob Stevenson & Tim Styles. I’ve got a foto somewhere that Tim took of Bob & me. Boy, we looked like long haired hippys back then. Not sure what happened to Tim. We worked together at the Dillon Marina back in 1977, after a really bad drought winter. Tim was a door gunner in Vietnam. He had some interesting tales.

My backyard from summit of Quandary

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A ‘vacation’ to Marble

I have a couple friends that have ‘houses’ in Marble. One is a dome home. The other is a 10X12 foot shed that has some bunks and a wood stove built in. I try to get there at least once per winter to hang in one of the prettiest places in the state and get some first class skiing in.

Pete & Kim's dome

Ooops, that’s not a picture of the dome, just a picture of the night sky and some fresh snow for the next day’s Whitehouse ski.

The inside of the shed, pretty cozy

We’d been planning to do some sort of spring ski trip since last April. Lot’s of people threw their hats into the ring, but only a few pulled through. The dependable ones anyway. The terrain to choose from in Marble is a bit overwhelming, but a strong group can make a lot of headway with the right quads and mind-set.

R&R in the dome

The first day we opted for the standard big day, a north face of Justice, then up Marble & ski Mud, then over to the Alleys for a good full day. The light to start was pretty sweet, the snow ok. Usually it’s better in Marble, but hey, it’s a vacation.

Looking up Yule Pass

This day was a good warm-up as there was a lot more on the menu for the next three days.

Pete & the north face of Justice.

Thursday we decided on Whitehouse. I’d never skied this iconic line. We had 3 inches of new and little wind. The sun came out and today was the day. Pete has a great view of this right from the dome. So I’ve looked at it for several years.
WhitehouseThe climb starts up Yule Creek Road. It’s a long one, several thousand vertical I think. Plus when we finish you need to skin back around to the car back up Yule Creek/Quarry Road.

Carl on the upper pitch of Whitehouse

Next up are a few pictures from the up and the road to where we parked. It shows a lot of what Marble has.

Marble, Mud, & the Alleys from well up on Whitehouse

The next foto you can just make out Carl’s truck in the Track of the Alley’s path.

Pet & Carl on the up track. Carls little truck is way down below

Once on top of Whitehouse we could not resist the impulse to look over at Treasure. This is one big peak with lot’s and lots of terrain.

Looking at Treasure from the Summit of Whitehouse

Once we managed to quit grinning at the bottom it was time to circle back to the truck. It’s not a long tour, especially if we know there is cold beer waiting.

Cold Beer in the fridge

The up track presented the next foto op. We’d ski the line the next day.

The up track, and next days ski

Finally, I found the foto of Pete’s dome, and this looks like a good place to put it.

Pete & his dome home


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A really nice loop right from our deck

Earlier this winter I decided I might as well use my season pass at Breckenridge. I get one every year, but haven’t used it in the last 5 years.  The reasons are no longer important so I thought it was time to see what existed just off the back deck. During my tour I stopped by for a visit with the ski patrollers and we talked about the backcountry access points. One of them “Mustang” drops into Carter Gulch, on the south side of the ski area. Carter Gulch runs across the Burro Trail, which is only a few hundred feet from the house. Hmmmm….sound of rusty gears turning in my under utilized brain…..”I bet I could quickly ski from the ski area right to the house.” Right on boys and girls…ski in-ski out property. Sweet.

A couple of the gear options for back yard tours

From where the above gear sits, I ski right to the Burro Trail & then any which way I feel like going. To town, to the ski area, to Francies Cabin, up Carter Gulch, the Wheeler trail, Spruce Creek Trail. Lots of options. Having those options sure makes sitting in front of the home office computer a lot easier to accept.

From the base of Peak 9 looking up the Quicksilver 6 pack

In the past when I have skied into town I would always ride the little platter lift, then jump on to Lehman Gulch or the Burro Trail to ski home. This year is a big snow year so the trees down Carter Gulch to the Burro Trail have some of the best coverage we have seen in decades. Some pretty nice turns to get me home. And almost always I get first tracks! So the new route rides up the Quicksilver 6 pac chair, then over to the Falcon Chair. I then ski a bit down the skiers right side of Mustang to the backcountry access gate. That drops me further into Carter Gulch I I just traverse south to the NE ridge of Peak 10 and then ski the lodgepole pines to the Burro Trail. If I hit it right I end up right where the Flintstone trail T’s into the Burro trail I I ski down Beau’s Trail to the house. It only takes about 20 minutes to a half hour including the two chair lift rides. How sweet it is.

The terrain in Carter Gulch looking east towards Bald Mountain

Carter Gulch does not get visited much, especially in the summer. There is a cool lake just at treeline that I often hike to on summer evenings. A pretty place in the back yard.
The upper gate into Carter Gulch gets a little more activity as it leads to some nice terrain, fairly steep, but south facing. There’s actually been some corn there this spring.

Looking west in Carter Gulch towards the NE ridge of Peak 10.

It won’t be long before I can take my boy up here for a very safe, low angle backcountry ski tour. I think he’d like it, and I really can’t wait to show it to him.
Next post I am hoping to get finally tackle a recent trip 4 day trip to Marble I took with some friends.

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Another trip to Cottonwood Peak

Cottonwood peak is a prominent point along the northern half of the Sangre de Cristo Range. I like this big day as the reward is a night at Valley View Hot Springs in the San Luis Valley. I’ve tried to get up this peak 4 times, and met success only once. It’s a big day, around 5,000 vertical in very complex terrain. The range is seldom visited in the winter. The Sangre’s are not known for great snow, which helps keep the riff-raff out, which is perfect.

Looking west at the San Luis Valley.

You will note that Devon forgot his poles in Breckenridge. We had to improvise. Devon had one scrub oak branch and one aspen tree for poles.
The ascent to treeline runs through some old aspen forest. We saw many trees with really old dates carved into the trunks.

One of the aspen trees we saw with old dates

On this trip we got to about 13,000 feet. We had troubles on north aspects as the snowpack was fairly unstable & was sending us many warning signs to stay away. We also gained the actual west ridge too soon which made the ridge traverse more complex.

Sure sign of instability...Cracks in the hard slab.

Above treeline the spring winds across the San Luis Valley really started to get going. I suppose that’s why there are such giant sand dunes there.  So with the winds increasing, and the summit still 500 feet vertical away we decided cold beer and a good hot springs soak were the better option.

Nice poles Devon

I suspect there will be more tours into the Sangre’s. It is way too cool of a place to avoid. Hard work with great rewards.

Lenticular clouds are a sure sign of strong winds at the ridge crests.

The west ridge of Cottonwood with the last false summit

Finally, the ribbon out to the trailhead. Cold beer is not far off.

Devon drops the last few vertical feet to the car.

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The Battleship

Ever since the CAIC started it’s highway avalanche forecasting program in the early 1990s I’ve had a vision of someday skiing “The Battleship” avalanche path on Highway 550 outside Silverton. I probably got as close as I ever will to skiing the main line this past March. I was on one of my required field trips and went through Grand Mesa on my way to the northern San Juan. There are ten zones in our (CAIC) avalanche forecasting program. We are supposed to get at least one field trip to each of these ten zones every winter. It’s harder than you may think. The North San Juan is probably the 3rd or 4th most dangerous of the ten zones as far as past accidents go. It is rugged and beautiful. That’s probably what possessed me to purchase a commercial lot in Silverton in 2000. The lot sits at the corner of 14th and Greene street. It’s on the sunny side of the street & has killer views of the local mountains. The lot was the site of the original hotel in Silverton (Silverton Hotel). The guy that built and owned it was killed in an avalanche in Arrastra Gulch.

Mark Gober, Susan Hale & Ann Mellick set the track up the Battleship

The day we opted to go was snowy, but the forecast was nothing to get worried about. Of course a big convective cell blew up right on top of us just before we got to treeline. The skiing looked to be superb. Of course with increasing winds and a PI of about 2″ per hour getting much above treeline was tough.
Like I said, the skiing was superb. Ann will attest to that fer sure.

Popping out above treeline. Ann & Susan try to hide from the wind

Of course to get the goods you have to pay some dues. The forecast of 10 to 20 mph winds and 1 to 3 inches of new kind of got shot down. This only made the ski better.

Ann rips it up

Of course sometimes there are dues to be paid just getting back to the truck. Mineral Creek was a bit of a conundrum. There were cliffs here, giant avalanche debris piles there, and a creek that was starting to show signs of spring run-off. Mark Gober almost lost a ski to the river gods.

Saving the ski from gravity and fluid mechanics.

The next day we were scheduled to blow the cornice off ‘Blue Point’ slide path, but people issues canceled the event & I drove myself back to Breckenridge. It was still a great tour.
Just one of many…Denny Hogan was one of two original Forecasters for the Highway 550 program. He knows the San Juan like no one lese. He took me on tours that went from Silverton to Rico, Silverton to Telluride to Ophir and then back to Silverton. One ofthe best was from Silverton to Pagosa Springs through the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness. We saw Grizzly Bear tracks at Rincon de la Osa. That trip will probably rank as one of the top 5 trips I have ever done.  I’ve seen some beautiful country in my life, but not much to surpass that country. I owe many thanx to Denny for his knowledge.

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A Commando Run

I think it was 1984 when I did my first Commando Run. Most people do the tour from Vail Pass to Vail. My first trip went the opposite direction when I was a ski patroller in Vail. There was a program then we called “Area Fam” which was a way to teach us about all of the surrounding areas to the Vail Ski area.  We did it from Vail ski area & then exited out via Shrine Pass to Redcliff. It’s the only time I’ve done it that way. I still have a picture taken with our group on that day.
There are numerous routes a skier can do via the Commando Run.

Here's a foto looking back at Shrine Pass from the Two Elk Trail.

One of the old ways before Vail expanded into ‘Blue Sky’ was to exit out via Pete’s Bowl. This always had great powder skiing for the days when our skis were really skinny. We’d then get up to the top of Chair 14 for the ski out to town.
A couple of the other routes…The official route takes skiers out through Mushroom Bowl. While I was ski patrolling at Vail we had several ‘rescues’ of people that became far to tired to finish the route into Vail going the official route. With the advent of fatter and lighter skis we would also do a Commando & finish with a lap down East Vail. I did this the first time with Billy Mattison. Billy & I patrolled at Vail together. Several years ago he bought a house in East Vail & really wanted to do a Commando Run & ski to his house as the finish to his “Little Ski Chalet”. These days I suspect most people ski out to Two Elk Pass & then ski down to the China Bowl lift. Still, even that is a full day for most people.

Mongolia Bowl at Vail seen from the 2nd knob.

These days I usually do the tour by myself. People don’t seem all that interested in long point to point tours any more. I suspect I’ve done this tour at least a couple dozen times. When I was training for the First Elk Mountain Grand Traverse race I did it maybe 6 times in one winter.  I still have many many memories of doing this tour with many friends over the years. In fact, we often did it on New Years Eve.  Billy and his then wife Sue Muncaster were the caretakers at PHQ in Vail. We’d leave Vail Pass around 5 PM on December 31st & ski to PHQ. Then we’d have a big celebration at the top of Vail Mountain. One of those years we got right into the middle of one of the most beautiful alpin glow sunsets I can remember. Everything around us was purple and red & gold. It was absolutely sublime.

"Perfect Bowl"

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