2008 Spring Blog (24 ski days in May/June; last day: June 29)

June 29.  Double Mosquito: Two slopes near Mosquito Peak, with Michele Koss, Todd Beck, and David Gidley. Excellent conditions. Some nice steep cornice climbing to connect the two runs -- whippet was very useful for the leader! This is it for the ski season for me; 24 days in May and June. Last year I stopped on June 22, with 20 days.

A pleasure this season was the many new people I met through skiing: Thanks to all my partners for tolerating, and attempting to improve, my old-school skiing technique: Elke Dratch, Bob Portmann, Jonathan Kriegel, Chet Roe, Kim McGranahan, Dave Blakeskee, Janet Jacks, Ellen Hollinshead, Michele Koss, Todd Beck, Greg Ruckman, Eric Penicka, Brian Howard, Sam Brede, Matt and Katie Jones, Maggie Geddes, Paul Asper, Nancy Weidman, Sean Hanagan, and David Gidley.

June 28.  S Face of Democrat, solo. Lousy conditions; frozen suncups. Rest of party did North Face. Excellent conditions; little icy at top.

June 21.  Pacific peak with Greg Ruckman, Sam Brede, and Todd Beck. Skied the I of HI in the Hawaii Couloirs, and the face from summit to Pacific Tarn, the highest lake in the US. Excellent conditions on ascent; and on descent.

June 19. Arkansas NW Face with Greg Ruckman and Maggie Geddes. Started late. Mushy but skiable.

June 18. [Ski Day 20 of the May/June season] Mt Helen. 1400 feet of nice skiing. Saw one moose leaving home, two deer near summit, and two ptarmigan on way up.

June 15. Mt. Elbert via southeast trail with Dave Blakeslee, Janet Jacks, Paul and Nancy Asper. Skied from summit in great conditions. 2300 feet skiing. 4500 feet total climb. Used sneakers all the way to summit.

June 13.  Red Peak, South Face, with Greg Ruckman. 5:20 to summit. Cold. Greg had crampons, I didn't. The descent, straight off the summit, was in near-perfect conditions.

June 10. Kim McGranahan, Elke Dratch, and I climbed Red Peak (5.5 hours; perfect climbing conditions) and then skied Big Bad Wolf into the upper reaches of Willow Lakes. Then skied down as far as we could before walking and finding the trail out to Willowbrook. 10 hrs total. Kim and Elke appreciated the purity and remoteness and steepness (45 degrees?). I was a little concerned as the new snow was tricky to ski but we all made it down safely. This valley is most beautiful. Weather was pure blue, with great views everywhere.

June 8.  Bob Portmann and I skinned and then booted up the NW Face of Grizzly at Loveland Pass. There was new snow, but it was very windy. I stopped after 1600 feet. Bob went up to 1900 feet. Some fun powder on descent, and snow was continuous from the car. It does appear that this is a more efficient way to get to the top of the Grizzly ski run than starting at Loveland Pass.

June 7. Matt and Katie Jones of Vail, Sean Hanagan of Edwards, Bob Portman, and I skied from the summit of Baldy down Baldy Chute #2 (thinking it was #1!). Conditions were excellent with a couple of inches of new snow in the upper reaches. Katie and I climbed back over to get the cars, which were 0.7 mi up the dirt road from the Mt Baldy Road, while the others skied down French Gulch. Silverheels did not look very good, but there was a lot of snow in the Atlantic/Pacific/Crystal area.

June 4. Skied with Todd Beck up Coon Hill from Eisenhower Tunnel. 1500' skiing from the summit in good conditions.

June 1. David Blakeslee, Janet Jacks, and I skied from Montgomery Reservoir to top of McNamee (13760'; near Clinton) and down the E face. We had tried Kite Lake Road but it was blocked early (at about 3 miles from Alma). Someone skied Democrat N Face today, and there were several people on Clinton. Lots of snow in this valley!

May 31. Todd Beck, Michele Koss, Eric Penicka, Brian Howard, and I went to Guanella Pass and skied a fine line on the N side of Squaretop (13794'). I had wanted to do this for some years. It was not very steep and conditions were perfect. Great fun. There was not a lot of snow on the open slopes at Guanella Pass. But we skied from summit to car at Naylor Lake TH with only two 20-yard walking breaks.

May 30. Chet Roe, Michele Koss, Eric Penicka, and I started skiing at the Lily Pad Lake TH; skied up to the S summit of Buffalo and skied down perfect corn on the not-very-steep couloir that is pure south off the summit. It is quite visible as one drives from Breckenridge to Frisco. Conditions were excellent, there were bristlecones at tree line, and the ambience in the steep-sided couloir was superb. At bottom we climbed up the opposite ridge and then descended the high slopes of Meadow Creek to the Meadow Creek Trail and down to Frisco. An excellent day in perfect weather. Summit views of the nearby snowcovered peaks (Red and Deming) were great. Lou Dawson's name of Silver Couloir seems to have caught on for the the N Chute on Buffalo. So maybe this one is Gold Couloir.

May 28.  [Day 10 of the May/June season] You gotta know when to fold 'em. Several hundred feet up a steep and icy couloir on Quandary I decided I could not ski that slope and backed down. Elke and Ellen carried on and skied down a difficult 1000-foot run. The climb was fun, with crampons, a whippet, and an ice ax. But when the angle pushes 45 degrees, I'm using two tools, and the surface is firm (with no chance of sun hitting it), I have to think about cutting my losses! A good name for this one is The Icebox.

May 26.  Bob Portmann and I braved iffy weather (wind and clouds, but temps were reasonable and visibility kept improving) and had a good day on Baldy in Breck, with 5000 feet of skiing in good conditions. We skied two chutes off the east side of Baldy, somewhat north of the more famous two main chutes. We dropped 1000 feet on the first, then climbed back up, moved a little farther S along the ridge, and dropped about 1300 feet on the next one. Then climb up again in same track for a nice 2000-foot run back to the car. Long underwear, which I have been not wearing in recent days, made things much more pleasant! A 6.5 hour day.

May 24. Drove around to Henderson Mine with Bob Portmann and Ellen Hollinshead to try to ski Parnassus from the N but the road was gated and marked NO TRESPASSING. But the map shows a trailhead up there. What's up with that? So we drove back and climbed Parnassus, which offered superb skiing on descent; best conditions of the spring season. 4 hrs to summit at 13400+. Beautiful bristlecone pine trees.

May 23. Chet Roe and I headed to the S side of Peak 10. A tree blocked Spruce Creek Road causing an extra half-mile walk. It was very windy and cold, with snow squalls. We got to within about 400 vertical of the summit and then headed down a nice broad face. The new snow made the skiing quite pleasant. We were very happy to get out of the wind, which was incessant, from the east or SE.

May 21. Mayflower Gulch, solo. Snow starts at the parking lot. Went to base of Pacific and a couple hundred feet up the SW face of Pacific. Excellent conditions. 1700 feet climb total

May 18. Yesterday we saw a huge and compelling face across the highway. Today we skied it. This is the south face of Bard (13641'). Bob Portmann, Elke Dratch, Kim McGranahan, Jonathan Kriegel, and I started at the Bakerville exit and just headed N and up. The first 500 feet was horrendous bushwhacking, but we stumbled on a good trail and that got us to snow about 700' above the car. All then went well, and the descent was 2300 feet of moderate angle, and reasonably good condition snow. On return we found the trail and took it to the highway about 1/4 mile W of the exit, thus avoiding the bushwhack. Total was 4000 ft climb. Seems reasonable to call this Shakespeare.

May 17. Bob Portmann and I started at Loveland Pass and skied Grizzly, starting from about 200 feet above the last saddle. The first 1000 feet were awful -- crusty. But the last 1000 was really really good. So it seems still too early for big N faces. There were more rocks visible at the start area than I expected, though coverage down low is way up. I continue to think that the terrain from 13000 feet up has just average or less coverage, while below that it is way above average.

May 16. Solo ski up to 11500 on the eastern avy path on Buffalo SE Face. Pleasant. Superb coverge. But this path is not as good as Lakeview as the trees are much tighter.

May 13, 2008. Yet one more snow day in this phenomenal snow year. Elke Dratch and I climbed to Buffalo's S summit in whiteout conditions, but not windy or cold, and had a fine powder ski down Lakeview. I have never seen so much snow this time of year, and of course the 8 inches or so of new made it all very nice! A picture of Elke on this run appeared in the Summit Daily on the following Sat.

May 3, 2008. Bob Portmann, Jonathan Kriegel, and I went to near the summit of Pettingell (13553) from Herman Gulch and skied a line from the east side of the summit ridge somewhat steeper than the main face that I usually ski. It was very wintry because of the storm this week and going up required trail-breaking in heavy snow. Gaining the summit ridge was a bit tricky as we all booted the final 300 feet. On descent we found heavy going in the new snow. I did not ski terribly well and two turns would exhaust me. The others skied just fine. We could ski right back to the car, a real joy of the May season. Unfortunately there did seem to be a little evidence of a recent dust storm from Utah, and that might cause the snow to melt a little faster. But yet the coverage in most areas is superb. Surprisingly the Tuning Forks on Torreys did not look very good.

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