West Spanish Peak - 13,626 feet
Colony Baldy - 13,705 feet
Pico Aislado - 13,611 feet
West Spanish Peak - 13,626 feet
Colony Baldy - 13,705 feet
Pico Aislado - 13,611 feet
|Spring Skiing in the Sangres Part 1|
West Spanish Peak. April 4, 2016
Route: Cucharas Pass to Cordova Pass. Standard summer route from Cordova Pass, up west face to summit. Ski south couloir. Traverse to standard route at tree line.
Elevation Gain: 3,650'
Minimum Elevation: 9,975'
Round Trip Distance: 20 miles
Round Trip Time: 11 hrs
I had no beta on this route. Just a view of the north face, from a hundred miles away in Fountain, and a guess that a south facing gully might have a skiiable line. From my home in Fountain, I could see the peak had gotten new snow. It's usually completely windblown throughout the winter, so I figured this was a good sign.
At the top of Cucharas Pass, I headed north on CR 46 towards Cordova Pass. As I had anticipated, I wasn't able to drive more than a half mile before being stopped by snow. A small stretch of snow (and a few down trees) stopped me from driving half way up the otherwise dry road. Three miles in, the snow was consistent.
After nearly 6 miles of hiking and skinning up the road, I reached the top of Cordova Pass. From the pass, I followed the summer trail as well as I could. It's not a super wide trail, so I lost it at times, but since it nearly follows a ridge all the way to the base of the peak's west face, it was easy to stay somewhat close to it.
Whether you stay on trail or not, if you follow the ridge line, you'll eventually find yourself at tree line at the base of the west face.
Looking at this peak's west face, standard route, I figured it would be a horrendous scree climb. A miserable experience that must be tolerated. However, as I booted my way up the standard rib, I determined it wasn't that bad of a climb at all. The slope wasn't as steep as it appears, and the rocks were pretty stable. There is a faint trail that is easy to lose in the few snow patches, but if you take the path of least resistance, you'll probably find yourself on or very near the trail.
It wasn't until I was just a hundred feet, or so, from the summit that I realized there actually was a ski line down the south side. After hiking ten miles in and 3,500' up, I was certainly relieved to finally know for sure (I've never climbed a mountain that I haven't skied. I wouldn't want to part with tradition).
I headed directly down the south couloir from the summit. About half way down, my line came to an end. I made an ascending traverse to the west and clicked back into my skis on a stretch of snow that led all the way down to tree line.
At tree line, I booted my way back around to the west face to pick up the trail, and followed it back to the car.
Colony Baldy. April 14, 2016
Route: South Colony TH to Rainbow Trail to East ridge. Ski south couloir, exit North Colony Creek to Rainbow Trail.
Elevation Gain: 5,117' (according to GPS)
Minimum Elevation: 9,469'
Maximum Elevation: 13,705'
Round Trip Distance: ~18 mi
Round Trip Time: 13:50
I was able to drive a mile further up the road than I could when I was here a couple months ago. I parked just slightly under a mile from the Rainbow trail junction. At 6:00 a.m. I began the hike. Getting to the Rainbow trail took under 30 minutes on the snow packed road. The next 3.8 miles on the Rainbow trail, north to the east ridge of Colony Baldy, wasn't quite as fun. I can't tell you how many times I transitioned from skinning to booting on this trail. Every time the trail faced north, I put the skis on. Every time it wasn't facing north, the skis were in hand. Nonetheless, in a little over 2 hours into the hike, I made it to Colony Baldy's east ridge.
The bushwhack up the east ridge wasn't too difficult, following faint game trails and sticking to the snow free south side of the ridge. I had it pretty good until I hit snow around 10,000' elevation. The overnight temps, below tree line, barely made it below freezing. I don't think I'd be overly dramatic by describing the snow pack as an unsupportable, isothermal, bottomless, slushy quagmire.
After two hours of bushwhacking and wallowing in slush, I made it to tree line. Not a minute too soon.
I was out of the quagmire, but not quite out of the woods just yet. Well unless you take it literally. Technically I was out of the woods, since I was above tree line, but figuratively I wasn't. I still had the winds to deal with. As I approached the summit, the winds picked up to an estimated 60 mph.
After gearing up, and taking my summit shots, I headed down the SW ridge, trying to find a line that I had spotted, earlier in the season, from Bear's Playground. After descending a couple hundred feet, I realized there was no ski line in the area. I climbed back to the summit and then skied down the east ridge 0.2 miles until I found a line descending the south face.
The ski descent was ok. Nothing to brag about. However, it was pretty much heaven compared with the hell I was about to descend into.
From the bottom of the line, I skied slightly up valley into the drainage to avoid cliff bands east of the bottom of the line and north of the creek. Following the creek, more or less, I quickly made it to a meadow and switched to boots. Beyond the meadow, I found myself back in the isothermal, slushy quagmire. I made every attempt to stay on south facing slopes to get myself out of the snow. Eventually I made it to bare ground and began the 2 mi + hike/bushwhack out. The hillsides were clogged with downed timber, and dense, short trees. My map showed that a trail exists through this drainage, but there really isn't one. At least not one that's worth a shit.
It took me nearly 4 hours to hike three miles out of the drainage and get back onto the Rainbow Trail. I don't think I'd be overreacting if I referred to the hike out as a suffer fest. Back on the Rainbow trail, I wallowed through every stretch of snow for three miles. Nearly every step caused my ski tips to dive into the slush. After every step, I'd have to pull my ski backwards, raise my leg out to the side, like a dog pissing on a tree, get the tip above the snow and repeat the process. I don't think I'd be overreacting if I said that if I had a gun with me, I would have shot myself in the head.
What I thought would be a fairly simple day, turned out to a miserable 14 hour long suffer fest. Sometimes the mountain gods make you pay a price for all the great mountain days they give you. This day I paid that price. As I am writing this report (April 16), there's a raging blizzard in the mountains, dumping several feet of snow. I think this must be my reward. So, if you're a skier and you enjoyed an amazing powder day after this storm, you have me to thank.
Pico Aislado (or is it Pico Asilado?). April 25, 2016.
Route: Music Pass to Tijeras north ridge. Descend Tijeras NW face towards base of Pico Asilado south face. Ascend/descend Pico Asilado's south couloir.
Round Trip Distance: 17 miles
Minimum Elevation: 9,897'
Maximum Elevation: 13,611'
Elevation Gain: 6,850'
Round Trip Time: 15:00
There seems to be some confusion about the name of this peak. Is it Aislado? Or is it Asilado? I frequently find both spellings...sometimes both in the same trip report. Whatever it is, I'm now calling it Pico A-Slog-O.
As a little bit of background, I discovered this peak last fall while studying Sangre topos. I was looking for something out-of-the-way. I came across this peak called Pico Asilado, just south of the Crestones. I had never heard of it before, but it appeared to have a south facing gully going down from near the summit. After a quick internet search, I determined that it had no easy access from the west (the obvious approach). I came up with a plan to approach it from the east, going over Tijeras peak. I searched the web and found a late spring trip report of this route on Summit Post. From the tr, it appeared to have a skiable line from pretty near the summit. It detailed a snow approach that went over music pass, traversed the valley to the cliffs below Tijeras peak, took a hidden couloir through the cliffs, gained the 13k' + ridge, descended to the west of the crest of the Sangres and then up Pico's snowy gully to its west ridge below the summit. Did I mention that the trip report called it both Aislado and Asilado? The trip report mentioned some rock scrambling on the ridge to get to the summit, but I was hoping that I'd be able to find a skiable line right off the summit.
After nagging my friend Eric (Gueza 2.0) for a few days, I eventually convinced him to join me on my Slog-O. We left the Springs at 3 a.m., and arrived at the Music pass 2wd parking by 5 a.m. After about an hour of 4 wheel driving/digging ourselves out of snow drifts (or "early morning fuckery" as Eric calls it), we managed to get about another mile up the road (saving us a good 20 minutes of hiking).
By 6 a.m., we were hiking the road, and within another 15 minutes, we were skinning.
From the top of Music Pass, we dropped about 400' into the valley to the west. We skinned about a half km up the valley before heading west toward the cliffs at the base of Tijeras. Well, we ended up veering a little too far to the south and ended up a little too close to the lake. It would have been more efficient to have traversed the base of the steep slopes to the north of the lake.
Once we broke tree line, our next task was to find the couloir through the cliff band. From below, this couloir is completely invisible. The only indication of its existence is the apron at its base. If you look at our gpx route, at the bottom of the report, you will notice that we stayed far north of the cliff band and then suddenly took a beeline towards it. It wasn't until we were right across from the couloir (12,400') that we could see it, and determine that it went through.
From the top of the cliff break couloir, we skinned up to Tijeras' north ridge at 13k'. At the ridge, we caught our first view of our objective. And our objective looked good!
A few options presented itself to ski down the west flanks. Most of the lines were rocky near the top of the ridge and we weren't quite sure if they went all the way through to the basin below. We ended up hiking a couple hundred feet higher on the ridge to about 13,200'. We clicked into our skis, and skied a descending traverse onto a north facing slope, which lead into the basin below. Staying as high as we could, in the basin, we were able to ski nearly to the base of Pico A-Slog-O, at 12,000'.
A quick skin to the apron of the south facing couloir, and then the booting began. Given the possibility that we were about to ski a first descent of this line, Gueza's mind focused on what we should call it. I was referring to it as the south couloir, but a quarter of the way up the line, Gueza 2.0 came up with a much more creative name. "The G-Money line!"
We topped out of the couloir, onto the west ridge. I had been eagerly awaiting this top out because I knew what views to expect...
From the ridge, we scrambled class 2+ rock and snow to the summit.
After a good long stare at the Crestones, we clicked into our skis and skied directly off the summit. We skied the snow covered west ridge to the top of the south couloir...er, I mean the top of the G-Money line.
We skied down to 12,000' elevation and returned the way we came. At the head of Deadman creek, below Tijeras' north ridge, we climbed snow and talus to the lowest point on the ridge and then skied to the top of the cliff break couloir.
We were able to ski all the way to where we had to skin up to Music Pass. At the top of music pass, we skied another mile or so until we had one last up hill climb to the 4wd parking. From the 4wd parking, it was all down hill from there.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
|Comments or Questions|
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