Pikes Peak - 14,109 feet
Capitol Peak - 14,138 feet
Pikes Peak - 14,109 feet
Capitol Peak - 14,138 feet
|Winter Fourteener Odyssey|
It all started on Pikes peak. I just had my first summer of hiking the 14ers, finishing with 15 peaks, but the hiking came to a hard stop in the fall. The season was over and I had hard time accepting that. I found this website, and saw a few threads where people talked about hiking peaks in winter. There was mention of avalanches and good weather windows. But 2011 was a huge snow year, and the plans kept falling apart - it was snowing every weekend. Finally, but mid-February, it looked like there might be a window. A group of roughly 10 people formed. I invited a coworker. Seems like the winter gear wouldn't be a problem - I'll just hike in my ski pants and a jacket. I don't remember if I had already bought snowshoes or not.
Pikes peak (#1)
02.21.11 with 14ers.com group
We carpooled to the trailhead and the hike was on. We made it to Devils's playground as a group, but then one by one people started dropping out. It was getting colder and windier by the hour. The forecast called for sunny and reasonable temperatures (for winter), but it was really windy. I had no idea wind would cause us so much trouble - people just couldn't stay warm. Eventually, it was just me and one other person continuing - a reporter from the Colorado Springs Gazette, who kept asking me (between gusts) why I am doing winter 14ers. I had no idea, this was the first one! Above the 13k the winds got absolutely ridiculous, but we were too close to the summit, so I remember grabbing the planks of the cog rail to get up. We summitted, but it was quite brutal. I remember my fingers freezing instantly while trying to take a photo. The reporter took multiple photos with his big camera, but I never saw any of them. After a brief moment by the summit house (it was closed), we headed back down to warmth and less wind. It was an interesting experience, but I was puzzled by a strange chain of events and kept pondering why I didn't freeze like everyone else. Once back, and discussing the hike experience on the website, Jim (Danceatmoonrise) pointed out the plumes coming off the summit and said something like "you better watch out for high winds when the plumes are like that". This was an "aha" moment for me and in addition to all other factors, I was now monitoring the wind speeds.
I skied the rest of the winter at the resorts, and then had an absolutely banger summer with 25 new 14ers with my new best friend and partner, Lynn (who was working on finishing her remaining 14er peaks). Winter was around the corner and I was looking forward to it.
2012 - 8 peaks
12.26.11 with Lynn, Jeff, Dillon & others
Jeff Golden (SurfNTurf) put out a hilariously written advertisement to hike Humboldt around Xmas. He wanted a camping experience as well. No surprise, he got a big group interested in going, and Lynn and I jumped on the bandwagon, but as a day hike. We slept in a hotel in Westcliffe (not much sleep was had with late arrival, giggling and too much excitement about the first winter hike of the season). There was rumors about the existing trench, and we had definitely acquired snowshoes by then, so we were all set. Lynn & I had already hiked Humboldt and Crestones in the summer, so we knew that 2wd parking lot was low, really low. We set out in cold morning air, me striving to keep up with her as always, and sometime later, busted through the boys camp just past the Rainbow trail turnoff. They had already left and were ahead laboring up the trench. We stashed the snowshoes at treeline (more on that later), I dragged my butt to the summit on sheer willpower (mileage and elevation were starting to catch up) and saw the amazing views of the Crestones for the second time. The winds weren't nearly as bad as last time, there was a good group of people and we were having fun. Finally, we peeled ourselves from the summit perch, descended the ridge down to the snowshoe stash - and then spent a good part of at least 30 minutes trying to locate them, as the sun was rapidly rolling past the Crestones. This wasn't good. I thought it would be perfectly obvious where we stashed the snowshoes - at the end of the trench, of course! but they were nowhere to be seen. Finally, by some sort of a miracle, they were located, and we bombed down the packed trench, trying to get back to cars before dark. Another "aha" moment - mark the stash on the GPS. Meanwhile on the way, Lynn told me some horror story about not finding the snowshoes or the track and postholing down the mountain, but now I don't remember all the details. We beat the guys back to the cars (they still had to break down the camp) and felt pretty darn good about ourselves. This winter 14er thing is going to be fun! Humboldt TR
01.07.12 with Lynn
A week or so later we were back at it - Sherman was calling! Early on, at the trailhead we ran into Steve (marmot72), but quickly realized how fast he was, wow! He also wasn't interested in Sherman, but veered off towards Horseshoe. Again, lots of fun was had on the hike and we giggled the entire way. I remember it being a little icy in spots, and of course, windy. I think we had to hurry up because the storm was approaching. Sherman TR
01.14.12 with Lynn
My birthday was here, and strangely, I didn't want anything else but to get to the top of a 14er. Even better, 2 of them. Even more so, 2 new ones. Birthday plans were set, hotel in BV booked and Lynn and I headed to Missouri gulch. The two-fer hike was a success, and later in the evening we got to soak in the Cottonwood Hot springs for the first time. Early next morning I had a white knuckle drive over the Tennessee pass to ski at Beaver Creek. This would start the trend of 14ers and skiing around my birthday that would continue for the next 10 years. Belford & Oxford TR
La Plata (#6)
02.11.12 with Pete and 14ers.com
In a couple weeks there was a fairly large gathering on La Plata. Everyone had different speeds and staggered start times, so I ended up hiking with just one other hiker who matched my pace (Pete). The views were again astonishing and I marveled at Sayers BM and Lakawanna (without knowing the names of the peaks yet). La Plata TR
Ellingwood Point (#7)
02.18-19.12 with Lynn, Rob, 2 AMS instructors
While we got ourselves in winter 14er hiking frenzy, both Lynn and I felt that we were ill prepared to handle more difficult situations should they arise. So we both enrolled in the Colorado Mountain Club's High Altitude Mountaineering school (HAMS). Ellingwood Point was chosen as the graduation hike. We were beginning to develop quite a history with that basin. I hiked Blanca & Ellingwood in the summer, but both peaks had eluded Lynn so far, and not for the lack of trying. Couple of weeks earlier, right after Belford & Oxford, we made another, ill fated attempt at Ellingwood Point. I was just getting into backcountry skiing that winter, and had acquired my first AT setup a month prior. Unfortunately, as I discovered, the learning curve was very steep and expensive. This was only 5th time on my brand new backcountry skis (and looking back I should have picked a more reasonable objective). We tried it as a day hike, I gave it all, but ended up bonking really hard around 12.5k from carrying too much gear. I told Lynn to go ahead to the summit, but as a nice person, she thought it was prudent to turn around with me. I felt like an abject failure. This was hard, and it created some frictions between us.
But back to the hike. This time I stuck with snowshoes. Five of us - Lynn, me and Rob and 2 instructors made an uneventful trip to the cabin. We were supposed to camp in our tents, but sleeping inside the cabin sounded way more appealing. Next morning, we started out as a group, but weren't moving quickly and we only had a short weather window before the storm would move in. So myself and another instructor decided to push for the summit. Finding some inner resources, Lynn and Rob picked up pace and ended up summitting right behind us. Ellingwood Point TR
Sunshine & Redcloud (#8&9)
03.17.12 with Jim
A month later I made plans to hike Sunshine and Redcloud with Jim (Yikes) and Adam (awilbur77). This was my first time meeting and hiking with Jim. Adam mentioned having some knee issues, and I was hoping it won't be a problem. But a few hours into the hike, Adam had to turn around and to head back, while Jim and I continued on. San Juan views were magnificent. Jim's TR
The spring was spent getting used to my new ski gear, finally getting first ski descents (Clinton & Democrat) and climbing Bell Cord on South Maroon for the first time. In the summer, I finished 14ers and then climbed Mt Rainier. I was gradually gaining better snow travel skills.
2013 - 10 peaks
12.22.12 solo, started with Meetup group
As the winter approached, I made plans via Meetup to hike Mount Bierstadt. It sounds like a perfect early season hike. The group decided to start from the Grant side, so it definitely added some road miles to the hike. It wasn't a very memorable hike, so I don't remember the exact details, but I think the group either headed down and/or waited for me, but fairly certain I tagged the summit solo. Great training peak and I got into the hiking shape for the next peaks which were very memorable.
12.29.12 with Aaron and Brad
The next hike was definitely very memorable - I was heading back to the Blanca basin with the group from 14ers.com. It was really cold when we started, and I volunteered to break trail on snowshoes to stay warm - and it worked! Two people from the group turned around, but Brad, Aaron and myself continued and eventually made the summit. It felt like I was finally hitting my stride and my batting average in this basin started to improve. Brad's TR
Longs peak, Cables route (#12)
01.04.13 with Greg (summitlounger)
Next week I hit the winter 14er jackpot. Summit Lounger (Greg) was looking for a partner and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had no idea (yet) that Longs is a tough peak to find in good conditions in winter - it tends to be incredibly windy and cold, with very few reasonable weather windows. I had some concept that Greg was strong, but it was a treat to see in action an efficient hiking and climbing machine that he is. First order of business was trying to keep up, but carrying a 60m rope only marginally slowed him down. Because of a couple parties behind us, Greg decided to give them some room and we lounged on the windless summit of Longs for an hour in early January. Although I had already climbed Cables route in the summer, this time felt different - tools, crampons, gloves, ropes. This was alpinism. Jim's TR
01.18.13 with Jeff, Ben and John (fepic1)
My birthday weekend was here and winter 14er bonanza continued. Weather was fantastic. On Day 1, I teamed up with Jeff, Ben and John to hike Huron, which was still accessible from Winfield trailhead. The crew was hilarious, we had a lot of laughs and it was a really fun day. Huron TR
01.19.13 with Kevin Baker and Meetup group
For the longest time I didn't even want to count this as a winter ascent, because the weather was just too nice. I think it remains the warmest day I've ever been out in winter. This was the first time I hiked with Kevin Baker. Conditions were too mild, so I went over to South Elbert and back for added workout. I ended up repeating Elbert in January of 2017 and skiing it as well.
02.07.13 with Jim (semitrueskerm)
This day I partnered up with Jim and we hiked Columbia via SE ridge. I think it was another very nice winter weather day. TR here
Mt Sneffels attempt 02.16.13. In mid-February, I made an attempt at Sneffels on skis, but started late and came up short. Carrying skis from the road closure took a lot out of me and the snow was not confidence inspiring, so I turned around. It will be another 3 years before I stand atop of Sneffels. Sneffels attempt TR
03.02.13 with Meetup group
This was an exceptionally windy day, and although planning on full Decalibron, we only managed to get Lincoln, before being blown off back to the Quartzville trailhead. This was another Meetup hike.
03.06.13 with Steve Hosack
Determined to get the rest of the DeCaLiBron, I was back 4 days later with my climbing friend Steve who wanted to try some winter hiking. This time we started from a snowbank at Paris Mill. After seeing fairly dry Bross, we stashed snowshoes, and did Bross - South Bross - Cameron and Democrat loop. Steve skipped Democrat. However, on the hike back from Democrat, I postholed without snowshoes to my thighs, and lost my small P&S camera with all the photos from that day. Just couple of photos from my phone survived.
The rest of the spring was spent on really fun 14er ski descents as I kept experimenting with my AT setup. The summer brought the first Weminuche 13er trip to Vestal, Trinities and Arrow and I caught the Centennial fever. Dallas and Teakettle followed. I kept hiking Centennials and 13ers through the fall and was in a great hiking form when winter arrived.
2014 - 9 peaks
After skiing Homestake peak the day before, I relocated to Antero trailhead. Weather was supposed to be great with mild winds, so I decided to try hiking in stylish Patagonia softshell pants, instead of my bulky insulated ski pants. Well, a couple of miles into the hike, I was getting really cold, uncomfortably cold. The thought of turning around crossed my mind, but since I had a down puffy which I didn't plan on using, I simply wrapped it around my torso and was able to complete the hike. I will never again try wearing softshells in winter, but they sure are nice for spring :) Sawatch TR
12.28.13 with Krista and Taylor from Meetup group
Two days later I made plans to hike Yale via Avalanche gulch with a big Meetup group. I believe Jim (Yikes) might have broken the trench for training purposes, but I don't remember exactly why we picked this route. As usual, after a few hours, the group dwindled to just 3 of us. As we finally reached the summit, the storm was approaching, so we had to boogie. On the way down we ran into a couple hikers, I believe there were Danny Gilbert (before his Flatirons/Eldo fame) and his partner. We thought they were kinda slow and pushing it with the weather :)
Another reason for stepping up my hiking game was to train for Orizaba. I think that winter 14er hiking paid off and the Mexico volcanoes 2014 birthday trip was a success ( I was careful not to drink too much tequila though).
After the volcano trip, I was in the best hiking shape of my life and eager to put that hard earned acclimatization to a good use. Luckily, Jim (Yikes) and Jeff were planning an overnight Crestones trip and I was able to join them. I was ready to step up my game and start tackling some harder winter 14ers.
Crestone Needle & Crestone Peak via traverse (#22&23)
01.26.14 with Jim & Jeff (2 nights of camping)
I packed in the night before, but the approach took me 2x longer than in the summer. I kept losing the trail and ended up going over some sugar covered slabs, arriving in the dark. It wasn't particularly cold, but for some reason I had trouble staying warm. Next morning, we set out for Needle, and if my toes didn't warm up by the time we reached the base of the East gully, I would have had to turn around. We made a respectable time to the summit of Needle despite a couple of ice bulges, so the traverse was in the cards. We tied our 2x30m ropes together and rapped down the headwall. I have done the Peak to Needle traverse before, so this was a different direction of travel, but we didn't have major route finding issues. But we all started to slow down, finally reaching the Peak summit around 4.30 pm. Crestones TR
02.16-17.14 with Will for part of the approach, solo on the summit day (overnight)
This unassuming Sawatch 14er turned out to be a watershed moment for me. I have been struggling with snowshoes for awhile now. They didn't provide enough floatation, were exhausting to use and carry. But my first tries at using skis for approaches were a total fiasco (Ellingwood Point, Sneffels) and essentially cost me summits. But I was starting to run out of the short approaches and I didn't have a big group of snowshoers to combine forces with. With Harvard winter stats, I was at the end of the rope - 17 miles and over 6k vertical were not doable for me on snowshoes solo without a prior trench. So I decided to try again with skis and see how it goes. I invited my snowshoer friend Will, who could hike with me for the part of the approach. There was no trench that we knew of and it had just snowed a lot, in fact the avalanche danger was red. But I studied the map and determined that there was no avalanche danger on route. I had the entire President's Day weekend for camping and could take my time.
There was a ton of new snow. But to my shock and most pleasant surprise, the deep snow was no match for my skis, even weighted down by the overnight pack. I set the skintrack to 11,300 ft with 2,800 ft of elevation gain and started to dig a platform for the tent. It took me awhile because the snow was incredibly deep and I kept falling through. Overnight, my Big Agnes inflatable sleeping pad developed a leak, so I ended up sleeping on just the foam pad, but even that couldn't dampen my high spirits. I had just over 3k feet left to go to the summit!
In the morning, trailbreaking was even more efficient, as my pack was much lighter. But instead of stashing the skis, I decided to carry them all the way to the summit to see if I could get a summit ski descent. Of course, it burned valuable energy and time, and I realized that a clean descent wasn't possible. I was further shocked how fast and efficient the exit on skis was, especially since I was getting tired. From now on, at least in my mind, the skis were the way to go for long approaches. Sawatch TR
03.09.14 with Will
Sawatch peaks were proving to have a high success rate, so I was sticking with the range. Princeton was next and I again teamed up with Will, this time on snowshoes (I figured I would probably end up carrying skis more than using them). It just snowed a lot and the trenching below the treeline was brutal. Just before reaching Tigger, Will decided to call it, but I continued, getting to the summit just before 3pm. Winds really picked up on the way down. Sawatch TR
Next weekend provided another twofer opportunity, and it didn't snow for a change. The snow finally started to consolidate and I was in for a rare treat - postholing was minimal, especially on the way up. Great conditions were offset by me being sick with the cold, so I moved slowly. Being foiled once before in spring of 2011 by a drift that blocked the access to the summer trailhead, I started from the Angel of Shavano campground. Not sure about stability of the Angel gully, I took the standard summer route up, but as the day progressed, gradually developed confidence in spring-like conditions. Somehow I also decided to tag UN13,712 because it was fairly close and looked dry. On the way back, I glissaded down the Angel, which provided a swift descent, since it was getting late in the day. I don't recall now why I went on snowshoes instead of skis, but probably because I was unsure of the route I was going to take (Angel or standard) and also because I had already skied Shavano and it's a long hike in ski boots from the top of the Angel up and over Tabegauche and back. This duo would become my last 14ers on snowshoes. Sawatch TR
Winter was rapidly coming to an end, but the weather was still perfect, so I decided to take Wednesday off work. Evans without wind? Yep, it can happen. I've always heard horror stories about Mt Evans' willows from the Guanella pass side, and I didn't think there was a trench, so skis were a clear choice in this case. Left my trusty chariots near 12,500 ft and booted from there and back to the stash. Saw a large herd of big horn sheep. Evans TR
In spring, I stepped up my game in terms of skiing steeper lines, such as La Plata North face, Castle, Conundrum and Holy Cross, among others, bringing total 14ers skied to 16 peaks. Over the summer, I got into multipitch trad climbing and continued to work on Centennials, getting Jagged and Coxcomb, followed by a 2nd trip to Indian Creek in the fall. Winter training commenced with Jackal, Vances and Uncle Bud's hut trips on skis.
2015 - 8 peaks
Grays-Torreys attempt and avalanche on Kelso mountain 12.31.14. In the aftermath, I decided that I needed more avalanche training, so I looked into AIAIRE Level 2 options, and also a WFR class. I took both classes later in 2015. At least one thing was crystal clear to me - snowshoes were a great disadvantage, and influenced an unsafe route selection, so from now on, I switched to skis.
Wetterhorn & Uncompahgre (#29-30)
01.17-19.15 with Matt, Marc and Jamie
I was sick with cold for the most part of January, but friends encouraged me to get out. Conditions in San Juans looked good, so we picked Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre as an overnight trip. I joined forces with my ski partners Matt B, his bother Mark and Jamie (shanahan96) on snowshoes. We packed in 7 miles Saturday and set the campsite at the upper summer 4x4 trailhead. The night was cold, and all but one stove broke. I was tasked with the snow melting duty until 10pm. The next day, Jamie and I tagged Wetterhorn and were back at camp by 4pm (Matt and Mark had to leave earlier). Although not feeling so swell, the following day we went to Uncompahgre, finding good conditions on the steep west-facing terrain, and made the summit on target with our turnaround time. Elated, we were back into camp and skied/hiked out before the next storm moved in. Wetterhorn-Uncompahgre TR
A week later, I was on a hut trip near Ashcroft, and after a few recent favorable conditions reports, I decided to make a solo bid on Castle & Conundrum (none of my hut companions were into that stuff).This was my first foray into the Elks and the real scope of the project started to become clear. On most other peaks up to this point, the avalanche terrain was avoidable, or at least manageable. In the Elks, the avalanche terrain would be a constant factor, and I would have to summit Castle again because I ran out of time for Conundrum. At least the skiing part was very enjoyable. Castle TR.
02.08.15 with MoneyMike, Jaaron, Jamie, Adam
But for the time being, I could forget about the fearsome Elks and headed down to the dry Sangres. MoneyMike & Jaaron on skis and Jamie and Adam on snowshoes were the crew. On this trip I met the glop monster (in early February!) and also had the nicest and warmest night of winter camping despite forgetting to bring the foam pad. Skiers ascended the North gully (as they wanted to ski it), while snowshoers took the ridge. I left my skis at the saddle, but came back a few months later that spring to ski the North gully in mega-fat conditions. Lindsey TR
02.14.15 with Nelson
This one of those stunningly beautiful San Juan days. I avoid driving for individual peaks that far, but saw the forecast and couldn't resist. Nelson, who drove from Utah, joined me for the day. It was a great day. We skied a ways on the way down into Boulder gulch.
03.08.15 with Eric & Roy via Meetup
Couple of weeks later, it was Massive time. It was a fairly large group at the start, but I think just me, Eric and Roy made the summit. It was a long summit push, but we were able to ski from the summit all the way back to the car under 3 hours. Above the treeline, the snow was mostly sastrugi, but good snow in the trees. Massive TR
Grays & Torreys (#35-36)
On the last weekend of winter It only made sense to tackle the unfinished business, and I set out on a solo trip from I70, this time on skis. Of course the trail was in the correct spot this time and looked like a superhighway. Saw 7-8 other people in the basin, and plenty of ski tracks, including in the Dead Dog couloir.
At the end of March I took the multi-day hut-based AIARE Level 2 course on Red Mountain pass (tragically, 4 years later, during the same course that I had taken with Silverton Avalanche school, one of the students died in an avalanche on a field trip).That spring I also connected with a great ski mountaineering mentor and continued 14er skiing. Finished Centennials in the summer on Grizzly A, had a 10 day trip to Weminuche and started leading trad. Unfortunately, all this activity caused an overuse knee injury, so I had to put breaks on hiking and wasn't in great shape when winter arrived.
2016 - 9 peaks
North Massive (#37)
I had made plans with Amy (blazintoes) to hike North Massive, but there was some sort of miscommunication about the objectives, because a few miles into the hike we separated. I ended up breaking trail solo in deep snow towards North Massive, which was a lot of work and ended up a long day. Except for running into Jeff coming early morning on the way back from his overnight Massive trip, I haven't seen anyone the rest of the day.
Kit Carson (#38)
01.22-24.16 with Dillon Sarnelli (overnight)
It snowed a lot in January, but finally by the end of the month, avy conditions turned green in the Sangres. It was go time! To give myself a better chance of success, I packed into the Spanish Creek the day before. The approach was like a maze and I also encountered the glop monster. The approach that should have taken 4 hours, took 8, but by the sunset I was sitting cozy in my tent. Dillon arrived in the morning on frozen skintrack way ahead of schedule. We went up Cole couloir, attempted to cross avenue, wallowed in deep snow and bailed on Challenger, but Kit Carson was in the cards. Not wanting to ski out the heinous approach in the dark, I stayed another night. Winter Kit Carson
01.26-27.16 solo (overnight)
The recent storm dropped a few inches in the Sangres, so the avy report remained unchanged. However, the trench needed refreshing and I decided on an overnight trip again. Probably could have done it as a day trip, but when I ran into a deer carcass in the middle of the trail with fresh mountain lion tracks around it, my desire of hiking in the dark decreased quite a bit. Challenger TR
Little Bear (#40)
01.30.16 via Hourglass with Matt Bourget
The green avy window was still open and Matt was interested to join me for a day. SW ridge is a popular winter route, but having done it once in the summer, I had zero desire to do it ever again. Hourglass is rarely done in winter as it is so conditions dependent and looked like a real challenge as a daytrip. We decided to bring the rope for the rap, heavy steel crampons (instead of lightweight aluminum) and ice tools. Thanks Matt, this was a sick trip, even though we postholed a ton. Little Bear TR
02.13.16 with 14ers.com group
Culebra was the last Sangres 14er needed to complete the range, so I made appointment with the ranch for Saturday. After some recent significant snowfall, I was hoping to ski it. The day before, John Kedrowski set the skin track and skied the peak, so I was pretty optimistic about ski conditions. The ranch employee went on and on about the famous visitor. Unfortunately, after the big cairn, the winds became really bad, so I had to abandon the hope of skiing the peak. The summit ridge looked really windblown too. At least the descent was quick and efficient on skis - instead of a roundabout snowmobile route I skied down the main road back to the ranch HQ. The next day, I thawed out at Taos skiing Kachina peak.
02.21.16 with Brandon Chalk
This was a perfection of a day, and things went as smoothly as it gets in winter. After several more trips in the area, the views just never get old. The only downside was that my knee kept hurting. Sneffels TR
Castle (r) & Conundrum (#43)
03.05.16 with Brandon Chalk and Greg Gorell
Couple weeks later, avy conditions were green and stable, so it was time to head back to the Elks for Castle and Conundrum. Instead of the Castle reclimb, we glissaded from the saddle on the way back - obviously only can be done in very stable snow conditions. After reaching our ski stash, skiing down was excellent, but my knee again hurt afterwards. Brandon's TR
Missouri (#44) & Belford (r)
03.11.16 Missouri solo and Belford with Jon Kedrowski
Dr Jon was in the middle of his "Ski the 14ers" project, and since I was looking at the same peaks, we were bound to run into each other. I missed him by a day on Culebra a month before. We messaged back and forth and I knew he was going to ski Missouri/Oxford/Belford that day with a very early start. Since I only needed Missouri, I decided to start at a more reasonable hour - an hour or two behind him. Missouri TR
Mt Wilson (#45)
03.13.16 with Greg Gorell (summit lounger)
Boxcar couloir ski descent
Greg was getting very close to the finish line and still needed Mt Wilson. I was only too happy to head to San Juans, although the knee was not happy. With great conditions, we climbed Boxcar, but the clouds came in while we tagged the summit, and snow refroze for my ski descent. Definitely a line I can see skiing again in better snow conditions. Wilson TR
Pikes peak (r)
03.19.16 for Dominic Meiser winter 14er finisher
Motley crew: Sarah, Dominic, Ryan, Steph, Abe, Dwight, Mike, Kylie, Matt, Kevin, Jane, John, Ken
Despite the cold and windy day (again!) this was a really fun day. We got lost a few times too, and barely made it back to the trailhead before the winter ended. And I got to wear snowshoes one more time. I miss the camaraderie of the winter crowd!
Somehow I salvaged the spring ski season by skiing 5 new 14ers and a dozen 13ers, even tried mountain biking to help with knee issues, and gradually got better by the summer hiking season. Had a great multiday trip to Weminuche and then 2 scouting trips up Pyramid (with Will and then Brandon) exploring the winter route. Most of the 14 remaining peaks I had left were hard and it was time to start getting serious.
2017 - 7 peaks
01.14.17 with 14ers.com
East ridge ski descent
Winter of '17 arrived like a lion and I had some of the best days of powder skiing in December and January. But in mid-January, I was getting a bit antsy - McNamara hut trip and low angle powder skiing is lovely and all that, but where are the peaks? I was kinda hoping to save Quandary as a potential finisher (if I ever get to that stage), but just couldn't resist getting high and skiing it around my birthday. There was a large 14ers.com gathering that day and I even ran into Bill M and his posse. Since I was done sooner than expected (3 hr 45 min RT), I hit Lake Chutes @Breck afterwards - it was mind boggling this terrain would be open so early in the season!
East ridge ski descent
It was still snowing like crazy, so a week later I went and skied Elbert as a training day. This time, it definitely looked like winter.
San Luis (#47)
02.03.17 with Will Seeber (Mountain Stoke)
After a lot more snow, finally by February, San Juans started to come into condition. I connected with Will who was attempting to hike all the 14ers in one winter season, and we teamed up for San Luis from the Equity mine. Stars didn't align to ski the Yawners, but powder skiing in the trees was nice. Superbowl weekend TR
Wilson Peak (#48)
02.05.17 with Will Seeber, Jim Yikes and Justin Becker
After a rest day (half day of skiing at Telluride) I met the snowshoe team early next morning at Lizard's Head pass. It was definitely one of the most aesthetic peaks of the entire project, especially in perfect weather. Even with the fast group, the exit on skis was quite a bit quicker. Superbowl weekend TR
With good conditions in the San Juans, I got motivated to give El Diente a go couple weeks later. Despite stellar conditions elsewhere, I got shut down very close to the summit. Snow was just too deep on the north side and I was unaware of the ridge route. I got blisters on the soles of both feet from skinning so many flat road miles. I would have to come back next year.
Holy Cross (#49)
03.03-05.17 with Ann Driggers, Jim Yaich and Jeff
The March of 2017 turned out to be the most successful and productive month of the entire project. First, I teamed up with Ann Driggers for Holy Cross. Jim and Jeff were also going, but since they were way more organized and motivated, they started way ahead of us. We coordinated to take over trailbreaking duties in the morning. Again, they walked past our tent as we were getting ready, still in the dark. Skin/ski transitions slowed us down, but we were finally able to catch them at the bottom of the creek. Snow was very deep, but no match for our skis. We made a good time, stashed the skis and hiked to the summit. I think Jeff and Jim went all the way to Holy Cross ridge, because we didn't see them. We did ran into Will Seeber who was daytripping MHC. Ann and I got back to camp around 3pm, I decided to stay another night for Notch mountain (which I thought was a ranked 13er, oops!), but Ann skied out the same evening. Holy Cross TR
03.12-13.17 with Matt Bourget, Jaaron & Jennifer
Since I ran out of Sawatch peaks, it was time to head back to the Elks. Matt, Jaaron and Jennifer joined me on this one, hoping to ski the peak. Typical for winter, snow wasn't as good as we had hoped. On our summit day, the storm came in earlier than predicted. But seeing Crystal Mill in winter was amazing. Snowmass TR
03.17-18.17 with Brandon Chalk, JW & Dylan
Still not sure how I was able to pull out such a perfect weekend, and weather and partners just lined up, but here it goes. I disliked the idea of hiking Maroon creek road more than once, so I decided to haul my pack to the Crater lake. I packed in the night before, made the camp in 4-5 hours and settled in for the night. Brandon & company was supposed to show up in the morning. Snow and weather conditions were perfect and everything went smoothly as we had rehearsed the Keyhole route in the summer. Old Man Pyramid TR
We all skied down to my campsite, the guys left and I stayed for another night, waiting for another team of three to show up in the morning.
South Maroon (#52)
03.19.17 with Will Seeber, Justin Baker, Matt Gorbett
Since Bell Cord is east facing (vs west facing Pyramid route), we had a much earlier start time. In fact, the guys started at 10pm from T-Lazy-7 ranch. They made a really good time and showed up at my tent by 2am as I was getting ready. This weekend proved to be hard to top, although I spent next 3 weeks recovering from deep fatigue. South Maroon TR
2018 - 5 peaks
Chicago Basin 14ers (#53, 54, 55, 56)
02.02 - 06.18 solo
As my list of the remaining winter 14ers had dwindled to just 7 peaks, I was pretty excited for winter'18. But it turned out to be a very low snow year, and my excitement quickly subsided. Besides, making an attempt at Chicago Basin 14ers in winter was a logistical nightmare. My workload significantly increased in winter, and while I could take 2, even 3 days for a 14er, I didn't even know how to bring up the matter of taking an entire week off in the middle of winter. So when I got an email from the boss that our office will be closed on February 5&6 for unexpected repairs, I interpreted it as signal that I needed to consider the trip. Chicago Basin TR
El Diente (#57)
The weekend after getting back from San Juans I went resort skiing and injured my knee in a fall. I spent the rest of the month recuperating. But by the early March I felt ok enough to go back for El Diente (since I had turned around a year earlier). Despite much less snow elsewhere - but still respectable amount to require trailbreaking - I encountered deep unconsolidated snow on the north face. I didn't even try to force the issue and took the ridge. With no storm in the forecast, I was able to summit, get back to camp and even had enough energy to ski out the same day, finishing around 9pm.
Feeling pretty demoralized about snow conditions and nagging knee injuries, I decided to just save 2 remaining peaks for the next good & stable weather window - i.e. - next year!
North Maroon (#58)
03.06-08.20 with Ann Driggers, Kevin Baker and Justin Becker
Final two peaks proved to be the crux of the entire project. First, I had to sit out the winter of 2019 (after making an attempt and turning around 13,700 ft on Capitol) due to the record amount of snow. Then Covid hit. But I had made a solo attempt on North Maroon in early February 2020, encountering challenging snow conditions, particularly around the Gunsight tower. With another party successful a week later, I was chomping at the bit. Thankfully, Ann decided to come on the trip and help with trailbreaking duties. North Maroon TR
01.23-25.22 with Ann Driggers, Lee and Justin Chardavoyne
If I thought North Maroon was hard, this was another level hard. Capitol took me 3 attempts - 9 days, 6 nights of winter camping and another solo day to go and set a skin track. This is an absolute beast of a mountain in winter. But finally, in late January of 2022, the stars aligned and with the help of Ann, her friend Lee and Justin, I was able to reach the summit in winter and complete my winter project. Capitol TR
In a twist of fate, a reporter from Colorado Springs Gazette, contacted me in February and wanted to interview me for the story. I forgot to ask him if they still have my Pikes peak photos from 2011, but here is the article he wrote. Thanks for reading!
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