Well the last few days I have been lucky enough to have a solid partner. Adam Fisher came back to Leadville on the 15th of this month, and with my time off in the middle of a course, we have gotten after it. We skied a couple of great lines, and linked up with Adam Steele to check out a new free line in Buena Vista, CO.
On the 21st we parked at the winter gate on Highway 82, just west of Twin Lakes. A few days before, qhile coming over Champion Pass in to Lackawanna Gulch, with an Outward Bound Crew, I saw some Couloirs that we just asking for a little ski love.
After pounding a quick two miles of Highway 82 pavement, we headed up Lackawanna Gulch. The skinning was less than perfect. A freeze-thaw crust had formed on the top layer of snow lower down. For Adam Fisher and myself, our ankles were not fans of this newly formed layer. We continued towards the summit of high point 13,630(?), on the south side of Lackawanna. We encountered varied terrain: snow, grass, and the occasional talus field. Once we reached the summit we discovered the line that I had spotted a few days earlier, needed a rope for a rap in. We did not have a rope or harnesses with and scouted for a second option to the east. We found an amazing couloir that progressively contained better snow when loosing elevation. By the last pitch down and out, the snow made for fantastic turns on what can only be described as “recycled snow.” Imagine powder that is highly supportable. The ski out Lackawanna was simple, and we quickly found our shoes and began to two mile road hike back to the car.
On April 22nd, Adam and myself met up with Adam Steele at Turtle Rock in Buena Vista. The project Adam Steele had in mind was a line he aided in the Summer of 2011. It consisted of a finger crack in a dihedral, that finishes in a roof to a bulge top out. Great fun. We think the route is in the 5.12b+ range. However, it’s hard to say until one of us climbs it free on lead. Hopefully I’ll have a post on this project mid-summer.
Today, April 23rd, was a full day with a late start. We arrived at the La Plata trail head around 10:15am, headed up the trail around 10:30am. After wandering through a 100 vertical feet of snow-less trail, we began to hit patches of snow, two to three feet in depth. This continued off and on until 1:30pm, when we reached 12,600 feet. At this elevation we had gained the main summit ridge. I finally put on my AT boots and tossed the trail shoes in the pack, we cruised along the flat parts of the ridge, while coming up against some “bonking” on the steeper steps.
When we reached an elevation of 13,000 feet, we were able to skin! From there we ran up the remaining 1,300+ vertical feet. Around 3:50pm we reached the summit of La Plata (14,361′). Having had a number of lengthy breaks on the way up, it was quite appropriate to enjoy the view and eat my Summit Mango.
Heading down was quite welcomed. The two of us, climbed non-stop 4,500 plus vertical feet, and covered 4.25 miles to reach the summit. Adam and myself, skied off the summit and headed down an amazing couloir on the North face. After some beautiful turns down the first 2,400 feet, we skied onto the flats in lower La Plata basin. From here it was a wallow-post-hole on ski party till we finally descended down to 10,200 feet and were able to put our skis on our packs and bushwack back to the La Plata Trail. Overall it was a great day, with a good friend, on some amazing terrain. For both Adam and myself it was the first Colorado 14′er we had skiied off the summit of. In total we went “car-to-car” in sub nine hours.
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