May 20th Around the Mountain

Josh called on Tuesday to have me set aside Friday as a Ride Day.  Snow was in the forecast and we assumed there would be enough accumulation over the next three days to amount for a good time. Still, we had not predicted it to be this good. On Friday morning Josh and I met with Matt and Luke at 10,000′ on the backside of the mountain resort. We chose this as our destination because unlike all the other mountains in the valley, the resort is controlled for avalanches throughout the season. Being as late in the Spring as it is, we guessed it would be less prone to larger slab slides than the other surrounding peaks. Not to mention the mountain resort boasts the most accessible steep terrain, requiring only a short drive to the trailhead, or for some, an easy bus lift to the base area.

We drove up and around the residential side of the mountain to cut off twenty to thirty minutes of hiking, and conserved even more energy by following the cat-track (SnowCat plowed access road) for another half-hour or more. Marching up this steep slope still requires a strong effort, but it’s not as demanding as laying a fresh skin-track through shin-deep snow at the same inclined angle. From the road’s apex a skin-track is necessary to reach the top, which on this day loomed somewhere above us in a dark gray, engulfing sky. Upon reaching the summit the storm cleared enough to provide good visibility, and we were rewarded with endless options for descent, from technical, rocky terrain to open snow-fields and wind-loaded glades. However on this day there was a new, heavy snow load resting on very weak, thawed base layers, and we decided to play it safe and avoid the steepest lines.

Our diligence and conscientious decisions paid off, and we enjoyed one soft turn after another for the next few hours. A luxury of riding the resort – only 2,500′ total vertical climb for almost 4,000′ total descent, in less than four hours with four people. For those whom are familiar with Crested Butte, I’ll use some local terminology: We lapped Teo/Headwall (to Wolf’s Layer, then back up to Half-pipe), got Figure 11 (for face shots in the glades), and finished her off at Horseshoe on our way back to the trailhead/cars. For those whom aren’t…It was awesome. We were all juiced on the day. And here’s a slideshow to share the stoke:

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