Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hmm, that might be tricky to ski!
I have become pretty psyched to try skiing some 14ers after my epiphany last year that most ski routes listed in the venerable Dawson's Guides to the 14ers are basically skimo races in length, vert and difficulty (or a lot easier in many cases!). This year I had my mind set on San Luis Peak for a couple reasons. First, Id never been in the area at all and it is fun to explore new places. Second, it is near by. Third, the more I read about the "Yawner Gullies" (SSW facing...) the cooler they seemed. I got a chance a few days ago to give it a shot but was unable to rustle up a partner. I figured an "intermediate" objective would be fine alone and the approach looked really safe in spring conditions so I headed out solo.

The road was not well marked but easy to follow to where it was still drifted too much for my little truck and I had to walk about a mile to the trailhead which was unmarked. I love it when areas are so lightly impacted that you actually need to use a map to figure stuff out instead of following well marked signs!

The snow was super firm so I left my trail shoes on and hiked for an hour, gaining 1k vert to where I could first see the objective...

The initial approach- you take a right in the drainage right before the dry pointy peak in the distance. That dry SSW face was a hint...

Yep, same picture, again. What a beautiful mountain, what a sad snow pack. The Yawner gullies are the 3 entrances to the central cleft in this face. Man will they be cool to ski some day. Just not today!

This was a great reminder that the best attitude to enter the mountains with is one of assessment and acceptance with a general idea in mind that you acknowledge might not make sense due to the realities on the ground. We all seek to cultivate this mindset with regards to avy danger but it is good for less dangerous situations as well to ensure you have fun no matter what. After all, that is the whole point, right?

So I looked at the North facing slopes near by...
The route to San Luis contours around this drainage, over the saddle into the next, contouring around it and then ascending the South ridge of San Luis Peak.

And found this!

I was so happy to find a fun steep chute I knocked one of my poles into it, which you can see. It tried playing hard to get for a few turns but then acquiesced. This was fun, steep snow just on the warm side of corn but very fun. I was glad I had my "sissy stick" aka BD Whippet which is new this year after seeing the light last spring snow season. It was a pretty steep bit of skiing with some rocks in the way. Very fun.

Looking up at the turns down below the chute- my polarized glasses messed with framing this one. 1k feet of fun skiing!

Followed by 1k feet of kicking steps back up to what appeared to be a really good exit option to ski most if not all the way out.

Then it was  casual skiing back down to the trailhead. San Luis Peak is basically behind me and bare while the heart of the San Juans are still snowy. Off to the right of this picture I could see Wetterhorn and Uncompaghre which looked in decent shape.  Hmmm.....

Ah spring skiing! Hmm- I think my skis need some wax!
After a fun coast of about 1k vert with a little bush skiing and negotiating some stretches of snow torn up by moose it was time to switch shoes and take a break before the last mile out and a nice drive home.

It was awesome getting out in a new area. Even though I was unable to do what I set out to do, with a good mindset you can still have an awful lot of fun!


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