(Last Updated On: June 2, 2011)
Now that snowline has begun its relentless upward creep towards the highest peaks, access is becoming more difficult and it’s time to set our sights on different zones. Springtime typically means the Gothic valley for Crested Butte ski mountaineers, but the heavy snowfalls we’ve had this spring have greatly delayed the opening of the road. With the road partially melted, unplowed, and still gated, the only choice was to go in with bikes.
photo John Jasper
Our goal for the day was the Spider Face. Brittany and I tried to ski this same line last spring, but found a little too much water ice for our tastes. With this year’s deep snowpack, we hoped that much of the ice would still be covered by snow. Here’s the face on 5.9.09, in much thinner and dustier conditions than the conditions we found on the last day of May, 2011:
We had a great view of the East faces of thunder Pyramid and Pyramid. Our friend Jordan skied it that morning.
Plenty of avalanche debris is visible in the last photo. Unfortunately, almost every face with rocks on it had slide activity within the last week. I hate to say it, but the best skiing right now is on slightly mellower faces that don’t have rock faces triggering point releases. The point of all this is that once we reached the roughly 13,200′ summit of “Spider Peak” (the unnamed and unofficial subpeak of Whiterock), we decided that the Spider Face should wait for another day, when it didn’t have so much avalanche debris. It was a bit upsetting for me, since I now stand at 0-2 on the face, but it was probably the better choice to ski the White Widow Couloir on the South Face. Besides, it isn’t exactly a bad consolation prize. White Widow front and center, with the Spider face on the left:
We had been dreading the trip back up the road all day, knowing that the frozen snow which hadn’t posed any problem in the morning would be thawed and miserable in the afternoon. Thankfully, heavy equipment saved the day:
Gothic road is presently plowed just past the Gothic townsite to the Judd Falls parking area. My sources tell me that the gate will open tomorrow, 6-3-11. This should make trips up Copper Creek and Rustler’s gulch much more reasonable. Descents of the South Couloir of South Maroon should be on everyone’s list next week. Ski mountaineers looking for easy access should also note that other springtime classics like Cinnamon Pass (linking Lake City and Ouray in the San Juans) and Independence Pass (between Aspen and Leadville) are both open. So go get some, and think freezing temps!