(Last Updated On: May 15, 2015)
The weather in April had been somewhat unsettled. So, I was looking forward to a drier May. As it turns out, this has been one of the wettest Mays on record for Colorado so far. And started that way nearly right off the bat.
The first weekend in May was wet and dreary. Rain. Even up high. This time of year we usually fear the dreaded “d”-word. D for dust. This year it’s been the dreaded “r”-word. R for rain. And “NF” for not freezing at night. I have never seen such a moist spring where snow still melts at alarming rates – at least below treeline. The clouded nights have continually prevented deep freezes from happening in May, contributing to rapid snow-melt, despite the fact that snow continues to fly up high.
While some things are alarmingly devoid of snow, others are so plastered with white stuff you feel like you must be living in Alaska. I have never seen the Sawatch Range looking so white. It’s been a very odd spring. Welcome to Colorado, the new Pacific Northwest. Well, sort of.
But, you take what you can get, and this was what I was faced with when planning a ski for Monday May 4th.
As I left Crested Butte on Sunday afternoon, the dreaded “r”-word had taken over the town. It was pouring rain. I had intentions to ski a line that was lower down on the east side of Independence Pass. But, I didn’t have a great feeling about its condition. My intuition was realized to be true as I gazed upon a completely schmooed out avy path. Rain and wet slides had taken a toll on this line that I’d gazed upon in prime condition just a few weeks earlier. So, on to plan B.
Except, Plan B wasn’t looking good either. So, we went on to plans C & D, one of which ended up being Lackawanna Peak. Higher in elevation, with some mellow options, this peak seemed like a good choice to ski after a night of rain and several nights of soft freeze. Although Natalia had skied it before, she was eager to perhaps check out another part of Lackawanna Peak, if opportunity permitted.
It’s never a good sign for a ski day when you wake up at over 10,000-feet in the middle of the night to find raindrops clinging in the air. I didn’t have great hopes for the day. But, we were there, and we were awake, so why not just try at least? You never know until you go.
We began ascending Lackawanna Peak from the south, hiking about 600′-vertical before finding our first strips of snow. Natalia.
Once on snow, we chose to switch to skinning pretty early on. Natalia with Star Mountain in the background. We were happy to find a decent freeze in the snow despite the rain and clouds that had dominated the night. You don’t know until you go!
As the terrain steepened toward the top, we switched back to booting.
And then the light got flat. Really, really flat. Natalia.
Clouds passed through us off and on as we rounded up to the summit. Me asking the question-of-the-day, “Does the west side go?”
Me on the summit of Lackawanna.
As I went to scope out line options, clouds socked in on the summit. I could barely see Natalia on the summit block, only a short distance away.
I was thinking we were going to have to descend the way we came. But, then the clouds parted for us to gaze upon a beautiful-looking west face. To the west we would go!
While we could have 14er-skied over mixed rocks and snow from the summit, we opted to downclimb the first 75′-vert or so until reaching a continuous snow patch. Then it was time to ski! Me.
This part of the line got pretty nice and aesthetic.
Skiing out the bottom.
We were happy to have skied yet another fun line! But, we were unsure of how difficult it would be to get out. We followed the obvious drainage downward. Natalia.
As we continued onward through the trees we found some manky snow occasionally, but we were able to piece together a ski descent all the way to the road, walking about .5 miles on the highway back to our cars.
While the weather was looking fairly dismal, we dealt with what Mother Nature offered us, choosing a conservative peak for our ski day. It ended up being a fantastic choice and a fun ski. In the morning I didn’t have high hopes for the day. But, we were rewarded otherwise. You just never know until you go!
Thanks, Natalia, for helping me explore!