the coolest thing I have done in a long time…

Posted on May 11, 2009

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This past weekend I had some free time on Friday and was really hoping to get out in the mountains seeing the nice weather forecast. My goal was originally the Dead Dog Couloir, but after a partner had to bail because of work, I had a mad scramble to find someone else to go, and probably on a route not nearly as technical. Jenny was found, and Mt. Elbert was decided on.

We drove up Thursday night, the 4×4 road was completely clear to the top. Some sleep, a 4AM alarm, some coffee, and we were off in hiking boots with a good amount of weight on our backs on the standard east ridge rout. The sleep-walk went quick after getting started around 5am (the peculator takes a while to brew coffee with), and before we knew it we were at about 12,000ft, roughly 2 miles in, and we could put AT gear on. The walk to this point was almost completely dry, and the walk from this point had patchy snow at best on the standard route until about 13,500ft, where it turned into continuous snow.

Around 12,000ft

Jenny stoked for the sun

After a little bit of touring, we split up so that Jenny would take the east ridge and I was going to check out some of the snow climbs on the Box Creek Cirque. After a little more walking on dirt with skis on my shoulder, the cirque presented itself.

Box Creek Cirque

My initial plan was to take the middle dog-leg route on the looker’s left, but when I made it down to the bottom, a much better route was found.

Red: Up, Green: Down (after the summit, of course)

Because Jenny and I had split up I knew I needed to get up it fast to try and meet her on the ridge. I put on my safety whistle (in case of emergency to call Jenny), crampons and ice axe (for the first time! I was so stoked) and started to boot up the thing. The snow was a little punchy but completely solid, especially once I made it to the shady area.

Looking up the route

To the main hallway

Me inside

The climb was completely awesome, especially since I’ve been on TetonAT a lot lately. I think I’m pretty hooked on the snow climbing thing, now if I can find a solid partner for it I’d be really stoked.

After the couloir it was still about another 750 vertical feet of mellow touring to the summit, and when I arrived on the ridge I spied Jenny about 100 yards in front of me. After catching up, there was only one mandatory patch almost to the top when the skis had to come off both up and down. We arrived at the summit at about 10am, 5 hours after we started. It was really gusty on top, but really nice in between gusts.

Summit Shot

The Elks still look snowy

My camera died at the top so I couldn’t get an ski shots, but it turned back on after we skied the Cirque. Here is Jenny after shredding the gnar on the far looker’s left couloir, with my boot pack lines almost visible behind her.

Jenny and our descent route below.

We had to re-ascend the ridge, and then could ski back to about 11,500ft (going around the trail we had taken up). The boots and skis went back on our backs and we hiked out.

Going from snow patch to snow patch

We made it back to my truck at 1pm, making for a total of 8 hours on the mountain. A quick stop at Wild Bill’s after driving super law-abidingly in Leadville, and we made to back to Denver for some Relay for Life action. The rest of the weekend was amazing, I’ll get some shots of climbing on Saturday and tell you about it later. Thanks for reading!

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