Clinton Peak and the Lewinsky Slot: Skiing in July

Posted on July 12, 2010


I’ve started a new project to ski at least once a month for as long as reasonably possible. As far as I can tell, Collin is going to be sharing this project, so we teamed up this past weekend to go skiing on July 10th, 2010.

We were unsure of where to ski two weeks prior. We pondered Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side, including the Never Summers, but reconnaissance in that area proves difficult. Coming back from Gunnison last week, however, Chris, Joe and I took Hoosier Pass to see an old friend at Lucha’s in Breckenridge. In the fading light of the south side of the pass, I noticed a long, 100% skiable couloir just beyond Mt. Lincoln, and I knew it had to be the place to go.

The Lewinsky Slot from afar

Collin reported the Indian Peaks were dry, so he agreed to give Hoosier Pass a shot. Further research pointed out that we’d be skiing near Clinton Peak, ranked as the 80th highest peak in Colorado at 13,857 feet. The couloir in question, although it contained ski tracks, remained unnamed as far as I could tell.

Montgomery Reservoir in the early morning light

We arrived at the Montgomery Reservoir at about 6:45AM and hit the trail at 7:00AM sharp. The trail was actually a pretty sweet 4×4 road with plenty of puddles, and one stream crossing that was so perfect and beautiful it almost sounded and looked fake.

The Fake Creek

Collin crossing the creek

We made it to the beautiful Wheeler Lake in about 2 hours. During the entire hike we ran into only 2 people and about a half dozen deer. We could also see the relatively small crowds of people ticking off the summits of DeCaLiBron like ants.

Wheeler Lake with Wheeler Peak behind

Collin looking past Wheeler Lake

From Wheeler Lake we ascended the path past old mines and rusted mining equipment into the Clinton/McNamee/Traver Peaks amphitheater. We also got a good look at the couloir in question.

Myself with the Lewinsky Slot to my right. Photo: Collin

I had plenty of time to think about what a good name for the couli would be. There were already tracks in it, so I’m sure someone has already named it something spectacular, but that didn’t prevent my mind from wandering. Since it was so adjacent to a mountain named Clinton Peak, political undertones ruled the day. A few good names were “Bush’s Slide,” “Miserable Failure Couloir,” and “Hillary’s Redemption,” but nothing could match the way “Lewinsky Slot” rolled off my tongue. “Yeah, after Clinton’s Peak we skied down Lewinsky’s Slot.” Perfect.

Behind the couloir, the peaks of Traver, McNamee, and Clinton seemed to call our names louder than I had expected. Plus, since we made such good time, we thought we’d boot up the most prominent face in the amphitheater and see what the weather looked like. Sure enough, the clouds looked like they would hold off, so we ditched our packs and scrambled up McNamee Peak, then lightly jogged over to Traver Peak. It took us about 45 minutes total to make the round trip, ticking off two unranked 13ers before returning to our gear between McNamee and Clinton.

The snow route to the saddle between McNamee and Clinton

Collin on the route up

Atop McNamee

Collin didn’t know what was going on on top of Traver Peak

A still mostly-skiable Mt. Democrat from Traver Peak

Clinton Peak and the Lewinsky Slot from Traver Peak

Before we started the day, Collin treated me to a sample of his new project, currently titled Altifood. It tasted great, and I did notice I was certainly pushing my pace quite a bit during the 3 peak scramble. We made it to the top of Clinton Peak while I was still feeling awesome, and decided to ski from the summit and then scramble back up and over to the Lewinsky Slot. I was certainly excited to be knocking off a summit descent in July!

On top of Clinton Peak

Collin shredding Clinton Peak

I only started to notice a bit of soreness in my legs during the final push up to the unnamed peak just beyond Clinton Peak. But in terms of lung and mental strength I still felt great, and we made it up to the couloir entrance just short of 20 minutes.

Collin chasing me up the final ascent of the day

Mr. Kool-Aid Man looking down the Slot. Photo: Collin

The Slot was steep and sweet, holding continuous snow all the way to the bottom of the slope. Collin got his new GoPro ready while I traversed over to get a better photography angle. It was great July skiing!

Collin dropping in…

…and shredding the slot…

…all the way to the crux

Myself keeping up in the Slot

At the bottom of the slope we transitioned back into trail shoes and passed all sorts of creepy old mines back down to Wheeler lake, where I noticed a radical old car, making for some prime artsy photography.

Collin stoked about a great July descent!

Glissading a short snowfield back to Wheeler Lake. Photo: Collin

Artsy Fartsy

At the end of the 4×4 road, the place that had been abandoned in the morning was now a parking lot for almost twenty lifted trucks. We got the usual stares and questions regarding the skis on our backs, and continued on despite the suddenly continuous rain for another 2 hours back to Montgomery Reservoir. We were soaked, but still pumped to get a great 8 hour skiing mission in on July 10th, 2010. Another stop at Lucha’s on the way out and we made it back to Denver after a wonderful day in the mountains.