Clinton Peak and the Lewinsky Slot: Skiing in July

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.

13 thoughts on “Clinton Peak and the Lewinsky Slot: Skiing in July

  1. The name of this line is Monica’s Descent, not the Lewinsky Slot. I’ll spare you the graphic sexual preferences of our former President that make the former far more appropriate than the latter.

    Stan Wagon, the namer of the line.
    Note: It is couloir — cool-wahr — not coulior — cool-yer.

    1. Thanks Stan. Way to date yourself; and I know I’m only 22 but I seem to remember the latter part of the nineties fairly well, including the Lewinsky scandal. And how do you know no one named it before you skied in 2007?

      And PS, I minored in French, and had one spelling mistake. But thanks for at least catching that one and throwing in a free pronunciation lesson of the French word for hallway!

      1. Where did this 2007 date come from? I skied it in 2001 (and many subsequent times). I never claimed I was first. You don’t have to be first to name unnamed lines. E.g., Swan Dive had been skied for years before I skied it, but no one had called it anything other than the boring “E Face of Guyot”. It dives into the Swan River so this name (like Monica’s Descent) has stuck. Two rules for naming (and there are a million unskied lines up here): short and relevant. Anything obscure or related to, say, the people who first did it is unlikely to catch on.

        Stan Wagon (just had 59th birthday!).
        More names, pics, etc of ski routes at stanwagon.com

  2. This line on Clinton is not an un-named line as you said in your blog. Like most Colorado BC lines it is known by many names, but the one that seems to get used the most is Monica’s Descent.

  3. Hi Stan,

    I got the date from your website. It was the earliest I had seen you skied it. I also had a lot of trouble navigating your site, so I just read your spring TRs before getting too frustrated to look deeper.

    Great story about the “Swan Dive,” it’s totally on topic. I’m also glad to hear that “Monica’s Decent” is more short and relevant than “Lewinsky’s Slot.” I mean, they both have 13 letters, and I think your title has one more syllable, but I totally get your point.

    In climbing, the first person to do a route gets to name it. I think the rules are similar in skiing, but the internet has changed the game. I’ll leave my blog unchanged, you leave yours, and we’ll see what happens to the route when people write TRs in the future.

  4. Hi Ken,

    I did a little research online and could not find a name, so I assumed it was unnamed until Stan Wagon told me differently.

    You might also notice, a little further down in the post from where I claimed it might be unnamed, that I wrote: “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.”

    Perhaps someone should make a Wikipedia page for it or put a link on Google Earth to end the debate for now.

  5. Yes, I know my site is not optimally organized. My fault. But the info is all there…
    It requires that the user know that Clinton is not in Summit County and is therefore in “Nearby Counties”.

    http://www.stanwagon.com/wagon/coloski/nearbyco/HTMLLinks/nearbyco_7.html

    lists all the routes in “nearby counties” and there is a long entry on Clinton.

    And, having experience in both climbing and skiing, I’ll repeat that my experience is that the community rules re. naming, and also firsts, are quite different. In climbing a first ascent is almost always reported somewhere, and named, and some gear might be left behind. Skiing is quite different and firsts are often unreported. Here’s a story: I ran into Sam Silverstein a few years ago (he was on the team that made first ascent of Vinson in Antarctica). He told me that he skied the N Face of Silverheels in 1955 or so (hmm… I must add this to my web page)! No one in the local community would have had any idea…

    So whenever one claims a ski first (I know you did not do this) it is very tricky. I’ve claimed firsts on C, Z, & Deming Drop in the Gore. I was wrong on Z. I am still not really sure about C, but I am pretty sure about Deming.

    PS: Monica’s Descent has 14 letters, not 13. As to whether “Monica is decent”, that depends on lots of things… As to whether “Monica gives a decent descent”, you would have to ask Mr Bill.

  6. Holy smokes, Stan, you went from name dropping in another totally relevant story, to dick-waving with first descent claims, to spelling corrections all in one post. That’s like every internet ski forum shut-down in one post! And I still don’t know what it is you are trying to prove, and I’m still not going to change my name of the line.

    But thanks for the put-up nonetheless. N Maroon was a great mission and a good one to end the big-line season on. Next year I’ve got a few routes planned to push my limits a lot further, and I’m planning to upgrade my GoPro for better accounts of how they go.

  7. Nice work, getting after it in July. I’ve enjoyed Monica a few times, she slides down nice ‘n easy. Skiing every month of the year is a great project– I’m going on 36 months and have really enjoyed the ride so far. Where was your August descent?

    Who cares about the name. Stan’s a badass, so are you, and we all love sliding down mountains, nuff said.

  8. Thanks Jesse! I just got in from a day up at St. Mary’s, actually, but I might make it out a few more times this month because it keeps me sane during these triple digit degree days on the Front Range. Congrats on 36 months too! What is your plan for September? I’m betting on St. Mary’s unless the Grizzly Peak Couloir still goes. We’ll see…

    1. Jon-

      Word, know what you mean about skiing keeping one sane. I’ve never actually skied St. Mary’s but it looks fun. For the past couple seasons I’ve been able to ride strictly Tenmile/Mosquito Range snow (close to home) but it’s getting pretty sparse this year. I saw a picture of Isabelle Glacier up in Indian Peaks and she looks pretty kick-ass. Shooting for a trip up there the first week in September. Ever been?

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