Rock slides, avalanche terrain and red wax

Two weekends in a row where Ma Nature decided to alter my plans. It was not the outdoor fun I planned, but it was still enjoyable.

My original plan two weeks ago was to ski Red Mountain Pass in the San Juans.

Just outside of the small mountain town of Ouray, Colorado, this pass is supposed to have some exquisite backcountry skiing.  Amazing views, low angle descents and a wide area. More than the ice climbing this area is known for, it was the skiing that  called to me. The San Juans are my favorite mountains in Colorado and to experience them in winter sounded awesome.

Alas, a rock slide occurred just before I arrived.  The road was closed and unseasonably warm conditions made for some avalanche terrain outside of this closed down pass.

At the last-minute, my touring skis were packed and a “Plan B” was TBD.

Once I arrived in Ouray, I quickly found the place my friends were renting and gracious enough to share with me. Stowed my gear, cracked open a beer and waited until my friends arrived.  Once my friends arrived, we discussed the options available to us.

My buddy Mark confirmed the bad news. We made a plan to stop by a local outfitter to  see what looked good in the area.

The following day, we chatted up the local outfitter and he gave us ideas.  On his advice, we went to East Dallas Road with its fantastic views of Mt. Sneffels.

The day was unseasonably warm and reminded me more of spring skiing conditions than winter in Colorado.  I even had to use red wax. For those who are not familiar with waxing skis, this is the kick wax used more in March or April than in January!  The snow was “gloppy” with bare spots along the jeep road.

Still, we were outside and the San Juans never fail to impress.

After this ski, Mark and I went to the Ouray Brewery where I had a delicious Red Mountain Rye.  If I can’t ski near Red Mountain, at least I could drink the beer!

I noticed how quiet the town was on our way back from the Brewery. The warmer weather and the closed road really seemed to be affecting the business in the area. Judy was saying how people had to be off the ice in the park by noon or so because it was so warm.

A few of us in town had dinner together and plans were made for the following day.

The next day’s outing would be Dexter Creek Road mere minutes from where we were staying. Though lower in elevation, the road is in a canyon for part of the way and shaded. The snow was actually better.

The views, again, did not fail to disappoint.

This short, but steep route, quickly had us gaining elevation.

At the end of the road, there was a high point that was dry and sunny. A perfect place to drink some hot tea and take in the view.

Down we went the steep jeep road. Amazing how much quicker the descent was than the climb!

About half way down the road, Mark spied a small trail that looked like it led to an overlook. Skies were taken off and we “bare-booted” it over to another great vantage point.

We walked back, clipped back into our skis and finished the quick descent.

Arrived back at my vehicle and enjoyed an apres ski in town.

Took a quick shower and made my way back to the Front Range.

Not quite the weekend I had planned, but still enjoyable.

The following weekend was going to be another weekend spent in Colorado mountain town. This time Crested Butte, or rather Gothic just outside of CB.  Friends of mine are caretakers of the research station up there during the winter months. The only way in and out of the research station is a three-mile ski or snowshoe up the road.

My friends generously invited me to spend the weekend up there. I again had visions of deep powder, gorgeous mountains and seeing something in winter I have not seen before.

Alas, the weather turned Friday. The roads were a mess. I did not want to go over Monarch Pass at night in the howling snow.  To make matters even more “interesting”, my friends informed me that the avalanche danger into and out of Gothic was rated hazardous. All backcountry skiing throughout Colorado had similar hazardous conditions. I decided to stay local and stick to ski touring instead.

I did a nice 10 miles of skiing up at Peaceful Valley. It was pleasant in the trees with the gently falling snow.

The following day was sunny. The snow was cold, fluffy and abundant. The wind was gentle. A perfect day to push onto Coney Flats below the Continental Divide.

The trail itself is not hard, but people seldom go all the way to Coney Flats. So there is often trail to break.  I passed people on the way up, then the tracks become less defined. Towards the end, I followed one track through partially broken trail.

I arrived at the flats and had a great view of Sawtooth on the Continental Divide.

I drank my chai, savored the warm sun and the solitude.

As I was enjoying my break, a person came by and yelled “Paul!”   I did not recognize the person at first. But after a minute of talking, I realized it was friend I had not seen in two years. Wow! Time flies.  He was my mysterious trail breaker. We caught up and skied back together. A fun little ski back, esp taking a side jeep road that was steeper than the normal trail.

We quickly arrived back at the trailhead and realized we are on the same hut trip in a couple of weeks. Small world! A good way to end the tour.

Made it back home, quickly showered and went to the pseudo-holiday of the Super Bowl at my  friends’ house..  🙂  I am not into football, or even sports at all,  but wings. pizza and beer always works for me!

Not quite the weekends I planned, but still enjoyable.

Yeah..that’s about right.  (From MNN.COM)

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Andrew Cook
Andrew Cook
10 years ago

Looks like a good time. I’ve never tried cross country skiing, but it looks like something I’d like to try out.