TR: Clinton Peak 3/23/2014
I've been stoked for the ski mountaineering season to start. We're not there quite yet, but it looked like conditions were finally going to allow us to get up into the higher peaks. Good stability on solar aspects combined with a few inches of new snow and forecasts for clear skies had me searching for good, south facing, alpine terrain. Continuing my trend from the 2012/2013 Season of looking to the high 13ers, Ryan and I decided to head to Clinton Peak (13,857') in the Mosquito Range, just west of Hoosier Pass.
The day began as many days involving snowmobiles do: with a nice solid stuck in a willow bush. I needed a little break after digging her out.
The rest of the sled up to Wheeler Lake was uneventful. With a good running start across the lake, we attempted to tandem up into the basin above, but quickly ran out of horsepower and talent. We stopped, unstrapped our gear, then let the sled ghost ride back down to the lake.
Ryan skinning high above the headwaters of the South Platte River.
I survey the north face of Mt. Democrat.
Strong winds ravage this valley throughout the winter, so despite the above average snowfall this season, Democrat's north face was not looking particularly fat. A few moist spring storms could quickly change that.
Looking northwest into the Clinton Amphitheater from near the summit. Winds along the ridgeline were very strong, and due to the amount of blowing snow, it was impossible to get any good photos from the summit. Nevertheless, we tagged the summit and were able to ski (with skins still on...) across the rolling east ridge to the top of our potential descent lines.
After deliberation, we decided that Monica's Descent was too risky due to the potential for a stout windslab on the upper convexity. Fortunately, on the ascent we had scouted an excellent alternate option just to the east. This broad gully was lower angled (especially at the top), had much less windloading, and only a very minor convexity. After a quick ski cut, we dropped into the upper section and found slightly variable but still very soft snow. Ryan dives into the upper pitch.
We continued to find soft snow all the way down.
After the main descent, we had one last bonus pitch down to Wheeler Lake and the sled. Hard to see me, but this pitch had some great snow.
Our signatures above Wheeler Lake.
A quick tandem sled ride out and we were back at the truck, relaxing in the sun and drinking beers. Here's a view of our day, with the ascent in orange and the ski descent in red.
Great start to the 2014 ski mountaineering season!