TR: Mt. Audubon 6/28/2015
It's been a weird spring/early summer in Colorado. After several months in midwinter with nearly no snow, the faucet turned on in early April and just never stopped through May. This seems like it would be great, and for awhile it was, but it soon became problematic. The snowpack above treeline was not yet consolidated, and stability was very day-to-day. Below treeline, the temps were warm enough that the precipitation fell as rain, saturating the snowpack and melting it quickly.
Then in June, it stopped. And went straight into nuclear summer. And everything slid. Again, there were days that conditions were safe and good, but if you only had weekends to work with (and only some of them) it was tough to get a good day out. So, after a few days in late May, I thought I was done for the season.
Ryan and I originally planned to go climbing this day. But logging into social media the night before, I saw a bunch of photos and comments from friends that normally would have hung up their skis for the year, getting out and raving about how good it was. So I began working to persuade Ryan to change plans. It took a bunch of convincing (mostly due to the early wake-up call required), and roughly 18 million different options were considered before we eventually decided to head up to the Brainard Lake area and check out a few options.
Waking up early sucks, but seeing views like this in the morning make it better.
And improves some more when you get here.
I've been known to describe the crowds on popular Front Range peaks as a "cattle train." There's a reason I've gravitated more towards 13ers and 12ers than 14ers the last few years. Mt. Toll, one of our original options, is not a 14er and wasn't quite a cattle train, but there certainly were a lot of skiers headed that way. The north couloirs on Little Pawnee were melted out, and I skied Paiute several years ago, so that left Mt. Audubon. The south-facing Crooked Couloir was getting a bit thin at the chokes, but totally skiable and looked to be in good shape. So up we went.
This line was much less crowded, with just one other group - a climber and a skier. Scott and Mandy quickly became our new friends; here they are topping out, with Boulder and it's foothills in the background.
The summit was another 300ft above us, and between some ominous looking clouds and annoying looking talus to get there, we skipped the summit. We still had a fantastic view of the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, though.
Scott was climbing without skis because of a recent injury. He glissaded in first, followed by Mandy on skis.
By the time we dropped in, the sun went away, which was a mixed blessing. It kept the snow surface basically perfect, and I found smooth, fast corn. But the light was no longer great for photos. It didn't seem to bother Ryan though, who basically started slaying it right away.
While the Crooked Couloir isn't terribly aesthetic on its own, it is in a spectacular location. Me with Mt. Toll's beautiful north face behind.
Down lower, the line gets a bit more inset and begins to weave between rocks. Me weaving with it.
I'm pretty sure I looked like this every time I stopped. Should give an indication of how good the snow was.
Mandy followed, clearly enjoying herself.
Scott with the glissade (aka sledding for adults). I think he wished he was skiing, but he definitely got the most faceshots of all of us!
Wrapping up the couloir proper with Toll behind was spectacular. Ryan, and Mandy.
I ended up making the choke and exit a little more exciting by overestimating how much speed I could take into the mandatory left turn. This led to an interesting mandatory bunny hop over some rocks into the apron.
Eventually the apron petered out, but a short 10 yard walk across talus brought us to another snowfield that we were able to ski to within 50 yards of Blue Lake. Ryan cruises the bonus pitch with our line above him.
Mandy finishes up her descent.
Still life with large boulders.
Before we left, I had to take a couple more shots around Blue Lake. It's a photogenic spot.
I guess I'm not done skiing yet...