ADVENTURE JOURNAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replacing deep snow for high peaks, skiing in the Elk Range continues with a summit on Taylor Peak (13,435ft)


Chason Russell and I set off from the town of Ashcroft at around 7am with a goal in mind. Taylor Peak. Although we weren’t sure if we would be able to ski anything do to avalanche conditions, we looked forward to the views and a safe, low risk ridge line skin/climb. If not for an the opportunity for a ski, we were grateful for a morning in the wilderness and an opportunity to get up high while avoiding surrounding avalanche terrain.


Chason catching the mining road up toward the Markley Hut above Ashcroft, Colorado.

Chason catching the mining road up toward the Markley Hut above Ashcroft, Colorado.

 

Castle Creek

Castle Creek


By utilizing an old mining road, we were able to easily access the ridge line that would allow us to eventually make a final push on Taylor Peak. The ridge meanders for miles with incredible views into the Elk Mountains. Cathedral, Star and Castle, three more prominent peaks within the area caught our eyes throughout the climb.


skintrack

This long, meandering ridge line would eventually connect us with the summit and keep us out of avalanche danger.

This long, meandering ridge line would eventually connect us with the summit and keep us out of avalanche danger.


The long ridge line kept us safe from adjacent avalanche paths and would bring us within reach of the summit.


Corbeaux Recon Hoody keeps me well protected on long skins.

Corbeaux Recon Hoody keeps me well protected on long skins.

Some essential gear. You just never know what kind of conditions you'll encounter up high. I always bring more than I think I'll need.

Some essential gear. You just never know what kind of conditions you’ll encounter up high. I always bring more than I think I’ll need.

 


When traveling into the backcountry I always bring more gear than think I will need. Besides the essentials like a medical kit, extra food, water and sunscreen, I prefer to always travel with my whippet in case I need to self arrest when skiing steep terrain where a fall will send you to the bottom. I also prefer to carry my ice axe and crampons with me for steep climbs and icy ridges. I also bring my helmet, on this day my Smith Maze, as well as googles (I/O7) and sunglasses. This season I have preferred touring on the Fat-ypus D-Sender, 184cm for its shorter length and normal camber. This allows me to have more control in steeper, variable snow conditions. For outerwear, its my Flylow Lab Coat 2.0, which breaths well and protects me from winds but doesn’t keep me to hot. Underneath, the Corbeaux Recon Hoody. I love this hoody because the hood keeps the sun off most of my face and neck and it keeps breathing when I working hard on the uphill. All this fits inside my Snowpulse Guide 30 ABS pack.


Continuing to Meander up the ridge toward the summit which is now visible.

Continuing to Meander up the ridge toward the summit which is now visible.


With the Summit within reach it was time utilize a whole different skill set.


Chason Russell prepares for the traverse to the summit.

Chason Russell prepares for the traverse to the summit.


I have never been on a climb and traverse as exposed or as terrifying at this one. Falling is not an option here. Every step calculated, every rock grasped with uncertainty as many are only loose rotten scree. We took our time climbing until we again gained the final ridge to the summit.


The beginning of the traverse which would lead to the final climb to the summit.

The beginning of the traverse which would lead to the final climb to the summit.

 

Chason Continues the Climb

Chason Continues the Climb

Reaching the pinnacle.

Reaching the pinnacle.

Making the crux move in the loose scree and rotten rock.

Making the crux move in the loose scree and rotten rock.

The Elk Mountains will Humble you. Exhausted and relieved as I get both feet under me and I can finally stand up.

The Elk Mountains will Humble you. Exhausted and relieved as I get both feet under me and I can finally stand up.

 


The Elk Mountains will Humble you


Once we were able to regain the ridge we moved on toward the summit. Being able to stand and walk instead of climb reduced the pucker factor and we moved on with confidence.


Here is Chason, just a little bit in front of me, reaching the Summit of Taylor Peak 13,435 ft.

Here is Chason, just a little bit in front of me, reaching the Summit of Taylor Peak 13,435 ft.


Taylor Peak (13,435)


Summit Selfie.

Summit Selfie.

The vastness of the elks, Crested Butte somewhere in the distance with the prominent peak Star in the foreground.

The vastness of the elks, Crested Butte somewhere in the distance with the prominent peak Star in the foreground.

 


 We took in the views and started discussing our descent


Chason descended to get a better look into our line while I watched from the ridge just below the summit.

Chason descended to get a better look into our line while I watched from the ridge just below the summit.


After reviewing the situation Chason and I opted on dropping into a westerly facing couloir that was just down the ridge from the summit. The snow was firmer, chalkier and considerably less sun exposed than other aspects. Even though we wouldn’t be skiing the softest line out there, we were most comfortable with this descent because the snow was firm, had already slid previously and was not sunbaked. 


Chason dips in to the top of our line.

Chason dips in to the top of our line.

 

The westerly facing couloir off the peak offered some lovely chalk. Here I am finding a bit of soft. Photo: Chason Russell

The westerly facing couloir off the peak offered some lovely chalk. Here I am finding a bit of soft. Photo: Chason Russell

We even found a little powder! Chason showing me how its done in the steep tight terrain.

We even found a little powder! Chason showing me how its done in the steep tight terrain.

 


Another fantastic day in the mountains. However, it is still really early to be climbing and skiing most peaks in Colorado. With no real freeze thaw, especially in lower elevations, a lot of risk remains. Our snowpack is thin, complicating approaches, Everyone be safe out there!

Dangers are lurking.


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