ADVENTURE JOURNAL

Star Peak (13,521 ft)

16.8 miles, 5,300 vertical, 9 1/2 hours and four descents in the Elk Mountains

w/ Adam Moszynski


Star Peak stands at 13,541 ft

Star Peak stands at 13,541 ft


Since we’ve been in a nice freeze thaw these last few weeks and winds have kept everything up high pretty frozen, Adam and I had the benefit of a late start last Tuesday morning at about 6:15 am from Ashcroft. As we knew we were in for quite a day, we hit the flats up Express Creek with a pre-dawn pace fueled that could only be explained by copious amounts of coffee.


 

Adam touring in the early morning light, just above the end of the Express Creek mining road but still within tree line.

Adam touring in the early morning light, just above the end of the Express Creek mining road but still within tree line.


Adam and I have planned a pretty ambitious day. Tour out and into Star Basin, a zone complimented by the picturesque Star Peak (13,521ft), flanked by Taylor Peak and the Rib Cage. Lot’s of options for a long day of climbing and skiing. Myself, having a small obsession with couloir skiing, was naturally drawn toward the North Couloir and the Dr. Evil Couloir. Hoping to climb one to gain access to the main, north face of Star, Adam and headed out toward the basin,  just 6 or 7 miles away from our truck. We were fortunate to only have to walk a few hundred yards before it was skins on and up the old mining road toward star basin.


 

The view from Express Creek as we climbed and the sun began to rise illuminating our goal.

The view from Express Creek as we climbed and the sun began to rise illuminating our goal.


As we steadily climbed, we raced the morning sun as it illuminated our goal. The Dr. Evil couloir, (far left angled couloir), Star Peak, still remained blocked by the flanking the Rib Cage on lookers right. (Low snow year, only a few lines still go on the Rib Cage)


 

Adam enjoying a proper view of Star Basin in the first morning light.

Adam enjoying a proper view of Star Basin in the first morning light.

 


The skin up express creek went quickly and we soon broke tree line. We were fortunate to take in several different approaches to Star peak as we climbed, opting for an elusive but skinable approach lookers left of Star Basin to a lower elevation gun barrel pass. We thought the skinable approach seemed better than climbing Dr. Evil or the North Couloir so we opted to save our legs and keep our skins on.


 

Adam just below tree line. Star Basin and the North Couloir clearly visible in the morning shadows.

Adam just below tree line. Star Basin and the North Couloir clearly visible in the morning shadows.

Within the early morning shadows. Adam lead the way toward the gun barrel pass just barely visible in the upper right corner of the photo.

Within the early morning shadows. Adam lead the way toward the gun barrel pass just barely visible in the upper right corner of the photo.

We made quick work of the basin, getting closer to our first objective.

We made quick work of the basin, getting closer to our first objective. The gun barrel pass now well illuminated by the early light.

I trailed behind Adam, taking in the view and snapping photos. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I trailed behind Adam, taking in the view and snapping photos. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam inches his way closer.

Adam inches his way closer.

Continuing the climb with the valley behind me. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Continuing the climb with the valley behind me. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

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Adam at the top of the gun barrel, the top of our first descent and over six miles into our approach to Star.

 


Just over six miles from the truck we reached the top of the gun barrel. Our gateway to the acutely glaciated Star Peak and our first opportunity to gaze upon its north and the north ridge which we would end up using for our ascent.


 

Contouring descent toward the summit was relatively clear and skis were on snow. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I took in the view of Star while continuing our contouring descent toward the summit was relatively clear and skis were on snow. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam, stoked, with his sights set on the North Face of star!

Adam, stoked, with his sights set on the North Face of Star!

We transitioned back to our skins and made our way toward Star. Adam took the lead.

We transitioned back to our skins and made our way toward Star. Adam took the lead.

Incredible bluebird morning in the Elks. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Incredible bluebird morning in the Elks. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


We transitioned over to our skins and continued the climb. The snow was perfect, just soft enough to keep skinning so we opted for a less steep route to the ridge to save our legs for the final few hundred feet to the summit.


Continuing the climb toward the ridge. Access to the North Couloir, seen in the top of this photo.

Continuing the climb toward the ridge. Access to the North Couloir, seen in the top of this photo.

Adam was making quick work setting in the skin track and left me in his dust to take a few photos. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam was making quick work setting in the skin track and left me in his dust to take a few photos. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


As Adam took the lead, I took in the views from the rear. The sun was warm, the snow was just soft enough to skin and the sky a perfect shade of blue. Absolutely no sign of the impending storm we were trying to avoid. The horizon was completely clear.


Adam cruising toward the ridge in the perfect snow.

Adam cruising toward the ridge in the perfect snow.

I reached the ridge a few minutes after Adam, we took in the view before transition to our crampons for the final few hundred feet. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


Star’s north ridge offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Once gaining the ridge, it becomes much more obvious why this peak is rarely climbed in the summer. The ridge is steep, lined with loose scree and the bordering north face is equally as steep. Rolling over back to the basin floor, a fall isn’t an option.

After some water and food, crampons on, ice axes out, it was up the ridge toward the summit. Adam and I took turns putting in the steps toward the summit. Stopping to breath and take photos of the incredible landscape. From the ridge we could see our entire approach, well over seven miles from the truck and well worth all the effort.


Star's north ridge offers incredible views.

Star’s north ridge offers incredible views.

The first pitch of the climb.

The first pitch of the climb with the summit within view.

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I made the top of the first pitch, just behind Adam. Time to put more steps in.

I made the top of the first pitch, just behind Adam. Time to put more steps in. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

With the valley behind him, Adam continued to push for the summit.

With the valley behind him, Adam continued to push for the summit.

No falling here. I took my time in this weird side hill section that hung out into the north face. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

No falling here. I took my time in this weird side hill section that hung out into the north face. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The incredible ridge traverse. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The incredible ridge traverse. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam working his way toward the summit under the warm mid morning sun.

Adam working his way toward the summit under the warm mid morning sun.

I led the last section toward the Summit. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I led the last section toward the Summit. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Summit Stoke! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Summit Stoke! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam and I at the Summit of Star Peak (13,521ft)

Adam and I at the Summit of Star Peak (13,521ft)


The Summit of Star is incredible. The 360 degree views from the Sawatch Range, to Crested Butte the San Juan Mountains and back to Aspen leave nothing more to be desired and the internal sense of accomplishment, for how far we’ve traveled and climbed certainly mask any fatigue from being on our feet since 6:15 am. We were really excited to see this summit had snow, top to bottom, and we would be able to descend without too much difficulty. I got the chance to drop in first!


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Adam at the summit with Castle in the background.

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Myself at the summit, looking the opposite way into the Sawatch Range. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


We had made the summit but we were not even half way through. The second of four total descents awaited.


I dropped in first off the Summit. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I dropped in first off the Summit. Photo by: Adam Moszynsk


The north face was a little steeper than we both realized…and the snow a bit chalkier too!


Enjoying the chalk! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Enjoying the chalk! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam making his way down from the summit.

Adam making his way down from the summit.

Yes, it was steep! Adam demonstrating the proper technique.

Yes, it was steep! Adam demonstrating the proper technique.

I descended the last pitch of the north face in some soft powder! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

I descended the last pitch of the north face in some soft powder! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam finishing off the line from the summit.

Adam finishing off the line from the summit.


After taking in the warming snow on the south/south west aspects we needed to climb to get back to Star Basin, Adam and I decided to head up the closer, South Couloir to access the big, North Couloir back into Star Basin. We didn’t have big climb ahead of us, but because things were warming up we transitioned quickly and I started putting in steps to the top.


 

Kicking steps. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Kicking steps. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Topping out on the couloir. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Topping out on the couloir. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam topping out on the couloir.

Adam topping out on the couloir.

Beautiful rock walls the lined the climb.

Beautiful rock walls the lined the climb.

Stoked and ready for the third descent of the day! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Stoked and ready for the third descent of the day! Photo by: Adam Moszynski


Topping out and peering into the North Couloir we were pleased to see the couloir went right from the top. Having scoped the line on our approach toward Star, we were excited for this picturesque classic. After having climbed around 5,000 feet and been on our feet for almost seven hours we were both pretty tired and opted to take a few minutes to enjoy the view, have some water and food before the descent.


 

Adam sent it from the top, styling the chalky north facing winter snow.

Adam sent it from the top, styling the chalky north facing winter snow with the view reaching all the way back to the truck.

Finding some soft beneath the spires.

Finding some soft beneath the spires.

Feeling good in the steep terrain. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Feeling good in the steep terrain. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Back into the Star Basin. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Back into the Star Basin. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam on the final pitch down the North Couloir.

Adam on the final pitch down the North Couloir.

We even found some powder. Adam demonstrates that you can still make that snow move, even with well less than 100 cm underfoot.

We even found some powder. Adam demonstrates that you can still make that snow move, even with well less than 100 cm underfoot.

Stoked on another beautiful descent! Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Stoked on another beautiful descent! Photo by: Adam Moszynski


With the snow still holding and a bit more stretch in the legs Adam and I decided it was a must,

the Dr. Evil Couloir.


Again we alternated kicking steps, with the snow being pretty wintery, it wasn't difficult slogging but tired legs kept us thankful we could share the work load.

Again we alternated kicking steps, with the snow being pretty wintery, it wasn’t difficult slogging but tired legs kept us thankful we could share the work load.

Adam on his way up Dr. Evil

Adam on his way up Dr. Evil

Rounding the corner on Dr. Evil. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Rounding the corner on Dr. Evil. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Adam topping out on our final ascent of the day, the Dr. Evil Couloir.

Adam topping out on our final ascent of the day, the Dr. Evil Couloir.

Topping out just behind Adam, I had a few minutes to enjoy the view of Castle before our descent. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

Topping out just behind Adam, I had a few minutes to enjoy the view of Castle before our descent. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


We had incredible views of both Star Peak and Castle Peak from the top of Dr. Evil. This was by no means a first descent, but a lesser skied couloir amongst many other lesser skied couloirs. The wide open walls allowed for some fun on the way down and we both enjoyed the descent! Our forth and final of the day.


 

Adam descending our forth and final descent of the day. Dr. Evil. With the perfect backdrop, Castle Peak.

Adam descending our forth and final descent of the day. Dr. Evil. With the perfect backdrop, Castle Peak.

Enjoying the soft snow.

Enjoying the soft snow.

No reason not to enjoy some interesting features on the way down. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

No reason not to enjoy some steep features on the way down. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The valley beneath me. My last descent of the day. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The valley beneath me. My last descent of the day. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The North Couloir visible over Adam's left shoulder.

The North Couloir visible over Adam’s left shoulder as he powers down Dr. Evil.


With four descents down we made our way through the basin, taking in the views of our approach, Dr. Evil and the North Couloir all the way down. Star Peak remaining hidden.


 

We made our exit just as the storm clouds began emerging. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

We made our exit just as the storm clouds began emerging. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

A moment of reflect.

A moment of reflect.

The exit. Express Creek. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The exit. Express Creek. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The final walk to the truck with Star Basin, Express Creek and 17 miles, 5,300 vertical and 9 1/2 hours behind us. Photo by: Adam Moszynski

The final walk to the truck with Star Basin, Express Creek and 17 miles, 5,300 vertical and 9 1/2 hours behind us. Photo by: Adam Moszynski


Each day in the mountains we explore a little further, climb a little higher, suppress our nerves in the face of pain, exhaustion and situations that scare us. We do this by pushing ourselves, one step at a time a little closer to our goals, both the tangible and the internal. Returning home from the freedom of the wide open to find out a little more about ourselves, that we are truly capable of more than we believed and stronger for the lessons we learn far away from four walls. Today was one of those days where every moment reminds you, there is no form of skiing more pure, no greater expression of freedom than to climb a mountain, stand atop its summit and ski down in whichever way you most prefer.


 

Star Basin just before a fresh spring storm.

Star Basin just before a fresh spring storm.

2 comments
  1. That looks and sounds like it was an incredible day! Keep getting after it man! I’m jealous !!!

  2. Awesome skiing , and photographs

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