Arkansas Peak (13,795ft)
A morning in the Ten Mile Range w/ Adam Moszynski
Arkansas is one of the classic ski descents of Colorado. Its thousand foot couloir takes you from within throwing distance of the summit down its steep face. An intensely gripping line that would leave most skiers feeling a little puckered. The average pitch is well over 45 degrees with the upper half skiing at a continuous 50+ degrees. When caught in the right conditions, this line rivals many as one of the best couloirs in the state.
A nice fresh blanket of snow set the stage for a great tour as we left our truck at the trailhead next to the Climax Mine on Highway 91 outside of Copper Mountain, Colorado. The early morning light illuminated neighboring peaks as we moved through the flats toward our objective with ease and a little anxiousness. Knowing we had received a few inches of fresh snow at tree line left us thinking, just how much snow would be waiting for us up high? Would this relatively short, straightforward outing turn into something much more than we expected?
I finally caught Adam at foot of Arkansas, ready to take over and break trail. The snow had certainly accumulated well in the upper aspects of the basin and we were ready for a more difficult climb.
It was nice to get ahead of Adam as it offered opportunities to take in the view from a different angle. Although Arkansas has one of the most straightforward approaches, the thought that you’re so close to a highway all but disappears as you take in the surrounding. This is another one of those places that takes you away.
Here you all but forget your in Colorado.
It didn’t take long before the skin track began approaching 40+ degrees and the snow became deeper. Soft sloughs lined the bottom of the couloir, the natural shedding a good sign we’d see favorable conditions up high. We skinned for as long as we could, eventually opting to move faster by setting the booter.
One hundred fifty steps, then switch. Back and forth we climbed at a pretty steady pace.
Half way up the bootpack reached 50+ degrees. We were aware of the steepness of this couloir prior to jumping in, however, the fresh snow made it even more difficult as soft, loose snow easily fell from the lead climber to the guy on the bottom. Mainly me as Adam lead the climb us through the steepest section.
The new snow was exhausting.
The last bit to the top was exhausting and Adam lead the pitch with the slope well over 50 degrees. The aspect was wind loaded, making the climb even more dangerous.
Sometimes the safest thing is continue up. Heading down here was not an option.
Arkansas Peak (13,795ft)
Things were heating up and we didn’t spend much time on the summit. A few photos, rehydrating and fueling up for the descent. It was transition to skis and a tippy-toe line off the summit. A fresh foot+ kept rocks well camouflaged and we were careful to avoid anything that might send us to an early run down the face.
The ski from the summit was one of the better ones we’ve had so far this season. Coverage was good and the views were incredible. We could see straight back to the Climax Mine, Highway 91 and the trailhead. From the other side, a perfect view of the Sawatch Range and the continuable of the Ten Mile Range.
Powder. No complaints for April in a low snow year. We’ll take it.
An incredible descent. Mostly powder, a little sun affected, but mostly powder. The best spring turns I’ve had in the last two years and the most consistently steep line I’ve skied in Colorado.
Taking in the view of the white canvas that we were able to paint tracks on puts everything into perspective.
I was feeling pretty beat after Arkansas and it took a little convincing from Adam to get me siked to go for our second line of the day, a north facing couloir back to the truck. The weather was coming in and although we knew we still had time, after a quick fuel up it was back up and over.
We were ready for the second course.
As the clouds rolled in, we reached the top of the our second line. Adam peered in, shouting back “It looks like it goes.” I smiled and continued upwards.
Whether started to set in and we quickly down climbed the scree. The snow was dry, light and thankfully there was just enough to descend.
Truly, there is nothing like a challenging day in the mountains to push you both physically and mentally. Arkansas was certainly all that and more for me today. Looking forward to the next adventure.