Climbing, Skiing and Mountain Biking in a Colorado Minute
When you book a trip to see friends you always hope for the best that it fits in with their schedule and that you’re going to be able to accomplish everything you imagined when you booked the trip. This trip was no different. Southwest had a sale in late February and I jumped on the chance at getting a cheap ticket to Colorado, after I had to cancel my trip in December. Not knowing what the weather would hold, or who would be available, time passed and I knew we’d definitely make the most of it.
As I flew into the Denver Airport, skis under the plane, and climbing gear in my carry on, I was super excited. That excitement died pretty quickly though, as my skis were never taken off the plane. I ended up waiting for an hour and a half before finally getting my lost baggage claim all sorted out and being told, “we have no idea where your skis are.” Perfect. Luckily the plan for the next day was to climb, and I had taken just enough stuff in my carry on to survive for the next 24 hours. I hopped on the next train and ended up in an open parking lot on the south side of Denver where an energetic Harry picked me up. We smashed some tacos, and then went to bed excited for what the next day would hold.
Multipitch in Eldorado State Park
We woke up bright and early to clear crisp blue skies, downed a quick breakfast and hit the road. Our plan for the day was to climb a bunch of 5.fun routes and have a great day on the rock. The first route we did was called Recon. It was a fun cruiser of a route where the first pitch ended at a huge ledge. We took in the views, and rappelled back to the ground, eager to get on something a tad harder or longer. We ended up getting on Tigger and taking it all the way to the summit. The first pitch was classic. Beautiful movement over well protected, easy terrain. There is one move towards the end of the pitch where you pull up into this little cavity, but it’s not so bad. Harry followed up smiling the whole way. The second pitch was quite a bit shorter but had a little bit of a pucker factor leaving the belay stance. There was a large roof that had to be pulled; all on easy jugs, but a roof nonetheless. Past the roof pull it was dynamite climbing up a mellow crack to the hero of all belay ledges. We sat here, ate lunch, and took in the view, while waiting for other parties to the left of us to clear. There was a traverse on the ledge before we cast off into the third pitch. The guidebook told us most parties only do the first two pitches. We, on the otherhand, were determined to make the summit. I started up after another party who cautioned us about the loose rock. Boy, was he right. The route went from an ultra classic to moderately trafficked choss pile. It was a thrilling lead, but we made it safely to the top. A bit of down climbing and one rappel later we were on the ground hiking back out of the canyon. What an incredible day of climbing. It was pure fun.
Active Rest day
Harry took me half of the way into the mountains where he dropped me off with Dylan. I rode back with Dylan and started planning our attack on the next two days. Dylan had to go into work early that Friday, but he was able to leave mid morning. We ended up skinning up one of Beaver Creek’s lifts near Edwards. My body could tell I haven’t been training any long cardio. I was huffing and puffing towards the top. I wasn’t sure if it was altitude or if I was just out of shape. The ride down was amazing. Better than any ski I’ve ever done in Kentucky. (Ha, there are no ski hills in Kentucky.) It was really epic. The plan was to go climbing that afternoon, however, the weather took a turn and after a little bit of rain it’s best not to climb on western sandstone. We ended up going mountain biking and playing a round of frisbee golf. The plan was to take it easy, for the big day was Saturday, our ski tour into the Gore Range.
Ski Touring into the Gores
I had taken a trip back into Deluge lake the last time I was out in Colorado. This time we were going to ski up to the lake, go up and over the peak of Valhalla, and ski down the heavenly couloir on the backside, before coming back up and over the peak to get out. In other-words, a monstrous day. The day started early and on foot. There wasn’t enough snow at the trailhead to start with our skis on. About a mile in we transitioned to skis for the ongoing bushwhack. And bushwhack it was. Instead of following the summer trail, we followed the river, that would lead us to going up and over a gap before following the valley up to the hut. I was stoked to be on skis, and bushwhacking through the area. Apparently, it was one of the harder trips the group had done that season, because of the snow cover. After thoughts of turning around, we made it on up to where we were supposed to be. At this point you could see the mountains around us and we kept heading up. I remembered the scenery from the last time I was up there, but it looked even better covered in snow. Thankfully for me, the cabin up there was open because I had imagined a much warmer tour, and could have brought warmer clothes. Pro tip: Always bring your puffy. You’ll never regret bringing it, but you’ll always regret it if you needed it!
After regrouping and eating lunch in the cabin, we all decided because of the snow that fell the night before, avalanche conditions were too high to go up and over the peak to ski the back side. Instead we just skied back down the valley. It stunk not skiing some steeper terrain, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Even still, the terrain we did ski was incredibly fun. I’d never skied in that deep of powder before. It took so much more effort to turn the skis around. Eventually, we got back to below treeline and had to do “survival” skiing to get ourselves out. Ben, was the expert navigator and got us out without having to take our skis off, which was incredible. Back at the car, I was incredibly tired, but happy. I’d just done my first real ski tour and had a fantastic day in the mountains with new friends.
The next day we woke early and I made it back to the airport. Such a great trip, I already can’t wait to go back.
Happy Trails, Nolan