I’ve never quite groked why the anniversary of the ritual execution of your messiah should be called “Good Friday” but there are many things I don’t understand. What I do know is that full day in ski boots definitely falls on the ‘pro’ column any day of the week.
Brian usually comes down to the Boulder area for outdoors fun, so it seemed only right that I trek up to see him for once and see what the Fort Collins area had in the way of backcountry skiing. What it has, after another 1.5 hours driving, is Cameron Pass which is awesome! We’ve been talking about a ski descent of Clark Peak for a long time. Our start was too late and the weather too ominous to seriously contemplate a summit today, but we resolved to find some good turns regardless.
Long story short, we headed up the Sawmill Creek trail for a couple miles as it became less and less distinct. Eventually, we thrashed up a steep slope and through open trees on a broad ridge before breaking out into the open… just as it started to snow in earnest. Taking a brief break for lunch, we watched as the view vanished and the thin, icy crust became covered in a half inch of new graupel.
The snow tapered off as we set off into the big meadows. A climb up to a saddle at 11,000′ revealed the spectacular view of a great, snowy saddle between two peaks on the ridgeline. To the east, we watched the black wall of storm which had dumped snow on us earlier moving slowly toward the plains. The incoming weather looked a little better, but we didn’t have the time required to get much farther up the valley. Instead, we tooled around, chatting and enjoying the views before climbing to a local high spot to start our descent.
And the descent! Inbound skiers wonder why we get up at 3:30 am, drive for three hours, skin for another three just to get in a single run while lift-served skiers can get in 20+ runs for far less work. THIS is why! Even with my mediocre telemark skills, I made a half dozen blissful turns on a 30 degree slope on perfect, consistent snow. Then came a series of drops and flats through glades along the creek drainage.
The final couple miles out along the trail were easy enough for me, but seeming torture for Brian. While he makes it look effortless and awesome on his splitboard when the going is steep and deep, it’s not designed for touring, especially in the sticky, gloppy snow that was developing as the sun came out and it got warm. Still, I’m more than happy to take my time after such a great backcountry run.
It’s a pity that Cameron Pass is so far away. The skiing was great, but it looks like other fun could be had in the summer as well. The ridge from the Diamond Peaks up to Cameron (and beyond?) looks really interesting for a trail run. Perhaps we’ll try something like this with a trailhead bivy this summer. In any case, it was great to explore a new area with an old friend.
8.5 miles and 1500′ of elevation gain in about six hours (with lots of stopped time).