Red Mountain 11,605′ Never Summer Range Fun w/ Wind – 2/18/2016

After finding less than stellar conditions up near Moffat Tunnel we headed for the Hot Sulphur Springs and made a plan for the next day. The neck has been in need of some soothing hot water so this was perfect. We motored up to the Colorado River trailhead in RMNP and prepared to get a fairly early start. We’d wake up around 7 and check what the weather was doing; if we liked what we saw we’d head up Red and on to Nimbus. The map and what we were seeing showed steep skinning along the Northeast Ridge. When the alarm went off and we got a look at the mountain in the morning it was obvious that Nimbus wasn’t going to happen, good more time for morning coffee. It was warm that night and despite it being February we were on spring conditions alert. How much moisture was in the snow. We headed up the Red Mountain Trail to the Opposition Creek and went for a more direct ascent. We made some tough calls in there and assessed what was happening in there. Everything was staying put as it should, though this might not be true later in the day, we should probably look for an alternate exit. At the Grand Ditch we adjusted our heading for the Northeast Ridge. No issues with the snowpack here except for a whumph at the creek on the flats. The wind was kicking up there we could tell but it seemed manageable. So up we went aiming for the top of the trees and the border between the East Chute and the Northeast Chute. Near treeline we used tree belays and did some bounce tests at the top of a start zone. No results. At the ridge and the end of the snow we shouldered the skis and headed for the summit. Fun scrambling was had while dealing with high gusts, though the average winds weren’t that bad. Near the summit the gust got more intense but you could tell when they were coming and brace yourself. The light was amazing.

We snapped some pictures and got ready to ski. We had been discussing our descent on the uphill. The east ridge was mellower and had some nicely protected trees. The angle off the summit was lower and didn’t have any start zones so this is what we went for. The skiing in the alpine was subpar until we got about 100 meters below the summit, then it got really good. The trees offered some nice snow of the creamcheesy variety. We hit the margins of a bowl and found more goodness. Then we headed across the East Chute to the steep trees of our Northeast Ridge ascent. There were pillows and soft landings. At the ditch we hooked up with some fun turns on the lower section, though the snow was warm and rotten this far down the mountain. We skied right to the trailhead.

Dane it was fun pushing it with you. I like our communication and our route. The wind made for a tougher day than this peak should have been. The glopping on the skin track was also fun in a masochistic sort of way. It was a great training day in tough conditions. These are the times when making the right choices is really important. The mountain isn’t always an easy place. Being able to deal with adversity is a skill worth ingraining in your bag of tricks. Some may call a day like this foolish, perhaps, but I’d go back again and again given the same conditions and avy stability.


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