With the blood still wet on y leg from the bushwhacking mishap I headed north to Granby. Unfortunately I missed the Forest Service opening hours so I had to camp and hit it in the morning to get my permit. Gotta follow the rules even when that means putting things off. The Monarch Lake trailhead was busy when I arrived in the morning. The Cascade Creek trail was amazing with multiple waterfalls along the way to Mirror Lake. I spotted a moose and did y best not to have a confrontation. Moose are scary, if you combine all the attacks by bears, caninids and felines in the wild they don’t even come close to how many people have been messed up by moose. I made it to Mirror Lake in 2 hours but realized I dropped my sunglasses along the way. After lunch I headed back down the trail to try and find them. I got about quarter mile down the trail and ran into a group of kids. One of the had picked them up and practically delivered them to me. I was ready to go back to the car to get another pair if I had to. Glad I didn’t
That evening the sunset on Lone Eagle Spire was amazing. It was everything I’d hoped for and I burned through a whole battery shooting video on the Nikon. Of all the places I’ve been I’d have to say that this zone is the most beautiful. The scale is tangible. The mountains seem alive or at least young and still in development.
In the morning I made some oatmeal and coffee with cocoa in my Jetboil. I forgot my bowl so I just had it all together. I woke up a little late so I decided to go for Hopi which was still in the shade. I’ve been looking into this line for years now, ever since I started researching volume 2. I feel it’s a very aesthetic line with some difficulties. Best to get it out of the way first, especially while I’m still fresh. I made my way around Crater Lake to the base and put on the crampons. The lower ramp was pretty straightforward with angles in the high 40s. At the top of this section there was a short zone with no snow. Then you’re over the exposure on the off fall-line route. The angles get much steeper into the high 50s and a mistake here would be fatal. You see it’s off fall-line over 100′ cliffs. After three ribs the angle eases and becomes more of a gully. The gully tops out below the summit but you can connect the snow for a summit ski via the East Face. The actual summit is the very definition of airy. The summit block is a perch on top of a 200′ cliff.
The skiing was great though soft at the entrance. There isn’t really fatal exposure here so easing into the turns was nice. Then it gets spicy. I haven’t skied with an axe in a long time. I still managed to make some nice turns through the steeper sections. Then I got to the traverse section and whipped out the inclimometer. I was stunned to see 60 degrees on the meter. No wonder I was only standing on my uphill ski. Once through that I had another nice section of 50+ turns also over some serious exposure. There was a short downclimb to get through some slush I didn’t want to ski then it was back to the bottom ramp. There was another out but the lower ramp seemed more aesthetic. The slopes above Crater Lake were really fun as well especially considering where I had just been.
I got back to camp and made some lunch. I was floating around my site. I had watched Fair glacier at sunset last night and decided to go for a sunset ski. I made my way up-valley and under the amazing Lone Eagle Spire. I wish I’d left about 20 minutes earlier as I missed my timing a little. I still had beautiful light and the remnants of sunset when I got to the top of the line but it would have been awesome to film skiing with all the colors. Instead I skied the bulk of it in the dark by headlamp. On the way up I noted continuous snow by hugging the West Face cliff of Apache then descending back towards the lake. This looked simple enough in the daytime. Getting there in the dark was scary. Being below a 500′ cliff int he dark was nuts. Pebble rained down as I went under a waterfall that was cascading off the cliff. The other side of the snow passage was in the mid 50s and it was more than a little sketchy trying to negotiate the zone as fast as possible by headlamp. Everything went well though and I was thru harm’s way without any harm. As I got closer to camp I was greeted by the light of the full moon. It was a magical day.
I woke up late again. But that was actually the plan. Notched into the Northwest face of Lone Eagle was a beautiful couloir. With its protection from the sun I knew I had time to get this one. I followed my tracks from the day before and headed to the base of the line. I admired my tracks from the day before on the neighboring Kiva line. I switched to crampons and waited for the sun. The climbing was straightforward. The line was impressive,it reminded me of the spired couloirs of France. At the top it was steep, in the mid 50s. The skiing was amazing, tight at first then widening at the bottom. Good to ski fast. Lots more lines up there and I’m looking forward to going back to this amazing place every year.
On the way out I saw deer and admired all the waterfalls. Feeling very lucky to have had such an amazing visit to this truly special zone.