Fritz Sperry's new volume of the Front Range books

Jul 08 2016

Paiute Peak 13,088′ – Southeast Face – 6/29/2016 – Got Back to Get it Done

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The day after skiing Apache and Navajo lines I went up to try Paiute. That didn’t go very well as I had a zipper failure on my pack. Not wanting to have my gear strewn across the face I bailed and got a new setup. 9 mile training walk I guess. With the new BCA Stash 30 in hand I went back up and beat my time from the previous attempt by almost an hour. Pics are from both days as I wasn’t messing with the camera much the second go around. This is a fun line with some gaping crevasses/moats and its twisting nature over some big cliffs makes it cool too. Not too steep I’d say it maxes out around 48 degrees.

The summit of Paiute is really cool and takes a little work to get to.

 

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Jul 07 2016

Navajo Snowfield, Apache Couloir and Queens Way – 6/26/2016 – Nice to Have Weather Window

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You just gotta keep showing up and some days it works out perfectly. I made great time to the base of Queens Way and Apache Peak after having to walk around Brainard Lake. It seems that there’s no financial benefit to opening the upper trailheads at Brainard so the road around the lake is closed. I made great time up the couloir and on to the summit. I had the pleasure of talking to my boys on the top of the hill.

Back at the snow I strapped in and had such a fun descent of Queens Way. I think I skied it in about a minute. Perfect corn. At the bottom I headed over to the base of Navajo Snowfield. The steps were already in place but they were icy so I made my own. This line skied really well too and with the lack of clouds building I decided to go for Apache Couloir.

Apache Couloir is another great line and it was barely complete. More fast skiing on the RMU La Cabra. Such a perfect ski for couloir skiing.

Another fine day in the hills.

 

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Jul 01 2016

East Jasper 12,900′ Northeast Bowl and “Diamond Hill” 12,040′ East Slopes – 6/24/2016 – Alone Time

After North Arapaho it seemed like a good idea to save on gas and just stay put and stay in position to get East Jasper and another line that I skied part of when I skied Jasper’s Snow Leopard. I got up nice and early and headed up the trail to the Diamond Lake Trail junction. I took Diamond Lake Trail and should have taken it all the way to the bridge. Instead I bushwhacked up the valley and had a very cold and refreshing stream crossing. If I’d taken the bridge I could have avoided the water; at least I didn’t swim. I made my way up to the basin below the Northeast bowl and admired the lake. While going around the lake I saw some airplane wreckage. It wasn’t until I got to the other side of the lake that it dawned on me that someone probably died there. I took a moment to ponder that.

At the top I dropped in and skied the bowl. After a quick cut I got the snow to move a little bit in the thin choke area. The thicker areas were fine. The mid 30 degree line was fun to ski fast. I snapped a couple pics and moved on down the ridge to “Diamond Hill”. That’s my name for it as it’s above Diamond Lake. I skied the lower section of it when I got Jasper before but the tops was worth going back for and the line is worthy of inclusion. The lower section tightens up through some treed chutes. This time I found the Diamond Lake trail and had an easier tie getting out.

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Jul 01 2016

Caribou Lake Bowl and North Arapaho North Star Couloir 6/22-23/2016

After I finished up on Rollins Pass I headed to Ned for some beer and then on to the Fourth of July Road Trailhead. Camping dinner are always good when they have beef, beer and bacon. The rain came though and as usual we spent some time in the tent waiting out the storm. In the am we headed up the trail and left the Caribou Pass Trail where it met the Arapaho Pass Trail. We made our way up Neva’s Dorothy ridge to the top of the first hump. Then we headed down to the entrance of our line.

Getting in over the broken cornice was weird but Alli stepped up and hucked it. Not to be outdone I dropped it too. It’s weird jumping stuff with an overnight pack. The 1000′ line was fun and moderately steep. It ended at the lake and is the longest line  of the Caribou Lake Bowl, the bowl extends from Arapaho Pass Bowl to Satanta. The view to the north from the lake is inspiring with Hopi, Apache, Navajo and the Arapahos. We made our way to the base of North Star to get in good p osition for the next day. As soon as we got there the rain returned, but not before we had everything ready for the night. 14 hours later we left the tent to hazy skies. We skied from the campsite over to the base of the line and switched to crampons and axes. The couloir was moderate and reminded me a lot of James’ West Couloir though not as long; the top had melted out substantially. At the top of the snow I headed up for the summit.

Back at the snow we switched over quickly to get low as the rain had come back. The snow was money and we enjoyed carveable steeps. Back at camp the sun came out and we broke down the tent. We headed for the shallow pass at the base of South Arapaho. about 500 vert below the pass I looked back at the sky and said “Oh Jeez! Time to find another gear!” There were loud crashes of thunder as we crested the pass. The change over was one of the fastest I’d ever made. Time to ski. At the bottom of the snow it started to rain again and we practically ran to the trees and the trail. It was fun getting the heart rate up but lightning just plain scares me.

 

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Jul 01 2016

Radiobeacon BM 12,072′ “Frosty” 12,000′ and “Sprint Peak” 12,110′ – 6/21/2016 – Snow is still holding on

After  great tour to the Crater Lake zone I took a day off and just relaxed. I feel like I’ve gotten what I need for the Grand County portion of the book. Time to move to the east side of the range. I had hoped to get it all without the approach by doing the traverse but we all know how that worked out. Time to embrace the approach. For Radiobeacon that mean bushwhacking and wet feet. It’s only 1.5 miles but damn it’s tough. You also need to embrace the posthole. Finally I got to treeline and made my way up the east ridge of Radiobeacon. I summited out and took a look at the options to chew them over while I went to visit Sprint and skied Frosty.

With stable weather it’s fun to hike along the divide. I visited Sprint’s summit and saw a lack of lines so I went back to Frosty. At the top of Frosty I watched a coyote snake my freshies, not that slushy suncups are freshies. The ski of Frosty was fun and I made y way back up to Radiobeacon.

I chose poorly for my line. I took the chute closest to the summit and got cliffed out. But it was still a fun ski over some large cliffs so the turns felt like they were important. After a spicy scramble I made my way to more snow and skied down to Forest Lakes. Then I headed back into the trees. It’s important to note that the USGS toopo map for this zone is wrong; you can see the issues on Google Earth.

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Jun 28 2016

Mirror Lake – Lone Eagle Finger – Hopi Kiva Ramp – Fair Glacier – 6/17-19-2016

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.

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Jun 27 2016

UN12,393 Iron Creek Couloir 6/16/2016 – Such a Gem – Big Eyes minus the approach

After a day off in Denver to regroup and shift gears I headed up the evening before to camp. I was planning on riding up St Louis Creek Road but they finally had the gate open, figures. On the way in it was clear the summit shot had melted out; too bad the snow was too hot the last time I was in the Iron Creek drainage.

The bushwhack was two miles but it felt like twenty. There was what seemed like an old trail above and to the north of the creek, but there was so uch deadfall it was a bit rough to follow. Near the chute I left the woods at I got an awesome cut on my leg. I started up the chute and move one chute west for the ascent to the ridge. The ridge was nice and bouldery. There were multiple chutes still in, I gotto the first one and was stoked. I liked the next one even more. The third one not as much and then I got to the one I skied. The summit was steep and offered great views of the zone. I saw a chute I’d like to go back to at the head of Lunch Creek.

I made my way back to the line of the day and it was money. Mellow at first it tightened up quick and the narrows were icy and steep at around 50 degrees. After that it opened up wide and the total vert was around 1500′, I managed some extra vert on the flats on the way out.

I wouldn’t have found this line if I’d stayed on the traverse. Gotta focus on book lines then I can do the traverse when the weather lines up just right.

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Jun 25 2016

Berthoud Pass to Moffat Tunnel Traverse plus Jenny Lake Bowl 6/11-14/2016

Well this didn’t go as planned. I was originally hoping for a traverse from Berhoud to Wild Basin. Again the weather had it’s way with me. I felt like the entire experience was a lesson in futility. My goal was to do a light mostly solo traverse across the Front Range, skiing as many lines as I could along the way. Yes weather would be a factor but if things played out the way they normally do i could ski in the am and cover ground in the pm. Well the first day I got in 4 lines, the next day I got in two and avoided the storms the rest of the day. Day 3 was really tough in that the storms came at 9am and kept up all day. It was that evening that I met Allison for a resupply and was having serious doubts.

The next morning was the last straw with 70mph winds and the prospect of a 20 mile day to keep on schedule. Then there was the skiing factor. With all the weight of a 5 days supply of food skiing steep lines was just plain scary. I called it then and rearranged the schedule to get in some other lines that I knew would be gone after the travere was done. I think I made the right call.

It’s important to do what you love well. I felt like I wasn’t doing anything well. Routes for the book were getting missed and I was going around the very ridge I was trying to traverse. Another time perhaps.

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Jun 25 2016

James Peak Shooting Star Close Call 6/8-9/2016

This was a tough one. We went in via Mammoth Gulch to access the east side of James. The plan was to camp near James Peak Lake and get a nice early start for Shooting Star. This access route isn’t recommended as there are two parcels of private property to cross. The owners were kind enough to allow us passage but the St Mary’s access should be the preferred method. On the way up very cloe to the lake the storm came in and we got drenched setting it up in  hurry. The rest of the evening was spent drying out and fueling up for the next day. The clouds parted for little while in the evening.

I made a big mistake with this line by not getting us started early enough but looking back I wonder if were alive now because of my oversight. I had been skiing so many west facing lines that I erred in not adjusting my start time to an east facing line. In the morning we made breakfast and geared up. Not sure what time it was when we started but the snow was still cold. We made our way across the lake and up the slopes to the apron of the line. Here we put on crampons and got out the axes. We made good time to just below the junction of Shooting Star and Super Star. We were following good route finding protocols by sticking to the margins of the slope near the rocks to avoid exposure to rock fall.

Then bam!!! A massive cornice fall came cascading and crashing down the very line we were about to enter. Chunks of ice the size of school buses and refrigerators came exploding down the line. It was a close call by the very definition with the ice chunks a mere 10 feet away from me. Our day was done and we switched over as fast as possible for our exit.

The ski out was a somber one though we did find the sandwich we dropped on the ascent. As we munched on our reunited lunch we pondered how lucky we had been.

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