Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ski Hayden and playing Catch up

Well once again I'm running late on posts and I'd like to say it's because my computer has been on the fritz, however in all reality it's been because skiing, climbing, hot tubbing, hut tripping and working on back country ski blading sponsorships have taken priority. Hint: some topics to come!

Gunning for the summit. Photo by Steve Denny
So nigh on a month ago I began chatting with my buddy Steve who is also an Aspen resident about skiing a local classic ski descent on the peak Ski Hayden (Not Hayden which is adjacent). He had gone up previously and knew roughly where the skin track went and some of the avalanche concerns specific to the terrain on the peak. So after doing a modicum of research and waiting about 4 hours I replied that I was psyched and ready to get after it when ever he was. Thankfully, for us back country skiers January and February were extremely dry and warm months. January being the second driest month on record since 1935, which resulted in extremely stable (read: there was no snow) snow conditions, allowing us to ski terrain that on a normal year would be too dangerous to even consider.

So my next day off found me waking up in the van, at the Ski Hayden Trailhead up Castle Creek Road, sipping coffee and trying to limit the ever increasing levels of psyche. Steve pulled up and we quickly slapped on skins, boots, skis, and packs and set off post holing downhill to the creek were we found the skin track leading up to the summit.

Three hours of chatting about the usual topics, snow conditions, women, fine whiskys, the hard life of Aspen, women and snow conditions we found ourselves on a final bench a few hundred yards below the summit. There were really started discussing the snow, a rock hard wind slab that was lightly iced over. Sure these conditions might be fine for some of the folks that grew up skiing in the Midwest or on the East coast but we were there to have fun not embrace our survival skiing skillz. So after a little debate we traversed over to check out some terrain to the east that we thought might harbor some soft sweet powder that would ultimately lead back to the trail head. After traversing through rocks and wind scrubbed grass patches we peered over the edge. Much to our chagrin we found more rocks, bigger rocks and gullies that seemed just as wind scoured as the basin we had just traversed. So we said "screw it, lets go to the summit." And so we did, with a few tense moments when an ice axe might not have been an unwelcome friend and lots of boot packing up a 50ish degree ridge we summited.

Skiing off the summit. Photo by Steve Denny
Steve's watch declared it had taken us about three and a half hours from vans to summit, we were psyched, although having anticipated this adventure taking much longer I began to contemplate what the heck I was supposed to do with the rest of my day, but then I quickly snapped back to reality and the stark beauty that surrounded us in every direction. After sandwiches, whisky and a few quick photos and a ton of just soaking in the psyche of summiting and being able to hang out in a t-shirt at ~13,000 ft in the middle of January we decided it was time to go down.

De-tuning the skis. Photo by Steve Denny
We snapped in and skied the upper portions that had worried us earlier with the hardness, only to find that the winter sun had softened the snow and turned terror in to pleasure. After clipping a couple rocks, a quick stop was made to de-tune my freshly tuned skis, had forgotten to do so before leaving, whoops! A few more turns, lots of hoots and hollers of stoke found us ready to ski about four miles back down the skin track to the vans, cold beer and shortly there after some hot tub time. The final descent was at times terrifyingly fast through the trees on an icy skin track, super bitchin' going off of pillows on downed trees and exhausting as I tried to manage my speed sans edgie wedgie.

An hour of skiing later clocked us in at five hours van-to-van and ready for a cold one. A bit of reminiscing and scoping out the lines we'd just skied left us quite happy and ready for a nap and plans for future adventures.

Victory Tin Cup Whisky!

The price of not dodging the snow sharks,
Tis' but a scratch!