Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Winter 14ers are Super Hard

I tried to do San Luis Peak from the north, the standard summer route. I couldn't even get to the trailhead.
Snow Drift on the Road to San Luis Peak
I tried three times, in four low with the differential locked on the Toyota Sequoia I was borrowing from a coworker and still only made it maybe 15 feet into the 60 foot long drift. Fortunately I was able to back out every time. I was something like 25 miles down dirt roads at this point, with 10 miles remaining, which is pretty far out there as far as Colorado goes. So I turned around and headed out without trying to force myself through the drift. I didn't want to slide off the road to the left where the snow was most likely deeper.

The next day I tried to do Sunshine Peak after camping just south of Lake City. (I had a electrically heated blanket in the Sequoia and a -20F sleeping bag so the -4F temperatures overnight weren't too bad, I just had a sore throat the next morning.)

I followed tracks up to treeline at 11,800 feet, and then there was a small slope to cross, maybe 25 degrees steep, which is not very steep, and pretty low for avalanche danger. However, there was about a foot of moderately consolidated snow over a very weak layer at least six inches thick. Prime slab avalanche conditions. There was no sign of avalanche in the trees below me, however, the two people I was with at the moment did not have snow shoes or skis like I did, so I would have had to go on alone. It's not worth it. I skied up maybe 50 feet to a bit of whomp, whomp, whomp from the upper layer collapsing the lower layer, and my skis still sinking in six inches. Avalanches creep me out. So I headed down.

In Pakistan in 2009 I really liked how everyone was rather cooperative. After a snow storm we would wait one or two days for the snow to settle and avalanches to clear themselves. Everest is a little more hurried, people will climb the day after a snow storm instead of wait for the avalanches to clear. People die in avalanches every year. As frustrated as I get about failing to summit a mountain, I get even more frustrated when people take risks that seem excessive to me. There is always risk, and avalanche risk is a huge part of mountaineering, and the reason I will never try Annapurna.

Point being, stay safe people. The mountain will be there in the future, will you?

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