A Trip to Nowhere

Time for a springtime trip report….

I took this photo on my phone a year ago of a line some folks call 'Peruvian.' This peak is an unnamed point near Indy Pass. Though not that big or long, I've really wanted to ski it all season. Today Vince and I climbed up in a snowstorm and skied down in the sun. 

I took this photo on my phone a year ago of a line some folks call 'Peruvian.' This peak is an unnamed point near Indy Pass. Though not that big or long, I've really wanted to ski it all season. Today Vince and I climbed up in a snowstorm and skied down in the sun. 

So I left Leadville three days ago with two friends, Vince and Andy, to go skiing. Ostensibly our plan was to go to the Northwest. Obviously the best way to do that from central Colorado is to head south to the San Juans. Obviously the best way to head to the San Juans is after a big day in the Sawatch.

Okay, so we had our plan. First up Vince’s pick: La Plata North Face.

A Sawatch Classic

A Sawatch Classic

La Plata is a 14ner in the heart of the Sawatch between the Collegiate Peaks and Mount Elbert. Most of the big mountains in this area of Colorado are gigantic round lumps, but La Plata has a character a bit more its own. It is not on the eastern edge of the range like it neighbors, but rather tucked into the mountains near Independence Pass. It is not as massive as Mount Massive, its not as lofty as Harvard, Oxford, or Yale...let alone Elbert, but La Plata has an impressive rise and surprisingly steep quality. The North Face holds a number of crisscrossing couloirs that drop off the summit down 2,000 ft.

This entrance is about 20ft from the Summit. 

This entrance is about 20ft from the Summit. 

We opted to boot up a west facing gully rather than ascent the standard trail—I’d like to say this was deliberate, we just got lost and ended up on the Sayres trail…. From the car to the summit is roughly 4,500 ft. We shared the trail with only one other group ('you gotta La Plata") and got on top for lunch.

Our modo for the day was, “I-screen, you-screen, we all screen for sun screen…”

Our modo for the day was, “I-screen, you-screen, we all screen for sun screen…”

The descent down the North Face offers a choose-your-own-adventure in couloir skiing. We dropped skiers right off the summit into a steep chute (Lou Dawson says this drop is 48 degrees) that dog-legged back left into the main North Face which was much more mellow. We had scoured hard pack, powder, crust, and even a bit of corn on the way down.

Back at the car we headed to BV for some food and fuel before making the 4 hour drive down to Ophir.

Our plan was to ski Wilson Peak, the so-called Coors face (named after the Coors Beer cans on which it is prominently featured). A very lazy drive got us to San Juans well after dark to find out that the plow berm on the road to Wilson has not yet melted out. Whoops.

Too late for a new plan, we camped on the road and figured we’d find something fun to do in the morning.

A short drive to Ophir (which is awesome by the way) left us skinning up the 3,500 ft Spring Gulch right from the road. This was a blast.

Vince heading into Ophirica.

Vince heading into Ophirica.

We thought we might head over and check out the San Joaquin Couloir (no relation to Joaquin Phoenix that we know of), but instead  found out we are fragile slow dough bodies after a week of skiing that ended with La Plata, then driving south and not really sleeping....we found ear-to-ear gins on perfect corn above Ophir.

Andy had fun. 

Andy had fun. 

Back in Telluride over a beer we read a somewhat discouraging weather forecast. Snow for the next week and half in the Cascades. Finding it hard to ‘leave fish to find fish’, we decided to put the Northwest on hold, and harvest a bit more Colorado spring fun. We drove back to Leadville.

Waking up at 7 to cloudy skies, we knew today might be a rest day, but thought it was worth heading towards Independence Pass in hopes of a break in the weather. Vince and I headed for a couloir locals have taken to calling the Peruvian Line. It was awesome. The couloir is North Facing and tops out just below 13,000ft.

Cloudy weather made this a mystical place to spend the morning. Just as we exited the main chute, the sun came out.  

Cloudy weather made this a mystical place to spend the morning. Just as we exited the main chute, the sun came out.  

We had checked this thing out from a few different angles and it just looks rad; it did not disappoint.

The couloir proper is not very long, but has a consistent pitch over 40 degrees and the top out is narrow and well over 50 degrees….and under 3 hours car-to-car.

Back in Leadville, we just ate egg sandwiches for lunch.

I am reminded how awesome Colorado is in the spring.