Saturday, May 24, 2008

Square Top Ski Descent

My first ever backcountry snowboard ride took place on May 24, 2008. Sean and I traveled to the top of Guenella Pass from Georgetown, Colorado for an ascent and ski descent of Squaretop Mountain. The pass had just opened the day before, so the timing was perfect.

Sean is a seasoned veteran of backcountry skiing and chose this excellent outing. He recommended that I bring along my snowshoes just in case. The only backpack I have that is suitable for stowing snowshoes and attaching a snowboard is my multi-day pack. It is rather large, but hikes well and I removed as much weight as I could. It turns out that the first mile from the trailhead was mostly dry. Then once you pass the notch and see the lower lake, the snow was fairly well wind-packed and there was not much postholing. The lower lake was already thawed. From here you can see Square Top. Another couple of tele-mark skiers chose to ascend the snowfield we planned to ski. We chose to climb the lefthand ridge. The snow was easily climbed without snowshoes or crampons. We summitted ahead of the other party.

From here the fun 1,000+ ft snowfield was ahead of us. It was about 10:00 AM and the sun was doing its magic on the snow. We decided to take a break and waited about 20 minutes to let the snow soften up a bit. The upper part of the mountain was still a bit icy when we started down, but the snow softened within a couple hundred feet. You can see our route in the first photo. It goes down and to the right, then back left just past the cliff band. The turns down the snow were heaven and I enjoyed every one of them! We had to bear right near the bottom to avoid landing in the lower lake and its icy waters. Check out Mount Bierstadt and Evans along with Sean in the last photo.

For a first descent the day turned out perfectly. We ended the trip with lunch at BeauJo's and a good Pick Axe IPA.