Or "The Best Laid Plans of Kelso and Grays"
I missed all of May and the season is running out. I was trying to decide between Kelso Mountain and Parry Peak, but chose Kelso because of the short hike. So I set out to make a snowboard descent of Kelso Mountain as described in Front Range Descents. The road to the Gray's parking lot was clear. I was a little unsure about parking in private property, so I continued up. The face of Kelso looked a little barren anyway... it is a May recommendation.
I decided to go ahead and descend Grays. What the heck, my first 14er descent. The hike in was enjoyable despite the added weight of my Viole Mountain Gun snowboard. I forgot my sun glasses and left my ice axe and crampons in the car to save weight. Mistake. I talked with a couple of guys who were coming down with their skis on their back. Apparently the head wall was very hard packed and steep.
I ascended the Gray's trail with a slight shortcut that everyone was taking. I made it to about 13k and decided it was the best chance for the descent. I stashed the board and continued to the summit hoping the snow would soften. At least I would bag Gray's for the second time.
I was worried the snow was too hard packed and that there was no visible turns. I seen another skier making the descent so I decided to give it a try. Even though it was very hard packed you can make turns. The snow conditions made executing jump turns critical. The hike and the hard edge taxed my quads to the max. I fell once and slid for about a 100 yards. It made me kick myself for not bringing the ax.
I would advise descending right in order to follow the entire valley back to the parking lot. I hiked the trail not wanting to push my luck; I don't think it would have worked for my board. My legs cramped after a bit of hiking, but a short break and some cookies allowed a recovery.
I renew my promise not to leave the truck again without my ice axe. I believe crampons should always be in the pack too, be damned the extra weight. I think a glissade would be more fun than a ski or snowboard descent on Gray's for this June.