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Michael Taub wrote:
> we should have a litmus test for green plaid:  Is there ever a time when you were not chomping at the bit?

Here's a manic's tale of grossly excess baggage for a 1 day business
trip (plus an add-on weekend) and 8 miles of oxygen deprivation, all for
a little Colorado vert.

For close to a year, I've had my eye on a potential client in Longmont,
CO, just outside of Boulder. I finally landed them -- in June (weep,
wail, gnash teeth). Sadly, all the locals, including the good Dr. Kamien
(hope he fared well in Sunday's Dog Frisbee Invitational) said it didn't
make much sense to bring the skis.

But a trip West is a trip West and I kept thinkin... better to have
lugged and lost than never to have lugged at all--and find ski
opportunities that could have been, Aaarrgghh, I'd die.

Arrive Friday with all my stuff. 90 degrees + in Denver. A Basin closed
last week. Everyone says skiin's done, but a forwarded email from
Jonathan K says "the snow is there, if you know where to look: Torrey's
for example or Indian Peaks." Someone at my client drew a rough map of
Indian Peaks, with two possible entry points. Torrey's he'd never heard
of.

Friday evening I cruise Boulder and head up Canyon Road. Stop at Boulder
Falls, just a short (100? yard) hike in from the road, and suddenly it
hit me how incredibly beautiful this western land is. Boulder Falls is
Zen-like, with a torrent of water rushing out from--if you find the
right perspective--a point in the center of one's consciousness. Rock
and water, inner and outer landscapes seemed to merge.

Drove on in the evening to Rollins Pass, the first point on my
hand-drawn map to Indian Peaks. The road is at 9000 ft through Nederland
and South. Stunning views, then a turn off down a 13? mile dirt road, up
a valley, along train tracks, snowfields in the distance. At the end of
the road, Moffet (train) Tunnel emerging from the mountainside. Dead End
for cars and "No tresspassing, railroad Property" signs all around. The
snowfields were still miles away. I had no idea how to reach them.
(Sunday I'd hear there are 4WD-accessible roads from there).

But Saturday AM I bit the bullet and gave up skiing. Figured I'd just
hike in the mtns and that'd be cool. Sigh. Force grin.

Climbed up a rock-strewn hillside above Canyon Road and a rushing
Boulder Creek. Thought I was in the middle of nowhere till I found a
footpath meandering along 200 vert feet above the road. Wonderful pine
aroma. Every 500 yards or so I'd pass strange old cement cisterns around
natural wellsprings. Who made 'em? Sat on a sunny hillside, smelling
powerful scent of fresh mountain herbs, a delicate pale-green frilly
plant. Watched the sun. Imagined sweet turns. Watched a couple of rock
climbers scale a sheer cliff directly opposite me.

By 11AM, time to move on. Thought I'd take a look at the other spot on
my Indian Peak (lost) teasure Map, Brainard Lakes. Pay a $5 entrance fee
and--what's this?--Park officials are telling everybody about messy
hiking conditions: a lot of mud--and SNOW. Hmmm. I did just happen to
have my skis with me.

A ranger said, oh yeah, you'll find snow--after a 4 mile hike in.

Off I went. Man, skis are heavy at 10,000 ft. Even on the level trail
they were wearing me down. Hiked past Long Lake on Pawneee Pass Trail.
Then up past Isabelle Glacier and onto the side (I think) of Audobon
Mtn. The trail was mixed snow and dirt. Too inconsistent for either
boots or skins to be the "right" choice. When I did switch to skins, I
found climbing on the corny snow very difficult. Skins would grab the
top 1" layer, but that just slid off the base beneath it. (Ranger had
said Avi danger was minimal, but present.)

Temps were hot and the reflected sun burned at my face as I walked South
and up. Maybe went 1200? vert feet above the trail head, and, between
all the breaks between patches, skied 700? feet down. Aaaahhhh. Sweet,
wonderful, June 27 turns!

At my highest point, near treeline, I'd needed long pants. It was nippy.
Lower down I finally skied in shorts for the first time. What a great
sensation! Did laps on one particular 100' stretch where the turns were
extra nice. Terrain was rolling, mostly blue, partly black level. I saw
some great looking, extremer runs in the distance but couldn't see how
to get to them.

Had to do some more bootpack hiking up from where I ended my ski above
Isabelle Lake but on the wrong side of some swift moutain water runoff.
Hiked the 4 miles back--it hadn't gotten any shorter--and ended the day
exhausted and happy. I'd seen plenty of people. The woods had been like
a glorious pine scent factory--that's something special about summer
skiing--but no other skiers. Lots of approving nods, though, and "cool"s
and "gettin in some last turns?"s. If these weren't the last, I couldn't
imagine what was! Could be skiin again in 4 months though!

Sunday morning I drove to Loveland Pass (nobody explained that it was
nowhere near Loveland, CO--almost made a very long, stupid wrong turn).
Hiked up Sawintock???? or something like that??? Mtn just to the right
of Rte 6. (Also had Torreys pointed out to me, 8 miles in the distance.
Also, not this time.)  The climb up Sawintock???? (I know that's not the
right name) is 100 ft up a straight, medium grade to 13,000 ft. Only
tiny, widely spaced patches of snow, but plentiful lichen and spots of
white yellow and blue mountain flowers. At the peak the wind was
blowing  furiously, but it struck me that at that elevation, wind just
doesn't have the same pushing power that it does back East. Strange
sensation: gale-like, soft winds. Somebody had built up a rounded wall
of stone, a circle maybe 8 feet in diameter about chest high. Fantastic
place to sit sheltered from the wind, basking in sun, and admiring the
stunning, snow-capped 360 view.

Walked over to the mountaintop edge and--good God, I hope someday to ski
Loveland pass down towards the Pacific and that hairpin turn on rte 6
before A Basin. What a magnificent, rolling, black, with patches of both
blue and double-black slope. It cried out to me. Oh I want to do it so
bad!

Ran (pretend slalomed) down the dirt path back to my car on the
Continental Divide. Drove down to A Basin to tour the parking lot and
vowed to return in Winter.

Sunday afternoon visited a store in Denver that Kamien had recommended.
Picked up a pair of T3's and some Tua Transalp 193's for under $500.
How'd I do, equipment mavens?

Flew back to Newark. Lugged skis and bags. People asked, "well, did you
ski the Rockies?" "Yes I did," said I with a satisfied grin.

And here's thanks to folks like Jerm, Marc and Mark and so many others
who, through their tales and examples, pushed me on to a great mtn
weekend. I never would have done it otherwise. Jeez I love this list.


--Telenaut