Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mount Baldy - 3.29.2012

On Thursday Josh, Anthony, and I headed to Washington Gulch to ski Mount Baldy. On a normal snow year Baldy is generally reserved for early and late season skiing...but this certainly hasn't been a normal year.

After picking up Anthony's sled we were at the trailhead by 8, and quickly on the road heading towards Baldy. Looking back at Wolverine Basin where we skied on Wednesday:



Without snowmobiles the touring options around Crested Butte are relatively limited, but Thursday was one of those days where the efficiency of sled access skiing was a bit questionable. Anthony's newly installed ice scratchers were mostly busy trying to mangle his track. And, at the same time, with the extremely bumpy trail, my scratchers were rarely in contact with the snow, forcing us to stop several times for my sled to cool down.  


But, after these minor inconveniences we dropped Anthony's sled around the west side of Baldy, shuttled everybody up the south side of Baldy, and started the skin. With the help of the sleds we were almost immediately at treeline with the usual amazing views; Mineral Point and Augusta where we skied on Tuesday:


Ruby, Owen, Purple, and Schuykill:


This is the first time I'd seen the remains of the huge Purple Ridge slides from February in person. This one built up a huge pile of debris on the shelf...


...before continuing to the valley floor then back up the opposing valley wall. Yikes!


Eventually the ridge became too steep to skin and we finished out the last 300 vertical feet on foot.


At the top we decided to ski a lap down the south east face, hike back up, then finish up with either the north or west face back down to Anthony's sled. Josh and Anthony check out the SE face:


Josh dropped first:




Followed by Anthony:




I dropped last, the top half of the bowl was smooth corn, then the snow quality degraded into rather large bumps. I think these bumps were probably formed by uneven surface melt generated by the patchy dust that exits on the surface of our snowpack. Looking back up at the SE bowl:


At the bottom we pulled out our skins and started climbing again. On the first lap we'd followed the ridge on the skier's right of the SE bowl, this time we went up the left ridge. This different route provided more great views; Josh with Pyramid:


And views into the steeper east bowls of Baldy. Upon seeing this face we were all immediately tempted to ski it, but with rising temps, large cornices, lots of warm rocks and its solar aspect we decided to save it for another day.


An hour after starting the skin we were back at the top. With strong northwesterly winds it was clear that the north bowl, Western State Bowl, wouldn't be softening any time soon. So, we settled on the west bowl, which we reached after a short hike along the summer trail.


Looking down the west bowl, I was stoked! It wasn't super steep, but the sustained pitch all the way to the Slate River gave it a top of the world feeling.


I dropped into the 1500 vertical feet of smooth corn first. Followed by Anthony:

Who not only is a beautiful skier,


but also apparently likes to make left turns.


Josh followed making half as many turns as Anthony and I had:






Anthony wraps up the last few turns:


Too soon we were back at Anthony's sled on the Paradise divide road. Then we collected my sled from the bottom of the SE bowl and headed home.


Baldy surprised me. The SE bowl was nothing to write home about, but the west bowl was long, steep, and smooth. I'm definitely going to go back to ski the fun-looking east face followed up by a run down the west bowl.