Although summer weather is finally here in Colorado, the skiing and snowboarding in the high country remains fantastic for anyone willing to put the effort in to getting on the snow.
Last week I managed to ride three days in various locations, but had been wanting to get out with some other friends in some new spots. My friend Cory and I had discussed several possible options including: Mt. Evans (14,264ft), Mt. Sniktau (13,234ft), Squaretop Mountain (13,794ft) and Grizzly Peak (13,427ft) before finally settling on Squaretop. Squaretop is uniquely situated on the west-side of Guanella Pass nearly half-way between two sets of twin 14,000ft+ peaks: Gray's and Torrey's; and Bierstadt and Evans giving anyone that gains the summit of Squaretop some amazing vistas of these peaks.
Cory and I chose to approach Squaretop via a ridge-walk following the eastern flank of the mountain. From there it was a brief push up some steepish scree to the short ridge to the summit. Here are a couple looks at our route:
(maps courtesty of Cory Arola)
An overlay of our route onto Google Earth
The stats of the trip are as follows:
Total distance covered:5.16 miles (if I had to guess, it was about 3 miles of hiking to the summit from the lot and around 2miles or so of riding from the top of the snowfield to the road)
Total Ascent: 2000vertical feet
Total Descent: 2100vertical feet
Its always nice to be able to descend further than you have to climb, especially when your elevation gains are measured in thousands of feet. That being said though, the hike was pretty tame and really enjoyable. Lines that require a lot of work to get to are hugely rewarding, but there's something really nice about a line you can put enough work into to feel tired at the end of the day, but not completely exhausted. Its definitely more fun that way. No question.
Ok, here are the shots...I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Cory Arola for helping out with the photo duties.
Cory near the start of our hike while the Sawtooth looms in the background.
Here I am working my way through the first bit of scree just a little higher up.
(photo copyright: Cory Arola)
This was our first good look at the Eastern, and North-eastern aspects of Squaretop. We originally had planned to descend one of the chutes on the NE side of the mountain down into the Silver Dollar Lakes drainage, but with a lack of coverage we opted for the obvious snowramp down from the false summit into the cirque which contains the Squaretop Lakes.
We hiked on a little further to the base of the scree covered shoulder where we had a quick snack and enjoyed the high-alpine views.
One of the best parts about being in the backcountry is the sense of solitude, humility, and peace one gets high in the mountains. The effort put in is worth every drop of sweat.
Cory taking it all in.
We pushed on up the shoulder, drawing ever closer to the top of our line. Mt. Bierstadt, The Sawtooth, and Mt. Evans dominate the view to the East.
Cory offers a sense of scale (lower-left frame)
Cory puttin' in work on the up.
We got to the top of our line and decided we still had time to make the short push to the summit.
A view from the top with Gray's and Torrey's in the distance. (photo copyright: Cory Arola)
Cory with an obligatory summit shot.
I apologize for the lack of action shots with this post; but with it being fairly late in the day (12:30), and with convective storms building around us we figured we should descend fairly swiftly.
We were a little worried about how the snow was going to be on the top of our line when we saw this. (photo copyright: Cory Arola)
But once the slope rolled off to an angle that wasn't receiving nearly direct overhead sun, we were rewarded with some awesome smooth, surfy corn.
Cory on the run-out of the upper section of the line.
He was stoked to have just laid down such nice turns during mid-June.
A look back at our turns on the last pitch of the upper portion of our line.
From there it was a short walk around one of the Squaretop Lakes. (Notice the weather pushing in)
Photo copyright: Cory Arola
Many may not realize this but "The Point" was originally implemented by Sir Anthony Farnsworth Tallywacker-Polecock III esq. during his 1873 mission to the South Pole. Here I am keeping tradition alive with a textbook "Tallwacker-Polecock" point back at our line. (photo copyright: Cory Arola)
The sun poked back out long enough for Cory to pop off this shot of the upper portion of our descent. (photo copyright: Cory Arola)
From Squaretop Lakes we were able to connect up with a snow-filled gully that would lead us nearly all the way back to Guanella Pass road. The turns down the gully were awesome. The snow was a little sticky, but not bad. And to be able to continue to ride so far down the mountain blew our minds. It was like Squaretop had rolled out the white carpet for us. At the road we were fortunate enough to catch up with another party that had just finished skiing the same line. Those guys gave us a lift back to my car about a mile or so back up the road. Normally, I would've been game to walk back to the car, but since I had to work at 4, we were already pushing it.
A look at the full line. We caught the gully that runs diagonally through the left part of the frame.
All in all it was a fantastic day in the Colorado Front Range. Thanks for looking. PB.