Apr 29 2007

El Diente

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Peak: El Diente
Crew: Lou Dawson, Louie Dawson, Lisa Dawson, Sean Crossen, John
Humphries, Jordan White
Routes: Climbed North Face
Skied South Gully (Lou, Louie, Sean) North Devore Couloir (Jordan)

Well i got an email mid week from Lou saying he was headed up to El Diente and inviting me to come along. Well who could say no to that?
So after skiing Wetterhorn on Saturday I drove over and around through Montrose to the Silver Pick Trailhead. I enjoyed views of Sneffles and the Wilsons the whole way there.
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After Driving up the road i came up on a group of cars, and sure enough there was Lou’s decked out TAV, complete with a lantern pole. After talking to Lou and finding that we were getting up at 1 am and organizing the back of my car for sleeping, I met John and Sean, and soon after it was time for bed, and 4 hrs of sleep.

Well around 1:15 or so John woke me up, apparently i slept through someone banging on my car window at 1…must have been the 2hrs of sleep the night prior. We drove up the road to where Sean had parked his Snowmobile. Lisa was ready before anyone and headed up the road by herself. Sean took Lou up the road on the snowmobile while Louie, John, and I started skinning. He came back and picked Louie up and then myself, and at that point John had gotten to the top as had Lisa. There was little more snowmobiling from here, but it was technical over a stream and what not, so we just skinned for about 10 minutes to catch up to where Sean had stopped, somewhere around the summer TH at 10,700.
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From here our 7 climber team headed up the Silver Pick road towards the rock of ages saddle. We took a couple of shortcuts up gullies towards the saddle. After all of our getting ready and snowmobiling and walking, we were at the saddle between 5:45 and 6 AM. At this point we were greeted by a daunting view of El Diente and Mount Wilson.

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At this point the skins came off and we clicked into our skis. Rather than ski straight to the base of the climb, we traversed around the bowl to try and save ourselves some altitude loss. We stopped around 12,500 and put the crampons on and the skis on our back. We started the repetitive motion of one foot in front of another and around the time the sun hit our backs we were at 13,000 feet. Lou and Sean had been up front kicking the line of steps up the slope and at one point we stopped to put the sunscreen on. After that, I took over for a little while putting steps up the powdery slopes. It didn’t take very long for my legs to realize that I had done a mountain the day before. I stepped aside and Lou, Sean and John shared the breaking duties up to the ridge.
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We topped out on the ridge with only about 150 feet to go to the summit and we were just climbers right of the organ pipes. From here we had to do little bit of route finding.
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I found a small gully just above the traverse that Dav used. It was some mixed snow and rock climbing in crampons, which really tends to be a pain with skis on your back.
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From here we climbed directly on the ridgeline towards the summit. This ridge is awe inspiring and makes for a fun scramble. I will admit that it has the tendency to get your stomach a little bit as it has fatal drops on both sides, and it isn’t easy to negotiate your skis in and out of the rock pillars.
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We made the summit a short while later and began to talk about possible ski lines.

We had been climbing the whole day toying with the idea of skiing the traverse that Dav and his crew did. We also considered a north side couloir (we didn’t know it was Devore’s line at the time), and we talked the entire time about a gully off the back side. After much discussion at the top I volunteered and took a radio down the Devore couloir.

On my way down I took a look at the traverse, the entrance to it looked like it was over 55 degrees! That didn’t sound appealing to much of anyone over those cliffs below, and so I continued down the couloir to where it takes a right turn. To this point it had been clear, so I continued down farther to see if it was still a go. I skied down around 300 feet probably and found it to not be as filled in as we would have hoped. To be honest, a lot of skiers probably would be willing to huck this rocky area, but I was down there by myself and felt that wouldn’t be a good choice. So I put my skis on my back and downclimbed. I only had to downclimb maybe 10 or 15 feet of rock and I did it in a diagonal direction, to another snow patch.

After getting down this, it made for an interesting time trying to get my skis back on as this section of snow was 50+ degrees. After finally putting my skis back on I took a fairly slow approach to this still shaded and frozen couloir, and did controlled jump turns and some sliding until I was on softer snow. Around the time I came out onto the main face, Lisa contacted me on the radio and said she could see me skiing down now. From here I found soft corn and let it rip. I was able to ski big turns in the soft grippy snow. I skied all the way down to the valley floor and climbed the 100 or so feet up to where Lisa was camped out in some rocks.

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After sitting around and taking off some layers (it was amazingly hot out), I ate some food and drank some water waiting to hear from Lou again.

During all of this Lou, Louie, Sean, and John had decided to go to down the south gully off the summit. After skiing down a ways they found a short rappel and John, after seeing how long it was taking, decided to climb back up the slope and downclimb the ridge we had climbed to get to the North face and ski back to where Lisa and I were waiting. Lou had contacted us by radio after they were below the traverse saying that they weren’t going to be coming back to this side, but instead heading to Dunton. After thinking for a minute or two I realized how far away that really is!

As John skied down, the snow had really been getting hot, and he was able to send a large wet slide down most of the face. It just slowly crept its way down to the valley floor. After this, John came along and skied the path of this slide down to the bottom and then climbed up to where Lisa and I were waiting. He skinned up to us and reported that there was a huge thunderstorm on the other side of the ridge and that we should head back up to the Rock of ages saddle.

So I put the boots back on and we packed up gear and skinned back up to the saddle. From here we put our skins back in the pack and enjoyed soft, spring skiing back down to treeline where we intersected the road again, and skied down the road a ways to the snowmobile.
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Here is a picture of a big blue ice bulge in the middle of the basin.
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Lisa and I continued on, while John brought the snowmobile down to the cars. We were able to ski down to within probably ¼ mile of the cars and threw the skis over our shoulders. We walked down to the cars and hopped into Sean’s xterra to go down to where John and I had our cars.

Well at this point, I had the seats in my car to go pick everyone up, so after a little rearranging and getting out of my climbing gear, I headed off for the 70 mile drive to pick the three up. After taking them back to Silver Pick, I headed off for my long drive back to Fort Collins.

These guys are a whole bunch of fun to be in the mountains with, and I look forward to the next trip out there with them.

Here is a pic of wilson peak.
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