One hour west of Albuquerque stands Mount Taylor. It had a good snowpack - a sign of good things to come up in Colorado. It was time to board our bus....
Ski bags went in one special luggage compartment.
The bar was well stocked for the long ride north.
One of our hotels in Lake City, Colorado.
Day one was mostly cloudy, with light snowfall.
The bus was cold, but we were all suited up for the cold outdoors anyway. It was a fairly short ride to Slumgullion pass.
Everybody out at Slumgullion pass.
After a brief climb above the pass we could start seeing distant terrain through the thinning trees.
Several groups were heading south west towards Ramboullet yurt.
In the shelter of the trees the snow was soft and deep. That would soon change.
Above tree line the wind was strong, and the snow was hard. At least the view of 14'ers was good.
Uncompahgre Peak - highest peak in the San Juan's at 14,309. There are several other 14'ers in this area, making Lake City one of Colorado's mountain climbing hot spots.
After a long traverse, our group took the fast way down on a road often used by snowmobiles.
The light and shadow in this stand of Aspen was hard to ignore.
Day two - less wind, more sun. Our destination was near Pine Creek pass and Cebolla Creek.
I was in another group that wanted to travel horizontally a good distance, but not at a breakneck pace. As we encountered gradually steeper terrain I used my wide climbing skins to good measure and took a direct, fast line up the slope. By comparison, those that didn't use skins needed to take an indirect path up the slope.
I pulled away from the rest of the group and waited near the top of the rise. Gradually Phyllis and Cynthia came up too. (Behind them, on the opposite (east) side of the pass, stands Baldy Cinco.)
About the time Phyllis and Cynthia reached me...the calm air vanished and the wind kicked up. We decided to head down to some trees for a sheltered lunch.
Here's another contrast. Because of stiff boots and bindings, I can drive my skis to turn in crusty, wind blown snow, and take a direct line down the slope. Most folks had softer boots and bindings. This meant that they needed to make repeated traverses and kick turns to descend slowly.
Main Street, Lake City, Sunday evening after dinner.
Day three - good weather, but less time to ski before boarding the bus and returning to Albuquerque.
Eric and I were a 'group of two', and we were looking to climb for turns. Terrain analysis showed some promising moderate angle slopes a short distance from Pine Creek pass. Here we saw signs that others had come here before...probably in search of turns, too.
There is something to be said about small groups in back country skiing - they tend to decide and move fast. Soon we were removing skins and looking for openings in the trees.
Halfway down from the high point we spied more sunlight through the trees. We deviated east a bit and found a large, sloped meadow. Perfect!
The snow was fresh, and the slope sure seemed stable...but how much did we need to worry about that?....
Overall slope angle was about 22 - 25 degrees. This agreed well with the terrain analysis I had done the previous week. Eric and I felt no need to spend time digging snow pits in this low angle terrain. (With wide skis, this terrain was plenty steep enough for fun turns, yet was way down on the avalanche danger scale. That is not a 100% safety guarantee, but if this slope was going to slide...I would expect many slopes with steeper angles to have slid and given us an obvious clue...yet there were no such signs during the bus ride or previous tours.)
Here's a side view of the meadow. Reasonably safe, and plenty of fun!
The powder didn't have as much rebound as we would have preferred, and if you were not careful, you could bury your tips. Here is an image of Eric just as he was falling.
Trying to bounce out of the turns and keep the tips floating....
We enjoyed ourselves so much that we did six runs down this meadow! (It also gave us good practice at removing and putting on skins.)
The last day was the best day.