Monday, May 27, 2013

Fri, 24May - Winter Mountaineering

Spent almost the entire day on high angle snow and ice.  The San Juan's are challenging.  Today was a real test of mountaineering skills.  Lots and lots of kicking steps on high angle icy snow.  Lots of post holing too.  Climbing up and down snow and ice with lots of dangerous exposure.  Had one slip early on and slide down 15 meters before I could arrest.  Scared me into being extra cautious the rest of the day.  Could have put full crampons, ice axe, and even snowshoes to good use today.  

The high passes were spectacular!  High winds in spots.  We had to make several stream crossing finding stable snow bridges too cross on.  Only about 12 miles made over a long day.  The last hour Bob and I were both hurting from kicking steps and the stress of being on such steep exposures.  With a long exposed traverse ahead on hard icy snow we decided it might be unsafe in our tired state.  We opted to down climb a step 40 degree scree and snow slope down to the bottom of a beautiful valley.
Found a relatively flat and snow free spot to camp but the ground around us is wet.  Great views of the mountains and even had some elk walk by.  Hoping to follow the valley up a snow slope back up onto the mountains of the divide in the morning.  My thighs and calves are burning from kicking steps and climbing high angle snow.  This is such an amazing adventure!

PS.  I don't recommend reading, Forever on the Mountain, the story of the death of seven climbers on Denali in1969, like I am while hiking on snow in the San Juan's.

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