5/2/2010 It was the first week of May and time to do some more riding and mountain climbing. Marc and Ben were both ready to get out on some peaks. We decided on Huron. Ben volunteered to drive his VW van pop top. He picked me up on Wildridge and then we drove to Avon to pick Marc up. We drove slowly over Tennesse pass and down to Leadville. We continued south of town and turned off for Vicksburg just a bit south of town. We curved around the lakes and continued past the Missouri Lakes trailhead where I had spent much time in past adventures. We passed the Winfield townsite and hung a left. The van climbed up a steep hill and we hit snowline pretty quickly. We had gotten to just before where the summer two wheel drive trailhead was.
Ben and I popped the van's top and set up camp inside while Marc set up his tent a few meters away. We hung out in the van with its wonderful portable heater in t-shirts cooking dinner and drinking some beer we had brought up while snow fell outside the van. We turned in early and awoke at 3:30am to mostly clear skies and cold temperatures. We started skinning/snoeshoeing up the road at 4:15am to the summer 4 wheel drive trailhead where we took a brief break and had some granola, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast. From here we began to climb steeply up the hillside towards Huron peak.
The skin track we had followed disappeared and we began a difficult bushwack uphilll to treeline. This took alot of time and effort. Finally we began to crest treeline as the sun rose.
photo- A look at the west couloir of Mt. Huron from the old Hamilton townsite. photo by Zach Taylor
photo- Ben Jordan(left) and Marc Manko(right) at treelene just beneath the northwest slopes of Huron. photo by Zach Taylor, 2010
We were greeted with sunny skies and very cold temperatures for this time of the year. We traveled across the basin and began to climb up the northwest slopes towards the summit. At about 13,400' we had to remove skis and boards and boot up the last 600' or so.
Our group was standing on the summit at 11:15am, considerably later than expected. However the cold temps kept the snow frozen. We took some summit shots and discussed our descent strategy,
The upper northwest slopes route was pretty scoured of snow and did not provide a summit descent. As we peered down to the west we noticed a couloir that seemed to drop from just beneath the summit to the valley floor.
We referenced the Dawson book and saw that he mentioned this descent briefly under the south slopes route. It looked like we could get a summit descent. We worked our way down the ridge till we were able to billy goat through some rocks and get into the top of the couloir. This did result in some core damage.
We dropped in one at a time leapfrogging and stopping along the way to regroup. We could see a convexity beneath us that looked like a possible cliff. We proceded down cautiously. The snow was 4-7" of creamy spring powder on a fairly supportable midpack. Here are some action shots!
photo- Zach Taylor(left, foreground) and Ben Jordan(right, background) near the summit of Huron. photo by Marc Manko, 2010
photo-Zach Taylorscoping descents off Huron. photo by Marc Manko, 2010
photo- Mark Manko taking in the view of the snow covered Sawatch from Huron's summit. photo by Zach Taylor
Ben Jordan sking off the summit of Huron. Zach Taylor pictured in background. photo by Marc Manko, 2010
photo- Zach Taylor(left) and Ben Jordan(right) sking down Huron's ridge just above the couloir. photo by Marc Manko, 2010
We came above the convexity which turned out to be a small 4-5' mandatory air at the bottom of the couloir. Ben dropped in first airing the cliff. Marc and then I followed. Beneath the cliff the couloir opened up into a wide open basin. We descended back to treeline and the valley floor. Somewhere around here is supposed to be the Hamilton townsite. We never saw any signs though. I would guess most of it is pretty broken down and buried in the snow at the time. While the valley from here looses elevation, it is flat enough that we switched back over to skies/snowshoes and toured most of the way out. While we were switching over we spotted a coyote across the valley. We skinned/hiked/skied out the drainage back to the summer trailhead and down the road back to Ben's van.
photo- Zach Taylor descending the west couloir. photo by Marc Manko, 2010
photo- Zach Taylor in the west couloir of Huron. photo by Ben Jordan, 2010
It was a nice day on this scenic Sawatch peak. The couloir I would guess to be 35-42 degrees in pitch and the line is similar in difficulty(minus the cliff huck at the bottom) to the northwest couloir on Torreys or the Cristo couloir on Quandary. Classic moderately steep Colorado couloir riding. Definitely a nice way to spend a spring day in Colorado.