members of group: Craig Burger, Colin Hollister, Christy Wall, Ann Driggers, Zach Taylor and Scott McCurdy
ascent and descent route: east bowl of east summit
12,953' Mt. Sopris
photo- A look at Mt. Sopris.photo by Zach Taylor, 2012
I had been hoping to do some riding in the Wasatch this weekend but my partners had to bail and so I decided to hang out in Colorado for the weekend. My friend Craig said that he was going to go ski Sopris on Saturday April 21st. Sopris had been on my short list for a while and so I decided to join. We had a good group to come along; Colin, Christy, Ann, and Scott.
I drove up to the trailhead on Friday afternoon to camp and hang out. I ate some pasta, drank a beer, read a little before an early 9pm bedtime.
I woke up at 4:10am, brewed some Mate, started getting my stuff together, and waited for everyone else to arrive. Ann and Christy showed up at 4:40. By 4:55 they were ready to go and decided to start walking up the trail. Everyone else showed up a few minutes after 5 and we were hiking at 5:35.
The first couple miles of trail has only patchy snow so you have to hike up to consistant snowline which as of yesterday (April 21, 2012) was a mile or so below Thomas Lakes.
photo- Kys, Colin, Kussum, and Craig hiking up the Sopris trail. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
We put on our touring gear once it was possible and skinned up to Thomas Lakes. Sopris rose back into view as we crossed Thomas Lakes and began skinning up the east face. Tracks came down around us from the previous day. I would guess ten people skied it the day before and about ten people did the same on Saturday including our group. Sopris was very popular the last couple days.
photo- Colin skinning up Mt. Sopris. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012
We caught up to Ann and Christy a few hundred feet above the lakes. We all stopped for a few to say hi, put on some sunscreen, and then started skinning again. Ann, Christy, and Scott lead the way and the other three of us followed a couple minutes after.
photo- Scott and Christy enjoying the sunshine on Sopris. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo- Kya, Craig, and Colin making their way up the lower east bowl.
The skin track zigzagged up the bowl and got progressively steeper. It was never steep enough that skinning became problematic. The east bowl intersected with the southeast ridge of Sopris between its east summit and Pt 12,453'. We made our way up the last 500' feet or so to the summit on the snow caked ridge. It was slightly breezy with winds around 10 mph.
photo- Christy, Ann, and Scott skinning up the summit ridge. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo- Colin skinning the summit ridge of Mt. Sopris. photo by Craig Burger, 2012.
I skinned a bit ahead of Craig and Colin here. Craig said something about getting out the ski jouring gear. I smiled a little knowing to expect something good in a few. I joined the rest of the group on the summit a few minutes before Colin and Craig showed up. Ha! It was pretty funny when they did show up. Craig came skinning onto the summit in a kilt, wig/scottish hat, and was getting pulled by his mighty ski jouring dog Kya!
photo- Kya pulling Craig to the summit of Mt. Sopris. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
Well I do believe that history was made here. I think it is safe for Craig to claim the first ski-joured ascent of Mt. Sopris! This adds to his also famous ski-joured ascent of Mt. Elbert with the mighty Kya as well. Good work man and dog!
photo- Zach Taylor on the summit of Mt. Sopris. photo by Christy Wall, 2012.
The summit of Sopris was bustling for April 21st. Our group of six and four others shared the summit. The views were spectacular. We were looking directly at the north face of Capitol with much of the Elk ranged displayed behind. We could also see the Sawatch and Gore ranges a little farther away. I had enjoyed a summit of Sopris before in the summer but the views from the summit in April were even better.
We split into two groups with Christy, Ann, and Scott skiing down first. Craig, Colin, and I hung out on the summit for another ten minutes or so eating food, rehydrating, and enjoying the views.
Finally we motivated and began the ski/ride back down the ridge. I found a nice cornice to jump off of to enter the east bowl. I jumped off it expecting to have a hard landing but was pleasantly surprised to find soft, pushy powder on the landing. I made a couple more turns and waited for the other guys,
photo- Zach Taylor jumping off a cornice with Colin and dogs looking on. photo by Craig Burger, 2012.
The snow was awesome. Soft, slightly sun affected powder. We enjoyed some great turns through the excellent snow conditions. I had noticed the the bowl got steeper on the climber's left side on the way up. I recomended to Craig and Colin that we traverse skier's right back to the steeper line I had spotted on the way up. We came up on top, right where I wanted, and made some fun turns down the remainder of the bowl.
photo- Craig Burger and Kya enjoying the spring snow. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
photo-Zach Taylor riding the east face of Sopris. photo by Craig Burger, 2012.
photo- Zach Taylor enjoying the powder on Sopris. photo by Criag Burger, 2012.
photo- Colin Hollister skiing down Sopris. photo by Zach Taylor
We skied down to the lake and hung out in the sun for a while enjoying the views and the great turns we had just had.
photo- Colin Hollister and Craig Burger hanging out at Thomas Lakes. photo by Zach Taylor, 2012.
After a nice, sunny rest we decided to start making our way down, back to the parking lot. Craig suggested I give splitboard jouring a try. Why not I thought. So I put on the harness and clipped into Kya's harness. Off we go!
photo-Zach Taylor splitboard jouring out from under Mt. Sopris. photo by Collin Hollister, 2012.
The splitboard jouring was very enjoyable as Kya pulled me across the flats of Thomas Lakes. After we got past the lake I gave Kya a break and struck out on my own. The terrain below Thomas Lakes is mostly flat with some slight downhill rolls. It was not super snowboard friendly so I decided to "ski" out on my splitboard in touring mode with no skins.
I have gotten pretty decent at doing this over the last five years or so but today I suffered my first "ski" related injury. I was skiing down a little roll and transitioned from colder snow in the shade to warmer snow in the sun. The stickier warmer snow grabbed my planks and sent me flying ass over head. My right plank stuck in the snow and the force of my fall kept me rolling twisting my knee and ankle in a very painful way. Craig atleast caught a couple pictures of the tumble so you all can enjoy;
photo- Zach Taylor falling. This fall resulted in a sprained knee and ankle. photo by Craig Burger, 2012.
photo- Ouch, Zach Taylor in some pain as he sprains his knee and ankle. photo by Craig Burger, 2012.
I stopped moving and kept telling myself in a panicked manner that I was not injured while suspecting otherwise. I managed to get my splitboard released and lay in the snow for a few minutes. The pain died down a bit. I managed to stand up. I was weight bearing. That was good. I pushed on my knee in a few directions and despite being painful I noticed no contortions of my knee that would indicate a complete ligament tear and the end of my season. That was good.
I put my skins on to slow the last bit of the descent and very slowly made my way down the skin trail to where we could throw planks on packs and start walking out. I manged to make it down the trail with out much problem. I thought I was ok.
It started hurting more when we got down to Carbondale and visited the brewery and by the time I was driving back to Avon I was pretty sure I had sprained my knee/ankle.
I got up this morning and decided to go get it checked out. Fortunately only a sprained knee and ankle, no complete tears were reported. I got orders from the doctor to ice, elevate, and take anti-inflammatories for a couple days. Hopefully I will be recovered in the next week or two and can start getting back out there. The doctor seemed to think I would recover pretty quickly.
photo- A look at all the tracks on Mt. Sopris by Saturday afternoon, April 21st, 2012. photo by Zach Taylor
This was a nice, classic descent. Besides the injury at the end it was a great day out. I woud definitely recommend this line. It is pretty low angle and mellow relatively speaking for big mountain lines but the views, snow, and terrain were still very enjoyable and worthwhile.