Great spring so far here in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. Our heavy March storms saved us entirely. We have the dirt layer too, which is completely exposed on most aspects except northerly pitches at elevation. A large amount of snow is gone from lower elevations because of this dirt layer so I imagine a lot of approaches are melting out early as well.
I learned this first hand yesterday as I carried my splitboard from the Silverpick basin trailhead all the way to the summit of Wilson Peak (north Wilson). I did walk on a fair amount of snow after the wilderness closure, but it was so variable and patchy that it did not make much sense to skin. Above timberline coverage was good on the Northwest approach, but steep sections of frozen corn kept me in crampons for the duration of
Aside from having to down-climb a short section of 60 degree scree to get into the couloir, (good place for a belay), the snow was really cold and wintry on the North/East face. Round trip was exactly 7 hours as stated in your guide book. This was fourteener number 24 for me, 23 of which have been solo snowboard descents.
As you know, the “art” of solo climbing presents many unique elements and challenges to a climb — and the absolute freedom is liberating.
The “freedoms of a soloist” include: Peeing in any direction at anytime (except into the wind); talking to yourself, out loud, without anyone thinking you’re crazy; getting out of bed when you feel like it; never feeling pressured to keep up (or waiting on someone else); being selfish and eating all the chocolate; the list could go on… The most consequential freedom is that the soloist makes every decision with no outside
This can work in the soloist’s favor, like knowing you can change the plan and pull the direct route, without worrying about partner input. Sometimes solo decision making can work against you though, like deciding to ride out the drainage below the Wilson East Face and just deal with the mile or two of heavy timber between you and your car. A partner would have surely talked some sense into me before I pointed it. Woops.
The saving grace I suppose is that I can hear your words of wisdom being repeated in the back of my mind, both from your guide books and the time we’ve spent together. For this I thank you! So much happening in Colorado — thanks for keeping your website going strong.
Your snowboarder friend,
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.