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453> post-holing to Snowmass (1994) + xing our future path in Aspen

[dear Inurnet > last month in Aspen we got to thinking about our trip to Colorado sum 20+ yrs ago + figured weed include a journel entry from then for perspective > @ this jct in our life we had met our better-½ (in Tucson) + dated briefly but then she left me + moved w/ some other guy to Aspen > so part of our motivation for climbing Snowmass = to perhaps get a glimpse of her > weed just graduated from U of AZ w/ a masters in physics but we only wanted to rock climb + bum around so we bot a beater sky blue Chevy truck for $500 [that we call Chapo in the journel entries] + talked our poet friend B into moving to South Dakota where the climbing = good + we knew some1 w/ a restraunt that wd give us jobs > + we stopped in Colorado on the way > so in the spirit of continuing to archive our hand-written journels we include this entry from May 1994 > we didnt own a camera @ the time so the pics we think got taken by 1 of our climbing partners]

[the author perched on top of Snowmass in May 1994]

May 24, 1996 — Snowmass, Colorado

This fire sure feels good. Snowmass peak looms overhead in the moonlight. The coffee water is almost boiling. A brook babbles behind my back. [B] is busy testing out his crampons. It smells of pine needles + aspens.

Woke up [in Utah], packed up, got some breakfast at a greasy diner [...]. Dropped [S] off on the side of the road leading out of town [Moab], last saw him hitch-hiking back to Phoenix. Gassed up, filled the 5-gallon jug at the springs + departed. Beautiful drive up the canyon + into Colorado. Pulled into Rifle to see if there was a climbing shop + noticed Chapo's brakes were grinding metal on metal. After asking around we found a Phillips 66 station. This mechanic fixed the brakes while we got coffee + fries at sum yee-haw cowboy place. Needed new brake shoes anyway, luckily caught it before I needed a new rotor. That set us back an hour or 2 (+ $75). As we pulled back onto the freeway I looked in the rear view mirror + saw hundreds of [cassette] tapes bouncing + smashing on the freeway in our wake. [B] had gotten out some tapes + left the whole box on the roof. Plastic cracking + shattering, magnetic tape swirling into the oncoming stream of passing semis. Ran back + managed to collect about ¾ of the tapes. Stopped in Glenwood Springs + found a good mountaineering supplier where we got last minute supplies. [B] got a pack + crampon straps. I got a water micro filter. I tried to call Jess a few times w/ no luck so we just drove to the trailhead of Snowmass (14,092 feet). Tomorrow we'll hike the 8 miles to the lake. Camp out there. Then another 3 miles to the top. My coffee + PBJ are ready + I'm going to indulge on the fire + ominous Snowmass lurking somewhere in the babbling brook.

[Snowmass mtn reflected in Snowmass lake]

May 25, 1994 — Snow Mass Lake (10,980 feet)

Extreme beauty. Makes me lose myself + get absorbed in the natural world. [B] + I started around sunrise after camping out at the trailhead, in good spirits as the trail was easy + the weather good. We cruised the first 6 miles in about 2 or 3 hours. Reached these 2 ponds + the infamous "crux" log jam. 100 feet of packed logs that you had to balance + delicately hop across, risking falling into the cold river... not easy w/ 50 lb packs on our backs.

[xing the log jam]

The ponds had beaver homes, but we didn't see beavers. Just a lot of squeaking marmots + a few deer hopping through the dense foliage + fallen logs. After these ponds these switchbacks rose up + the snow got deeper. The last 2 miles to Snowmass lake were hell. The snow was waist deep—half the time you could tip-toe on top but then suddenly you'd plunge through up to your waist. Each step was a battle. [B] + I switched "leads", the first person, on the sharp end, would test the snow + risk the plunge. It was nerve wracking, post-holing. The second person could learn from their mistakes + take an alternate route. Even still there was no guarantees. We were probably the first people this season, at least on foot. There were a few sets of ski's going up, but that was it. The register had this guy [J] that had marked his destination as Snowmass Lake, but there was no car even in the lot + we saw no sign of his tracks. We figured he must have been swinging through the trees or something. It was time consuming blazing the path + we were getting cold + wet. Our gators weren't doing shit. Probably took three hours to cover those last 2 miles to the lake. Had to cross a few streams too. We could hear the water under the snow + were afraid of popping through into the water. Had to find spots where logs crossed the streams.

It was well worth it. Beautiful lake, most of it iced over w/ the snowfield like a glacier dumping into it. We were at the apex of the huge amphitheater funneled by the lake. We've had slight precipitation. Luckily there was a clearing by the lake devoid of snow. Dropped my pack + set out looking for wood. You're not supposed to make fires, but this was a matter of survival. Our clothes + boots were soaked. Started hacking trees w/ our ice axes + scavenging for wood. Then this guy appears + he's taking pictures of the lake + shit. I hesitated on the fire but then he came over. It was [J—the guy whose name we saw in the register], and he helped us make a fire. Note the torn out journal entries used to start it.

[the original journel w/ pgs torn out to make a fire]

He had camped out at the ponds + saw us go by + followed in our footsteps. He had planned to go to Maroon Bells but when he saw our dry campsite + the fire he decided to join us. Decided to climb Snowmass w/ us. We've been chillin out here all afternoon + starting to get bored because were essentially trapped in a desert island of dry ground about twenty feet by forty feet, backed against the lake + snowbanks behind. Luckily there's enough wood to sustain us + dry our boots out which are literally on the grill. We're using the ice axes as clothesline props, looks like we're skewering some sort of animal on a spit. These 2 gray jays are loitering around our island mooching food + making a lot of noise. Brewed up coffee w/ hot chocolate. Made some ramen. Feeling pretty warm + content + can only enjoy the view until the sun goes down. It's starting to clear up.


May 26, 1994 — Snowmass Lake

Well we did Snowmass Mountain (14,090 ft) today, but it was a mini-epic. It drizzled all night and was cloudy when we woke up. Looked like it would clear, so we went for it. Crossed the logjam. Logs covered w/ a misting of snow. We got to a clearing on the other side + strapped on crampons. Traversed around the lake for about a mile. The snow was firm most of the time but steep + angling into the icy lake. Carried the ice axes in self-belay position. Got around to the other side. Total pain because we kept busting through. Finally got to a field of blocky ice. Chunks left from an avalanche. It had little fissures in it. Followed that until we got to a steep couloir. Traversed across, afraid it would cave in. Scampered across the rocks w/ our crampons. Then to the huge undulating snowfields. The largest permanent snowfields in Colorado.

[ascending up the snowfields]

It was wild, white + went on forever in waves. We wound our way along it, slowly but surely. It was pretty soft, you'd sink in about a foot or so. We were getting pretty high, the air getting thin. Doing the 30 steps, 15 breath thing. Making slow but steady progress. Switched leads cuz the leader was doing more work having to kick steps.

[looking back @ we think Buckskin pass from where last month we looked towards snowmass—linking up our psychogeography + from that post u can see what Snowmass looks like in the summer w/o snow]

 

[the author (left) + B]

Finally got to the base of Snowmass Peak. A steep headwall of rock + icy snow. Opted to traverse left + gain the southeast ridge. Sent [B] ahead, the potential for avalanche was great so we waited behind + went single file. Once on the ridge it dropped dramatically to the other side so the only way was straight up this 50° bank of snow. I rope up + went first, fun as shit, almost like ice-climbing. Toe kicking into the hard-packed snow, the crampons grabbing in, driving the ice axe home to pull myself up. This got us to the ridge. It was sunny + nice.

[J making his way up the ridge w/ Snowmass lake below]

From here we took our crampons off as it was third class rock, except being that it was May, there was a lot of snow mixed in. It dropped severely to either side, any fall would have been bad. We scrambled on the jagged boulders, watching out for the overhanging cornices we saw from below. I was getting into this, the rock was solid + the climbing fun, so I got way ahead of [B] + [J]. + then the summit was forty feet in front of me. It was flat on top except for a big pillar that I climbed up. We were way up there. Snow-capped peaks all around— the Maroon Bells, Pyramid peak, frozen lakes, etc.

[D + B on top]

A storm was brewing from the east. Looked like it was coming right for us. [B] + [J] were still below + [B] said he was feeling dizzy. I got my pant shells on to prepare for an emergency glissade. They both summitted, took photos + all that + quickly started our descent as the thunder started rumbling. We got to a point on the ridge where there wasn't a cornice. I mentioned glissading + [J] thought I was crazy. But he was tempted. Started poking his ice axe around, testing the snow. I just looked at the fifty degree slope thinking I wouldn't hesitate to ski down it so why not. Sat down on the edge. Got my ice axe in self-arrest position + pushed off. What a rush! After a few seconds when I realized I was in control + the mountain wasn't going to come down on top of me, I was high as a kite, hooting + hollering (though I know that's not a smart thing to do). Slipping + sliding all the way down, at least a thousand feet of vertical. What took hours to climb, took seconds to descend.

[glissading down]

 

[looking back @ B still up on top]

Interlude:  I just went out to stoke the fire + look at the mountain + lake in the starry skies. Snow, rock, stars + the glowing fire at my back, the heart of our little island in the wilderness. No words to describe. Anyways, glissading down Snowmass made climbing it worthwhile just for that. All that anxiety of approaching storms + having to retrace our sketchy approach, suddenly unleashed in a wave of bliss, letting gravity do all the work. Transporting my bag of skin to safety. That storm skirted us, but another approached that definitely hit us. Dark grey clouds spitting lightning. Then it was really coming down, big juicy flakes of snow. I cruised but got way ahead so had to stop to wait. Started to get real wet + cold from the glissade. One of my gators was fucked, had snow all inside my boots. We saw an avalanche pour down the couloir next to the one we were in. It was awesome + powerful. (Too tired to finish this).


May 28, 1994 — Boulder, Co

To finish the epic story of Snowmass: we were descending + a large dark cloud  descended upon us, unleashing snow. My gator was broken so I had lots of snow in my boot, sopping wet from the glissade. My left foot was starting to feel numb + I was starting to get worried. I was virtually running to stay warm + get back to camp. Snow coming down so we couldn't see ahead. Got to the lake + then kept post-holing through. Got to the sloped edge of the lake, this time without crampons + trudged around, seemed like forever. But finally to camp. Took off all my wet clothes, put on dry ones, got into my sleeping bag + sat on my feet. [B] did the same as he had the same shitty gators. [J] came wandering in later, fully outifitted in his fancy North Face goretex. He was on a mission to build a fire w/ 1 match + no paper + in pouring snow ... even though I had candles for fire starter (he was in the boyscouts). So we watched from our tent as he ran around collecting wood + narrating the whole time like he was Jack fucking London— "the secret to success is organizing the wood into little piles of various sizes, keeping them covered w/ pots, . . ."

My feet finally warmed up + I put plastic bags over them to keep them dry. We dried our clothes over the fire + got some coffee going. The snow was beautiful, light + quiet. We heard a few avalanches on the distant peaks. Eventually the snow cleared + there were avalanches where we had been walking up. We could see our tracks meandering all the way up. Took all afternoon to dry our clothes + boots. By the time the snow let up it was too late to head back to the trailhead, better to spend the night here anyway. Good thing [B] + I brought extra food, scarfed pasta big time.

By nightfall it was totally clear + we could see the stars + the white peaks in the silent void. Slept great + got everyone up early. It had been a clear night so it was cold + the snow had a crusty layer on top. Wanted to take advantage of this. Broke up camp + destroyed any evidence of ever being there. Packed up + dealt w/ the drudgery of post-holing— 2 miles back to the logjam + there was still was waist-deep patches after that. A few miles from the car we saw the first other hikers. Then more + then we were in lush green forests + groves of Aspen. There were little Aspen groves where beavers had done their busy work, you could see their teeth marks all over the trees. Very industrious little creatures. Oh, I got attacked by a Marmot! Yes, one of those little furry big rodents. We were hiking through some scree, [J] in the lead, when I saw these 2 Marmots. They shrieked like they do + then one came barreling down the trail at us. [J] jumped on a boulder, ice axe in hand ready for battle. I just watched, couldn't believe my eyes, as this screeching ball of fur came straight for me. Just as i braced to defend myself he went screaming right between my legs! Strange. He kept going + scurried up the embankment.

[the ragged band (the author + B + J) back @ the trailhead]

The long trudge over, we went into Aspen + splurged at some deli. It was weird to have everything in right angles, all the surfaces sterile + clean. Strange world we've constructed when you remove yourself from it for a while. Still couldn't get a hold of [our better-½]. Kept getting her machine w/ [S]'s voice on it. Aspen is a strange place. Rich crunchy types everywhere, ski slopes rising straight from downtown. [J] had the key to some loft of a friend of his. We got some Wicked Ale + took some long-needed showers (been a week). Trashed this loft, kept calling [our better-½]. Finally gave up + just went on to Boulder.

Beautiful drive up this canyon out of Glennwood Srings, rock everywhere. Through Vail + over Vail Pass. El Chapo was seriously hating it, trudging along at 30 MPH max. Poor [J] had to follow us in his fancy new Chevy truck. After peaking out at 10,000 feet we "glissaded" in neutral at 70 mph for 12 miles, but then had to go over another even higher pass at 11,000 feet. Capped w/ the Eisenhower tunnel at the continental divide. I wanted to stop + piss to either side but by going through the tunnel you miss out on the true boundary where your piss would either be Atlantic- or Pacific-bound.

Got into Boulder around 9 pm, in time to hit the town. First at some brewery (the Oasis) full of sugar bear types in hiking boots. I passed by this one table + all I heard was ". . . analytic cubism . . ."  I passed by a second time + all I caught was ". . . abstract realism . . ."  We pressed onward to this other bar w/ an older crowd + a bad jazz band. The waitress brought us a bunch of free food, probably felt sorry for us. We soon ditched that place for the Catacombs. You pet some cow as you enter + it goes "moo". As the name implies it was a labyrinth of dark rooms, one of them had a blues band covering "The sky is crying . . "

[Snowmass lake]


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