Dates: 6 - 9 June 2007 Basecamp: Platte Gulch @ 11,700 feet Peaks: Clinton Peak (13,857) and Mt Democrat (14,148) Riders: Kjkrow and Brandon
We wanted to do a 3-night trip, with the Blue Lake area of Indian Peaks the original thought. After checking permits and such, it turns out you can only camp in that area from Nov to the end of April. With the IPW out for a high base camp, I started digging through all of my old pictures and suggested Platte Gulch in the Mosquito Range. From a high camp, Democrat, Traver, McNamee, and Clinton would all be within easy striking distance. The food was bought and gear was packed ...
The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday was not terribly optimistic with snow and a high wind advisory, but we decided to press, sleeping in the car on Wednesday night if we felt conditions warranted it. Instead, we were treated to a mix of rain and snow at Magnolia Mill with little wind.
The hike up the road went quickly, and we settled on a semi-sheltered camp spot around 11,700.
After we set up camp and while cooking dinner, the wind started to pick up. It was full on winter, and while the wind probably didn't exceed 30 mph where we were, it was ripping up high, and knocking down trees and killing power in Frisco. We spent the next 14 hours in the tent.
Thursday was much the same weather wise, only clearing in the very late evening. With hopes it might clear, we set out around noon in the general direction of the basin between Traver and Clinton. After topping out on a headwall above the lake, we called it quits, content to make two laps for about 700-800 feet of June powder skiing.
Alarm set for just before 7AM, and sun already on the tent. The weather had finally cleared, leaving fresh snow at higher elevations. After breakfast and gearing up, we headed for Clinton and a couloir I had spied from Lincoln and Democrat. We climbed Thursday's headwall and continued up the basin. Skinning below Clinton.
My camera batteries then crapped out from some mysterious reason, and were finally replaced on the summit of Clinton. We skiied down the east ridge until running out of snow . . .
Then ridge walked up to the start of the couloir. Looking down.
We cut off some cornice to see how it would react. Lots of small sluffing from quickly baking fresh wet snow, but we both felt comfortable with the situation. Dropping in:
Then a short walk to being able to ski back to the Wheeler Lake road, plus some grass skiing.
Looking back up from camp at the lower headwall and top of the couloir:
We spend the rest of the day appreciating the change in weather and relaxing for Saturday.
Knowing we skiied Clinton a little too late, and that Democrat would be a harder climb, the alarm went off at 5:50 and we were on the move by 6:45. The objective:
After bushwacking down the creek, we were able to skin up to the base of the face.
We traded skins for crampons and axes and headed up towards the Cameron Democrat saddle.
The climb was very enjoyable, with a nice mix of exposure, route finding, steep snow, and a little bit of rock and scrambling. When the snow ran out, it was a talus scramble to the ridge, and then on trail to the summit. Alone on top, we geared up and talked through the line down the North Face. Then it was off for the best turns of the year on fresh snow and corn down lower.
Not sure what I'm doing here:
I had looked up the exit couloir on the climb and it looked tight but feasible. Turns out it was a little tighter than I thought.
Hmm, I don't fit here:
Tracks, with Brandon skiing out the apron:
Packing up at camp:
Brandon got tired of bushwhacking past puddles and such:
The trip was fantastic, with a perfect mix of everything, even the winter weather and June powder. The couloir off of Clinton was super fun, but couldn't match Democrat's North Face, easily our best turns of the year. After the slog back down the road to the car, in which we passed some 4-wheelers headed in the same direction, we gorged at the South Park Saloon in Alma.
Thanks HikeforTurns for the shot from Wheeler Peak:
_________________ - Kyle
"Oh man, that's like releasing a pack of wild baboons onto a keg of Icehouse next to a tied-up and gagged Lindsay Lohan." - Luca Brasi on TGR