Post subject: TR: Williams Peak "Willies", 1/13/08 (CO)
Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 8:23 am
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:19 am Posts: 544 Location: Capitol Hill, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Williams Peak -- 10,300' Garfield County, CO
Adjusting to a new locality can be somewhat difficult; especially when the new area has an array of completely different backcountry stashes known only to the locals. When I left Denver, my home for three years, it was hard to leave behind my front range spots like Butler Gulch, Rollins Pass, the IPW, The Park, and my personal local playground--the Mt. Evans Wilderness. For the past few weeks I have found myself transplanted in the middle of the Roaring Fork Valley, with virtually no knowledge of the backcountry terrain.
However, upon my first two weeks here, I was offered a chance to check out the Glenwood Springs locals' stash: Mt. Williams (a.k.a. "Willie's") with a 5 years local and his bro from Denver. This was also the first outing with the girlfriend, who has been super stoked to get to the BC and try out all her sweet new avy gear and recent education. My guide claimed that the lines were "mellow", and I had a good idea of what was in store: classic winter low-angle glade skiing. NO worries, I was not out looking for insane avy lines this early in winter, and I was just excited to get a tour from someone in the know.
We met up with the GS boys at 10:00 am and headed up the road toward Sunlight Mountain Resort. At the top of the road, we turned off to a hard-packed road and continued to climb. I was surprised at how high the trailhead was, but soon we pulled upon a row of cars parked parallel. No sooner did I turn off the engine, than two snowboarders came shooting out of the trees and onto the road, hooting cries of joy and a most bodacious powder ride. We quickly put on all gear (myself and our leader on splits, the other two board-packing it).
Climbing the skin track
The author skinning up
We hiked up the road for about a half mile then turned off into the trees. The trail was very hard packed and definitely has seen a lot of traffic. However, while hiking, I took note of several uncut stashes of powder, with the occasional line or two around it. Although popular, this mountain is big enough for everyone.
During the ascent, the two guys had quickly disappeard out of sight. V left me in her tracks as she skipped up the mountain with ease, with a snowboard on her back. I was left bringing up the rear, which I am no stranger to, and I groveled along on my split. As I climbed, I took in the wonderful new surroundings. It was beautiful sunny day, and I could see far out west towards Grand Mesa, and the Western end of the Rockie Mountains.
View to the West
Near the upper section the climb, we found a corniced terrain trap. Curious after my avy class the previous day, I decided to try to make the cornice go. It only took one ski kick, and the cornice shattered, dumping blocks of snow into the flat spot below. I was in a safe, controlled location, but it was good to see that activity, in case I saw something bigger and more exposed later.
The small cornice I set off
The weather progressivly got more cloudy, and soon it began to snow. I started having trouble keeping my skins adhered to my boards, and after struggling with them twice, I was finally fed up with them, and shouldered my skis for the next 200 feet to the top. At the top, I was greeted with an ice-cold Miller Lite (they sure know how to treat a Chicago boy up here!)
V and I on the summit, with the awesome Mt. Sopris in the background
Having just taken an Avy Awareness course on Richmond Ridge the day before, I was eager to dig a pit an analyze a snowpack. While I was occupied with my excavation, the summit quickly became crowded. There were only another 4 or 5 people, but about twice as many dogs! One of them made quick work to my lunch, which was stashed in my half-opened pack 30 feet away from me. However, I was fixated on the snow pit. I performed a simple shovel shear test and broke loose a 2' slab that certainly made me worry. The snowpack was still a little sketchy, but from what I'd gathered, our descent was of the G.F.P. nature, and would be relatively safe.
Jesse looks ready for the descent
From the top, our guide instructed us to ride the roller-coaster skin track down the ridge to the saddle, then drop onto the north face. I did as followed, and found a casual surf through knee deep powder. The terrain was very unique. Occasionally the dark tree run would open up into a huge glade full of untracked snow, and then funnel back into the trees, and out into the open again, at least three or four times. I found countless features ranging from small mushrooms to large rocks with nice soft landings below them.
Gotta love the aspen riding
He missed out on it, but you know I hit that mushroom in the middle of the pic
Eventually I lost track of my crew, and continued to follow the fall line to the road. As I removed my board and walked down to the road, I passed a boarder bootpacking it up.
"I left you a FEW lines...but you better get after it!"
After all, I was now tuned in to the Glenwood Springs local stash, and I definitely planned to go back.
_________________ Riding a '06 Voile Split Decision Freeride 173, '07 Salomon Malamutes, Spark Ignition I bindings.