Forums Trip Reports Channeling Our Inner Lynx – A Few Weeks in the San Juans
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  • #574702
    820 Posts

    Silverton is a tough area to maneuver. Sometimes, skin tracks dope you, creeks cross you up, snowpack riddles you, and you can stare at a line for days without knowing how to access it. Without a clear idea of where to go, sometimes you need a sign, or a guide. Fortunately the last couple weeks, this kind animal obliged to show us our way.

    The Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) – By 2010, after an 11 year effort, it had been successfully reintroduced
    into Colorado where it had become extinct in the 1970s. The initial introduction was in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado

    I am here to get you caught up with the past month I have had in the Silverton area, channeling our inner Lynx.

    It all started over a month ago when we were approached by the University of Montana doing a study on backcountry travellers and their effect on the lynx population. We were asked to wear a GPS so they could see how we interact. Lynx, yeah right, we thought. After a tour on Ophir Pass in 18″ of pow, we returned the next day. Half way into our skin track from the day before, we saw a big ol’ kitty track that looked something like this.

    Smart kitty using a broken trail, but what was he showing us?

    Then, on my birthday weekend, we continued past the way that the Lynx had showed us on Ophir to this gem called V5. (Note: this is a cross post from my previous trip report, but still relevant)

    Photo: Washwood

    As Washwood gained the summit he snapped a few pictures of this. How and why was it up there?

    I think the lynx was showing us it was good, so we went for it.

    Photo: Summersgone

    Then, as spring came into full affect with decreasing avy danger, jcmarechal and myself ventured into a line that we had been wanting for months. The Wiley Coyote.

    Photo: jcmarechal

    Lone and behold, that little lynx wanted to play with the coyote, and climbed into the basin as we approached. So we saw the sign, climbed up, and rode the Coyote.

    Photo: jcmarechal

    The next day continuing on our chuting spree, we gained the ridge line looking for more steep and deep. This day, we didn’t have our guide with us, but we luckily stumbled upon this line.

    Photo: jcmarechal

    After kicking off a sluff from our ski cut, we felt it was safe to ride, so we went for it.

    Photo: jcmarechal


    Photo: jcmarechal


    Photo: summersgone

    Looking for the Lynx for our next line.


    Then, Keffler and crew rolled into town from the Front Range and New Mexico. Trying to be as good of guides as the lynx, we decided on a fun tour we had been thinking about for weeks. We were unsure if the line finishing the day would go. As Washwood put it, “I’m 90% sure it goes.” Good enough for me, let’s try it out. It was off for the tour of the day.
    Does it go?

    Photo: Washwood

    We started the day with a quietly windy skin up gaining the ridge. We found that we would need to switch from booting to skinning more times than changeovers. So hanging on the basin was key.

    Photo: Keffler

    We placed Keffler and crew on this mellower line that myself and bones had done back in December. And those boys shredded it.

    Photo: Keffler

    Without the use of the Lynx guide, we decided to get into a line bones get broke and Splitrippin had done a few weeks back. As we down-climbed into it, the common word of the line, and eventually day, was “ROCK”, as I kicked rocks down onto Washwood and Skatebananas. Using his jedi skills, Skatebananas was able to jump and dodge a big one that was coming down.

    Photo: Keffler

    While strapping in, under what we thought was a protected area, I heard a clanking come down. All of a sudden a rock smashed into the nose of my board. “Ugh guys, let’s get the fuck off this thing!” So we rode.

    Photo: Washwood

    After we had ridden our respective lines, it was time for Basin Party.

    Photo: Washwood

    Channelling our inner lynx, it was up to the next summit for our second line. We had been looking at this summit all winter, and getting on it was a celebration.
    Washwood, Summersgone, and Skatebananas

    Then, it was time to find our line, and see if it went. Without knowing Keffler’s comfort level, we tried to scare them off of it. “I really don’t know if it goes guys, and it could be steep as hell”. But they replied with a “We’ll go look at it too and see, we can always come back”. After a boot pack and climbing the wall to look over, the line basically disappeared. “I’m not sure if it goes guys.” But relying on beta from others, Washwood said, I’m still 90% sure it goes. Ok, why not. Keffler and Skierconqueso approached the second couloir, and gave us a thumbs up. “It’s pretty steep into it, but it looks like it goes. We’ll go for it.” Alright, it was settled. Skatebananas strapped in. “I like sketchy, I’ll go first”. He dropped in. At the rollover, he looked back and said, “Yeah, I think it goes, but I gotta go for it now”, and disappeared. Ok, guess were in it to win it.

    Skatebananas drops in as Summersgone watches.

    Photo: Keffler

    I dropped in and found the line steepened 55 degrees and choked to about 7ft wide with shark teeth exposure. So sick. Unfortunately it was unsafe to really snap pictures in the crux, so you will have to take my word.

    Keffler and Skierconqueso found their line, and it was just as steep as our crux it looked. Skierconqueso showing New Mexican’s do know how to ride steep and narrow.

    Photo: Keffler

    Coming out the crux, the stoke level was high. We were greeted with a 3,000 foot run to the floor of Silverton.
    Skierconqueso stoked, and bunch more left

    Photo: Washwood

    Yeah, it went. Summersgone

    Photo: Washwood

    But upon exiting, we found the river was wider than the previous months crossing it. We would have to ford it. (Duh, it’s spring, we should of realized) I decided to just go for it in my boots. Stepping into the 1-2 ft deep water, it poured in over the top of my boots. Walking out was a sponge, but the day was done. Skatebananas decided on a different method.

    Photo: Washwood

    And the others followed suit.
    Keffler fording the river

    Overall, it was one of the coolest tours I’ve done in Silverton yet. The trip was 7.5 miles, climbed about 3,600 vert, and descended 5,000.

    Realizing that the Lynx has been giving us signs, I looked back on my first in person encounter a few weeks ago. While skinning a ridge, we noticed a figure climbing the far out ridge into the alpine. After looking closer, we realized it was the lynx climbing the ridge. We were in awe watching the animal scale a 40 degree 600 vert wall in under 2 minutes and disappear over the ridge.

    After a few weeks of trying to find an entrance into this line I’ve been looking at, I’ve come to realize the route that the lynx took is route into the line I’ve been trying to figure out for months. So channeling my inner lynx, I guess it’s off to the next line…

    If only I had 4 legs…

    758 Posts

    Damn Canadians poaching our lines!

    BTW Lynx is delicious… :drool:

    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    Rad San Juan stoke! I really need to spend more time up there, it sure is closer than Cali.

    I’ve been looking for the lynx too, everytime I’m up there in summer and fall. No sightings yet. Supposedly, there’s a bunch of them living in the southern San Juans, south of Wolf Creek.

    42 Posts

    Awesome man! When we were getting ready to start up Battleship a couple forest service dudes approached us and asked us to where a tracking device so they can monitor the vicinity between backcountry users and the Lynx… Looks like you got pretty close, this is so cool!

    2486 Posts

    Man, nice shootin :bananas:

    820 Posts

    @tex wrote:

    Man, nice shootin

    I just looked through this, I actually only took one picture in this whole TR 😆 😯 So those props go to Washwood, jcmarechal, and Keffler for their photo skills. I just wrote the words. (Who reads those anyways 🙄 )

    @alx88 wrote:

    Looks like you got pretty close, this is so cool!

    We were about 400 yards away from it. Crazy thing is it was probably at 12,000ft in an alpine bowl. Saw it scale the wall so fast, it was ridiculous. I’m assuming there are a few, and they all like to shred pow. We have a picture that is basically a dot on the wall of snow. If we can get it blown up, maybe you can tell, but they are illusive creatures…

    319 Posts

    Thanks Summersgone for posting this in a proper TR format. The San Juans are amazing. I got a nasty sun burn on the inside of my lip from hiking around all day with my mouth open in awe at all great views. My to do list just tripled.

    Nice job weaving in the Lynxs. I didn’t know that they introduced them down there. I’m not a cat fan, but wild mountain cats are my favorite animals to see. I once saw a big mountain lion outside of Tucson at night. I was in my car and it was taking it’s time crossing the street. Stared us down big time. Amazing sight. Have yet to see one here in Colorado, but that’s kinda a good thing.

    411 Posts

    Nice work. So many cool mountains out there, so little time…

    668 Posts

    Sick! I need to get back to CO one of these winters.
    The lynx is definitely a majestic animal. I rode up on one while mountain biking above treeline around Breckenridge several years ago, not too long after they were reintroduced and before there were any known to be in Summit County. I was probably 15 feet away, it looked at me kinda startled for a couple seconds, then bolted for a talus pile.

    1113 Posts

    Nice work, sick line.

    312 Posts

    Rad couloir and way cool about the lynx.

    474 Posts

    radness incarnate, thanks for sharing!

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