December 31, 2013

Oh San Juan ' ness - How Good You Are

Wrapped up 2013 with good friends and several crystal clear days among the always spectacular San Juan mountains.  We experienced rather stable conditions for the San Juan's allowing for us to safely enjoy the alpine. It had been quite a while since the last major loading event and the snowpack was largely settled and generally nonreactive. While the snow structure remains poor in most areas with our lovely CO persistent slabs. Slides appeared to of become more and more difficult to trigger.  All but southerly aspects below treeline seemed to mainly be made up of very weak faceted snow.  Which will likely cause a problem during the next major snow event. But for now the SJ's were Good to Us.



Here a view of the Sultan group which we we enjoyed on day 1 of the trip, riding three of the summits seen in the pic.


We started the amazing alpine tour at Molas pass with an ascent of the Grand Turk followed by a descent of a northern couloir to the basin in between the Grand Turk and Sultan Mountain. Next we climbed the SE face and ridge of the Sultan, then dropping into the basin via the Northstar Couloir. Followed by a final ascent north to pt. 12300', and a final run down the "Python" and back to HW 550.




Kendall Mountain seen from Mineral Creek after our decent of a northern couloir we called "The Bear Claw" off Bear Mountain 



An old ore Bucket Tram from Mayflower Mine upto Arrasta Gulch with the Sultan group lurking high in the background



Nia and Todd crossing the NW slopes of King Solomon Peak.  We spent a lot of the climb gawking at the impressive Turkey Chute seen just left of Nia.  Coming back for this one in the spring for sure!  Sultan's summit is also seen on right edge of photo 



Our first decent off the Grand Turk seen from the SE ridge of the Sultan  (The widening chute in the middle of the ridge line in the background)



John on the SE ridge of the Sultan with Silverton barely visible down below



Unloading our gear from the sled after Jack and his boy graciously gave us a bump up Arrasta Gulch on their way to their beautiful alpine cabin.  Saved about an hour climb and 500 vertical feet:)    



Nia with the days final climb up pt. 12300'.  Seen in the background is our descent down Sultan's Northstar Couloir ( directly above Nia's head)



Todd making his way down the east ridge of Bear Mountain towards the "Bear Claw" chutes, with the Sultan and the Python in the background



Todd with first tracks down the "Bear Claw" with Red Mountain Pass in the background



My Venture happy to be back in its birthplace.



John catching some air halfway down the Sultan's Northstar Couloir



Turkey Chute in all its glory



Island Lake Basin seen in background just left of center.  Kristin and I got engaged here in the summer of 2012 after riding our mountain bikes to the lower basin.



Todd topping out the steep climb up Grand Turk's SW col