Colorado Western Highcountry Report

Post by blogger | June 30, 2008      

Well, I guess summer is finally here. Meaning folks are backcountry skiing up in Montezuma Basin in the highcountry between Aspen and Crested Butte.

Jordan White hit ‘Zuma for some Saturday turns. He and a friend got a good descent of Conundrum Couloir and were on snow back to their truck just above timberline. I was thinking of heading up there myself for some ski touring, but got involved in real life with some auto repairs — though we did get out hiking yesterday.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Hiking about six feet above the Lead King Loop jeep trail, yesterday.

Yep, I’d finally gotten the skis far enough away from my toolbox to get some Jeep wrenching done. We’d bent the passenger side axle knuckle steering arm last season in Moab. Not being comfortable with damaged steering parts, I tore apart a Dana 30 “donor” axle we had laying around and swapped in the undamaged knuckle. That not without fabricating a better steering arm reinforcement system, as well as renewing the ball joints. Whew.

Got the axle bolted together about noon yesterday. Couldn’t see getting up to Montezuma that late in the day, so we headed up the Crystal Valley to see how the highcountry roads were opening up, and to do some alpine hiking. For you locals who want to head up there: debris from massive avalanches is still blocking the Leadking loop on the upper (north) side. You can walk or hike-a-bike over the snow and probably get a motorcycle or ATV over it if you really tried, but doing the loop in a 4×4 is out for at least a few more weeks.

Suggestion to the ever increasing number of Marble area citizens who depend on these roads for summer tourism business: What are you waiting for? As they do in the San Juans, get a bulldozer up there and punch ’em out!

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Want some summer skiing? Just head up to Meadow Mountain. This thing isn’t even 13,000 feet high and look at all that snow on the southerly face! North side is probably in perfect ski condition for even more vert than shown in this photo.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Have to admit it was nice getting out for a simple alpine hike without a pair of ski boots on the feet. That’s Chair Mountain in the distance. Wildflowers aren’t really out yet, that should change soon. Funny thing is that weather wise we’ve had a dry summer so far, so the things haven’t greened up the way they usually do. I’m not sure that’ll delay the flowers, but it might make them less bountiful than normal.



10 Responses to “Colorado Western Highcountry Report”

  1. dave downing June 30th, 2008 2:56 pm

    reason number 1,275 why we need more Euro style trams, the pic of Meadow Mountain. The top would be a great location for a tram dock 🙂

  2. Lou June 30th, 2008 5:34 pm

    Agreed. But the Aspen Wilderness Workshop might beg to differ. They don’t even like bicycles to be up there, let alone a lift shack!

  3. Larry June 30th, 2008 5:49 pm

    Great idea. Who do you suppose would pay for this tram?

  4. Lou June 30th, 2008 6:45 pm

    Just before WWII, a group of promoters had proposed a ski tramway that went from Castle Creek Valley to the top of North Hayden Peak near Aspen. About 4,000 vertical in perfect alpine skiing terrain. Somehow they’d gotten the federal government to finance it! Then the war intervened and it never happened. Perhaps we could get in on that same government program?

  5. Lou June 30th, 2008 6:54 pm

    Dave is such as provocateur, is he not?

  6. Jordan June 30th, 2008 8:00 pm

    Whats up Lou,
    We drove up and the road was blocked by snow around 10500 or so, but with some shoveling and snowbank busting we got to the shelf right above the last stream crossing. Skiing was still good on the headwall especially, and the couloir on conundrum has more snow in it than it did the first week of june last year.

  7. Lou June 30th, 2008 8:51 pm

    Nice Jordan, I can’t wait to head up there! Have to go over to CB for a couple of days, but perhaps later in the week or this weekend. Meadow Mountain area is tempting, but quite a bit of dirt hiking. We shall see.

  8. Jefferson July 2nd, 2008 1:05 pm


    With respect, us Marble area folks don’t like “suggestions” about how to run our business, it’s why we live here.

    Yes, some of us have earth moving equipment but, believe it or not, we have other things to do than burn our ever expensive diesel to smooth the way for 4WD idiots to go roaring uphill. You think breathing more of your dust is worth the profit on an extra sandwich and a pop? Please!

    Yes, taking the 4WD behind Sheep Mountain – or even over Schofield – is an adventure, but not something I remember doing as a kid until late August. It should stay that way….

    ,,,unless YOU would like to put a blade on the front of one of your precious four wheelers and spend a few days and as many tanks of gasoline moving snow and rocks? You are always welcome to try. You may even get a free sandwich at Woody’s for your work if you ask nicely.

  9. Lou July 2nd, 2008 2:56 pm

    Jefferson, it was just a suggestion. Don’t panic.

  10. Jefferson July 3rd, 2008 2:18 pm


    Dude! Don’t be a stranger:

    First house on the left as you come into Crystal from Marble. Ask for Pat, tell her your son reads her blog. She’s there all summer, I’m back the last two weeks of September.

    See you then,


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