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Author Topic: January 23, 2008, Hurricane Point (11,534'), CO  (Read 1873 times)

Posts: 515

January 23, 2008, Hurricane Point (11,534'), CO
« on: 02/03/08, 09:22 PM »

Day 24
Hurricane Point (11,534), Elk Mountains, Colorado
Total Ski: 2,800 VF

Information is a terrible thing. 

Once a thing is known, it germinates and grows until one is forced to deal with it.  Either confirm or deny the implications of the facts until one is satisfied with the results, or forever ponder the hypothesis, driven mad in a purgatory of sensual deprivation.

This seems to happen to me a lot. 

Several years ago I purchased a slick book by Lou Dawson, the embodiment of the Colorado Backcountry scene, titled "Colorado's Backcountry Skiing Vol 1" (implying several more I hope), covering the central mountains of Colorado.  Sure, we've all seen the other guidebooks on Colorado backcountry which seem to focus (perhaps rightfully?) on the spring peak descents, but never had I seen such a focus on powder descents as in this new book.  I took a new look at this area, not through the eyes of the well-heeled and H2-wheeled Aspenites, but through the eyes of an adventurer, in a place with history and drama.  Now I had to go. 

Ironically, I moved away from Colorado shortly after purchase of the book, and many of the tics were left to smoulder.  Until now.

Living back in Colorado I am once again at the Rocky's doorstep, and with free time I can once again explore.  Dropping my wife and kids at the airport at 5:30 am for the plane ride to gramma's house for nearly two weeks, I had the time.

And the well-germinated seeds of many a descent that had taken root in my head.


I arrived in Aspen shortly after noon on a Wednesday.


I've been to Europe, and this is the closest comparison I can come up with: Cortina, Italy.  Insanely beautiful landscape populated with insanely wealthy people leading insanely banal lifestyles.  Like a fishbowl in the ocean, the pretty tropical fish prance about their semi-transparent cages while the drama and majesty of the sea rages around them.  Oblivious, ignorant and smugly happy to be there.  Rightfully so, perhaps.

I feel out of place instantly. 

I suddenly feel a paranoia creep into my aura, and it wasn't because of the drugs.  Here I was, planning to ski the next couple of days in one of the most expensive resorts in all of North America, and I didn't plan to spend a dime.  Sleep in the rolling (however cold) hotel Subaru, ski in the backcountry for free, and cheat the Bloodsuckers at every turn.  Perhaps there was a mission here.  My paranoia intensifies.  It was me, alone, (for the sake of a good story) pennyless, in the land of Big Wigs, Actors and Politicians.   The only Dirtbag in Hammersmith.  I pass Woody Creek and nod to the spirit of Hunter S Thompson.  Into the Belly of the Beast.



I follow signs from the rotary at the entrance to town out along the Castle Creek road, reaching the wilds of Colorado ski country almost instantly upon entering the canyon.  The populace of the Roaring Fork valley is instantly left behind, and I am craning my head out the window taking in all of the Elk Mountains rising above me.

I am scared.

The avalanche danger has been sitting at Considerable in the Central Mountains for weeks, with no sign of hope into the future, mostly due to the usual Colorado snowpack plague: deep slab instability.  The most evil of threats, this danger is not necessarily influenced by new (and enticing) snowfall, but from wild, wondering triggers who happen to be at the wrong place at the right time.

My tic list is short in such conditions.  I have devoured Dawson's book and think I can find good glade skiing even with the danger as it was.  I know I ski my local hill under such threat, it was just a question of guessing where the Aspen locals went.

These things I tell myself (rationalize) as I park the car at a plowed shoulder.  I cannot overlook the elephant in the room: alone, on an unknown mountain, with suspect snowpack.  Here we go again.  I smile, and start plodding up the mountain in my snowshoes.


The Little Annie Road shocks my senses.  I was expecting a jeep trail from the Castle Creek road, and find a well-plowed suburban street.  Although the houses in this suburb are 8 million apiece and are scattered on 10 acre lots.  I had planned on skiing the lines between the hairpins on the descent, but am now challenged to find a line between the homes.  I feel like I am casing the neighborhood and my paranoia returns along with a deep sense of pleasure.  Oh, there will be turns on your front lawn, O Henry, Ol' Boy. Sorry, Ol' Chap.

After climbing along the packed powder of the Little Annie road for a thousand vertical feet, I came to a sharp inside hairpin with a wonderful tree'd descent above leading to the summit ridge.  The "road" ends at the hairpin, a mish-mash of apocalyptic snow machines cluttering a parking lot at the end of the road along with a long stretch of snowmobiles, all lined up in a pretty row.  Obviously this was where the resident's machines for going higher along the road were stored until needed.  But higher?  More houses along this road?  How was that possible? 

Almost as if on cue, down from above comes a snow machine.  A very, very stylish snow machine.  It used to be a (brand new) GMC Yukon, but the owner had installed a lift kit, and then replaced the wheels with quad snowmobile tracks.  It was unbelievable.

It rolled past me without slowing down, the driver completely ignoring my wave.

Arrogant prick, I think.
Tresspassing dirtbag, he thinks.

After a short stroll I came to the Little Annie Bowl, finding fresh tracks in the 8" of fresh that made up the top layer.  I could see nasty wind had taken the left side of the snowfield, so confirmed my decision to stick to a tree line I had spotted from below.  After another 1,000 vertical, I found myself near the summit ridge and was delighted with a view down the ridgeline to the top of Aspen Mountain Ski area below me.  It looked like a circus.  And it was so far away it kind of looked like an Ant Farm Circus.  Certainly a pleasure to watch from this distance.

I summited Hurricane Point shortly after three.  The weather was fabulous.  Nary a wind, no clouds, and nice cold temps to keep the snow airy.  Across the Castle Valley I could see my ultimate goal: Hayden North and the grand descent down its NE flanks.  Until another day, I lament.  But Today!  I snap to it and start the descent.

The top section is wind affected, but shallow, and I work my way to the rib I spotted from below.  The snow improves dramatically and I find 8" of continental pow on a carvable reconstituted base.  I drop down out of the pines and enter the aspen forests.  And am transported to another world.  The trees are magnificent, sparkingly in the afternoon light sheltering delightful, unending powder.

Soon enough I am back at the road end, and find treacherous ski conditions down the plowed road to the first set of turns.  I jump the 6 foot snowbank and dance powder turns between the castles back to my waiting abode.     

* 1aspen_snow.jpg (51.33 KB, 600x451 - viewed 326 times.)

* 2aspen_desent.jpg (39.42 KB, 600x451 - viewed 330 times.)

* 3little_annit_bowl.jpg (28.09 KB, 600x451 - viewed 331 times.)
« Last Edit: 02/03/08, 10:57 PM by MW88888888 » Logged

Posts: 228

Re: January 23, 2008, Hurricane Point (11,534'), CO
« Reply #1 on: 02/04/08, 03:45 PM »

It was me, alone, (for the sake of a good story) pennyless, in the land of Big Wigs, Actors and Politicians.   The only Dirtbag in Hammersmith.   

nice report,  brings me back some.  so you know apsen has a long history of dirt bag skiers.  hang around at the flying dog, little annie, or the J bar and you might find some willing to share a day in the backcountry with you

Posts: 5

Re: January 23, 2008, Hurricane Point (11,534'), C
« Reply #2 on: 02/05/08, 06:29 PM »

Are you from Jersey or something?

Posts: 515

Re: January 23, 2008, Hurricane Point (11,534'), CO
« Reply #3 on: 02/06/08, 07:32 PM »

Sean!  No, but I did go to college there.  Makes me appreciate every day a little more.
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