April 21 – 25, 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to formally introduce you to the professional team members of Peaks for Peace….
Matt ‘SUNSHINE’ Lovas
Andrew ‘MILKSHAKE’ Eaton
Paul ‘P-STANK” Cassedy
Andrea ‘ANDREA’ Wilson
Brennan ‘B’ Metzler
Jonathan ‘BIG MONEY TEX’ Burk
Elizabeth “IZZIE” Coffin
We stayed Saturday night on some BLM lands outside of Salida, CO. After an epic gear sort and pack, six of us set off in 2 cars for Ouray, CO. The drive up Sneffels Creek Canyon was spectacular and gave us a small glimpse of the grandeur that awaited us in Yankee Boy Basin. Beside the fact that our bags were heavy laden, the trip into our base camp was relatively mellow. We set our home in a nice clearing at the base of Stony Mountain and below the ridge between Potosi and ‘Coffee Pot’ Peaks. We made dinner, melted snow for water, and promptly went to sleep, nervous about the effects of living on snow.
From Left to Right: Andrew, Izzie, and Paul climb a hillside below incredible landscapes. Sunshine smiles his way up the inclined approach with a gigantic pack. Snow fortresses were utilized to cope with paranoia about cold and windy conditions
As it turns ou,t most of us were not super stoked to get out of the warmth of a down sleeping bag when it is cold and windy out. We slowly came to life, made some breakfast and moved into doing beacon work to prepare for and mitigate the risk of traveling through avalanche terrain. After a few drills and successful beacon searches we geared up to tackle Mt. Sneffels in what was supposed to be a ‘medium-effort’ day. As it turns out, we had ourselves a little bit of a suffer-fest.
Our approach was not too bad and we started to gain elevation pretty quickly from camp. About an hour into our attempt on Mt. Sneffels, we started to get heavy winds out of the west and north, crushing us with spindrifts and lowering a few spirits (namely, mine). Once we cleared the gradual approach and made our way into Lavender Col, we fell in line to kick steps. The suffer-fest continued as we rose in elevation. The wind was non-stop whipping into our faces. Paul was unflappable and Brennan…well, Brennan is a different beast and as such, was on a totally different level. The final 1200 vertical feet to reach the base of the summit ridge was pretty gritty. We were fighting through deep snow, unconsolidated steps, and for some of us, nausea. To gain the summit ridge required navigating a sequence of mixed moves made difficult by the wintry conditions. Once we achieved our goal of summiting Mt. Sneffels, we pretty quickly worked to reverse our moves and start our descent. The icy and exposed down climb definitely got the heart pumping and then our overall descent back to camp was pretty mellow. We ate some sort of dinner, I honestly cannot remember what it was, and then crashed out.
The powerful ridgeline of Mt. Sneffels and Kismet Peak dominates Upper Yankee Boy Basin, as seen from the western slopes of Stony Mountain.
Worked. Sea level to 14,000 feet in 48 hours.
Regrouping at 12,500 feet in ridiculous winds. The impressive North Face of Gilpin Mountain can be seen.
Burk crushing the approach to Mt. Sneffels. He would climb higher than he ever had before – topping out at 14k.
The crew approaches under the watch of Stony Mountain.
Paul “Suffering without Purpose” Cassedy in his element just beneath the summit block.
We woke up to pretty constant precipitation. It ended up snowing all day. Brennan and Paul made it up to the saddle between Kismet and Cirque Mts and after waiting 30 minutes for the weather to clear decided to head back to camp. The day was spent eating, sleeping, playing cribbage, and, oddly enough, corn-rowing… Around dinner time Sunshine emerged from his tent with his blonde mane transformed into neat corn-rows. Izzy had been pretty bored. Trapped in a tent. Later in the evening, Andrea skinned in and met up with us after taking a couple of days off to run some errands in Breckenridge. After we got out to make some food, the temperature plummeted pretty quickly and everyone found themselves immediately ok with eating granola bars in their tents for dinner.
Everyone woke up pretty rested and ready to get after it. Brennan, Izzie, Jonathan, and Andrea went for a light tour in the Gilpin Basin while Paul, Sunshine and I decided to go after the giant fortress above camp, Potosi Peak. After Brennan and crew got a few turns in, Jonathan and Izzie packed up and headed back to the car to get some things done back in Breckenridge before meeting the rest of us in Moab. Following the morning tour, Brennan began pushing up the SW Couloir of Potosi to try and ride his dream line. Our attempt on Potosi was sidetracked when our route took us onto the ridge west of the saddle and closer to “Coffee Pot” Peak, a high point on the ridge with a summit block of about 60-70 feet. We had climbed through a few committing sequences to gain the ridge, and as the sun continued to heat the snowpack, we turned back at the base of the summit block to get off the snow before conditions warmed too much. On our descent, we noticed Brennan working his way up the top of the couloir. Sunshine was able to set up a camera and catch his epic line down Potosi. It was an amazing ride to witness, and Brennan was clearly stoked beyond belief.
After our descent, Paul and I chilled out and played some cribbage in the sun while drying some things out in the rare warmth. Brennan and Sunshine went up a mellow route to Stony Mtn and found sunset riding conditions to be pristine. They slid back into camp grinning ear to ear after getting some great turns in the twilight. We made some loose plans for the next day and then cooked a hodge podge meal of polenta, black beans, tomatoes, and copious amounts of cheese that sent everyone to bed feeling fat and happy.
The powerful and complex southwest face of Potosi Peak.
Andrea cruises through the rolling terrain of Gilpin Basin.
Izzie rips a toeside turn and blows apart the creamy spring pow.
The SW Couloir on Potosi Peak waits to be shredded, a dream line.
Sunshine makes his way through otherworldly surroundings beneath the west face of Stony.
Sunshine takes a moment to soak in the warm evening light on the summit ridge.
Brennan shares the stoke of a sunset summit.
Sunshine blasting AK turns down the pristine west face of Stony.
A gorgeous moonrise caps a momentous day in the hills.
Brennan, Paul, Andrea, and Sunshine made some plans to get back up to Cirque and catch some turns before we hiked out. I stole Paul in the morning with a plan to put a second attempt on Potosi via the couloir that Brennan had ridden the day before. Brennan, Sunshine, and Andrea climbed some steep snow and exposed rock to gain the Summit of Cirque before taking some nice lines down and getting back to camp. Paul and I had a great climb up some steep snow to gain the ridge of Potosi. We had gone into the attempt with no rock or ice protection hoping to find a weakness with relatively mellow scrambling access to the summit. After getting close to the base of the giant rock fortress that is Petosi’s summit block, we realized that in the winter conditions we were facing we would need much more time than we had allotted for the attempt and we descended back to camp. Discontent yet pretty stoked on the couloir route and with seeds of plans planted in our brains of getting back to Yankee Boy Basin to conquer Potosi in better conditions.
As we tore down our camp, we continued to revel in the beauty around us. Feeling incredibly lucky to be in this position we made our way back to the land of hamburgers and beer and vegetables.
The south face of Cirque Mountain contains many fun lines for the eager ski or snowboard mountaineer.
Andrea makes her way along the summit ridge of Cirque, taking intentional steps.
Sunshine cruises down Cirque in poor light.
Andrea puts her professional training as a ski instructor to work to blast through the wind and sun crusts of cirques south face.
Gear sort number 3 of the week. Thank Ouray for allowing us to temporarily annex your sidewalk.
We were guided to Moab by this spectacular sunset. La Sal Grandeur.
A technicolor dreamscape.
Moments like these are the ones we pursue. Paul and Andrew blown away by the sunset over the La Sals. Living like kings, we are.
-written in a coffee shop in Moab, Utah while wearing sandals and shorts and wishing it was just a little bit cooler. Temperature, you are a fickle beast.
written | Andrew Eaton photos | Brennan Metzler video | Matt Lovas