#16 Casco Peak 13,908 ft.

Date: May 20, 2013
Team: Dav, Ted, Darcy Conover, Adam Mosczinski, Scott Rinckenberger, Jamie Starr
Route: Casco’s East Ridge and French’s Southeast Face

After Jones Mountain we headed home, wrapping up a fun week down in the San Juans. The break was short though, and after only a single day at home, we loaded up the Spyder RV and headed out again. Our goal– the mountains of the Sawatch Range near Leadville. (The map above shows our route. Disregard the straight lines between peak and trailhead– a GPS glitch.)

casco peak

The gang on Casco.

First up was actually a twofer– Casco Peak, 13,908 ft., and French Mountain, 13,940 ft. These two high summits are located right by Mount Elbert and Mount Massive and are often done as a pair. So after a comfy night in the RV along Halfmoon Creek, seven of us– Darcy Conover and Adam Mosczinski, Jamie Starr, Scott Rinckenberger, Dav, and I– headed up to Casco along the South Halfmoon Creek approach. (Unfortunately, Christy had to stay in Aspen to work a few days. She’ll hook up with us again soon.)

casoc peak

Jamie, Adam, Darcy and myself scout a line on Casco. Scott Rinckenberger photo.

darcy conover, casco peak

Darcy on Casco’s East Face.

adam mosczinski

Adam, with Elbert’s big West Face behind.

jamie starr

Jamie Starr. The recent weather left a good amount of new snow on the mountains around here.

darcy conover, casco peak

Another shot of Darcy. Casco’s East Face offers several lines for skiing.

casco peak

Dav and Scott skied a line to the left. Scott Rinckenberger photo.

The route up the old mining road passes quickly, and once up high, we managed to climb and ski both peaks before things got too warm. And on another positive note, in addition to what seems to be a relative abundance of snow for this time of year, there was little to no dust visible. Apart from some serious slogging through rotten snow back to the trailhead, we all had a pretty awesome day.

Skinning up towards French, with patches of sun illuminating the slope. Scott R. photo

Skinning up towards French, with patches of sun illuminating the slope. Scott Rinckenberger photo.

casco peak

Dav skins up towards French, with his Casco ski line indicated.

Dav and I near the top of French.

Dav and I near the top of French. Scott Rinckenberger photo.

casco peak

A look back towards Casco. Scott Rinkenberger photo.

Dav follows Scott down French.

Dav follows Scott down French.

Adam, psyched for the ski we got on French.

Adam, psyched for the ski we got on French.

Thanks to Scott for sharing some of his photos for this post.

Next up– Oklahoma.


Date: June 8 & 9, 2013
Route: Oklahoma’s East Ridge to Halfmoon Lake, Casco’s East Face, French’s South Face
Team: Christy, Lissa Ballinger, Anda Smalls

Centennial skiers, casco peak, christy mahon

On top of Casco Peak last Sunday.

We’re pretty sure everyone has gotten over hearing about skiing at this point, but the snow just continued to hang on in the Sawatch Range so I was able to check off a few more peaks this past weekend. I had missed Mt. Oklahoma, Casco Peak, and French Mountain when Ted and Dav had skied them back in May, and had hoped I could get them done before the snow disappeared. The snow was definitely getting thin but still allowed for some really good last turns of the season.

Centennial skiers, mount oklahoma,

A side view of Oklahoma, showing plenty of snow still up high, and on the backside of the ridge in view (to the north), which was our ski route.

On Saturday, Lissa Ballinger and I left Aspen at 4:30am to ski Mount Oklahoma, starting from the North Halfmoon Trailhead, following the trail to the lakes, and then gaining the summit ridge. Ted, Dav, and Jon Kedrowski had also done Oklahoma this way, which seems to be the most straightforward. We had great corn on the broad, east face and skied right back to the trail where we had switched from trail shoes to ski boots.

Centennial skiers, halfmoon lakes, mount oklahoma,, christy mahon

Approaching the Halfmoon Lakes on the route up Oklahoma. The east face can be seen to the top left of the photo.

lissa ballinger, cenennial skiers, mount oklahoma

Lissa on the descent back down to the lake. The roundtrip stats for the day were: 6 hours, 8.3 miles, and 3935 vertical ft. climbed.

Chris, Ted, and I have all been trying to get ready for Lake City 50 miler next weekend, cramming in the running miles when we can. So back at the car, Lissa and I switched to running gear and drove the short way over to Turquoise Lake for a perfect 12+ mile loop around the lake before calling it a day. The trail around the lake offers amazing views of the surrounding peaks and runs along the sandy beaches for 6 miles, making it a really scenic run and fun way to enjoy Leadville.

The alarm went off again at 4:00am on Sunday, for one more day of backcountry skiing. Anda Smalls and I headed back to the same area to tag Casco and French before hangin’ them up for the season. We started at the French/Casco trailhead on Halfmoon Creek, just two miles past the Mount Massive Trailhead, the latter of which was overflowing with cars. Funny though, we didn’t see anyone all day. We had the beautiful basin all to ourselves for the and enjoyed every moment to its fullest.

halfmooon creek, centennial skiers

Brrrr. Ted, Chris and the gang drove through the creek here back when they skied Casco and French in May, but the water was much higher today so we opted to walk through the freezing cold, recently melted snow.

christy mahon, centennial skiers

The upper crossing was running high too. We were probably within a week of the peak runoff for the spring.

Christy Mahon, Casco peak, centennial skiers

Skiing Casco.

christy mahon, centnennial skiers

After Casco (behind) we traversed up and over to French Mountain, which was even thinner.

christy mahon

Nearing the summit of French. The line on Casco can be seen behind.

Anda Smalls, centennial skeirs

Anda and me on the summit.

french mountain, christy mahon

This dwindling patch of snow offered the ski descent from the top.

anda smalls, french mountain

Anda takes the ribbon down to the lower ski lines on French.

Anda Smalls, french mountain

Some pretty good June snow lead us (Anda seen here) all the way back to the road down in the valley.

Christy mahon, centennial skiers, french mountain

It had a closing day feel for sure.

French Mountain, christy mahon

Definitely thin and going fast, but good for a checkmark on our list. #84, done!

That’s going to do it for the 2013 spring season for us, and what a good spring we had. Chris, Ted, and I are all near 85 Centennial Peaks skied (83, 85, and 84 respectively), which puts us in a good position to possibly finish next spring. It would help to have a more typical winter that the past two, but no matter how the snow comes in in 2014, we’re going to give it our best shot.

Next season will be here before we know it! Thanks for following along.

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