The North Face of Mount Buckskin – 13,865 ft.
Date: May 10, 2013
Team: Dav, Jon Kedrowski, Matt Lanning
Route: North Face
First off let me say that the spring skiing season is in full effect in Colorado and the skiing is awesome out there right now. Coming off a wet two weeks, the mountains are coated with powder snow and much of it lies on top of a stable, frozen spring snowpack. You can expect this new powder to sluff on the older, denser layers, but it can be quite easily managed. So, now onto today’s skiing…
Mt. Buckskin has actually been on my radar for many years. I remember driving over Fremont Pass back in college and marveling at the huge glacial valley that forms the headwaters of the Arkansas River, and bends underneath the west face of Democrat and over to Buckskin. Then, many years later I was on ski tour up Mt Arkansas with Nick Devore after getting skunked on Princeton (to rocky… what’s new). We hit the summit and immediately we were tractor beamed by the awesome and complex north face of Buckskin. I remember discussing the options on that face and as we skied Arkansas I wondered if I’d be back any time soon to give it a go?
Well here we are seven years after my “Ski the 14ers” project and I’m finally making it up that wild valley to ski Buckskin, and in awesome powder conditions. I was joined by my old college and ski racing buddy Matt Lanning, who lives in Breck, and Dr. Jon Kedrowski, a Vail local who recently slept on the summit of 58 points over 14,000′ in Colorado, among his many other accomplishments.
We made quick time up the low angle valley, marveling at all the amazing ski terrain surrounding us. This was my 10th Centennial Peak of the last two weeks but the first one we were attempting that held winter snow on a north aspect (Pacific and Fletcher were both northerly but we approached on south and east aspects) With the lingering deep and persistent slab problem in the Colorado snowpack on north and northwest aspects we tried to be as conservative with our decision making as we could and choose a route to skin up that was supported and lacked a big load. The snowpack in one of the north couloirs was well anchored by many large boulders (yes, shallow is weak, but can also provide good anchorage) So up we skinned and were actually able to skin all the way to the summit ridge. The views up here were excellent, as you come to expect on most of Colorado’s high mountains.
We wrapped around the south side and continued to skin the last 400′ up to the summit, occasionally taking our skis of to navigate some steeper terrain. The south side of the mountain also looks in great shape and would provide some excellent skiing if approached from just south of Alma.
The weather was beginning to build as we pulled skins and locked our boots in ski mode. Light flurries floated across the southern end of the Ten Mile Range, but kept the sun from baking the slopes. Jon chose to ski back down the summit ridge and hit a wide and steep couloir next to the one we skinned up. Matt and I skied directly below the summit into a NW facing slope and couloir that provided some spicy steeps and an occasional “dry-dock” experience on rocks. We regrouped at the bottom of the couloir, all smiles and high-fives, before pushing off for the long, contouring descent back to the cars.
Another day, another amazing ski experience in Colorado. I am so fired up on these high 13ers as they’ve been offering great skiing, wonderful views and the customary epic experiences with friends. On the first ten peaks of this project I haven’t seen another ski or hiker out there. I’m pretty sure that might change tomorrow as I’m about to rendezvous with Ted and Christy and some Front Range friends for a ski of Mt. Meeker.
Thanks for reading,
And here’s a little GoPro sequence of the turns off the top-