Today I had the opportunity to get out in the afternoon to do a little backcountry skiing. I opted to head up towards Guardsman Pass to get in a few turns. The snow looked great up there and I geared up and headed out. The weather was perfect with only a few clouds in the sky and just above freezing. An excellent afternoon to enjoy the white bliss.
About 20 feet past the closure gate there is a trail that heads right off the trail to the southeast. This trail traverses through the trees and up towards the ridge line heading due east. On the way up to the ridge there are a couple of areas where people have built some terrain parks with jumps and rails. The ridge heads up towards a no name peak, 10,420, just south of Guardsman and north of Clayton Peak. Once on the ridge there were epic views of Brighton and the Brighton Ridge. The clouds were adding some dramatic elements to the skyline. I couldn’t have asked for much better conditions. In addition to the weather and scenery the snow was fluffy powder of about 6-8″. No complaints here whatsoever. Skinning up the ridge was some effort. There were some steeper sections that took some effort to skin up without sliding back down. I worked to angle traverse as best I could.
Just before the final ascent up to the peak it saddles out at about 9,600 feet. The entire way it was a fairly steep aspect on both sides of the ridge with the south side being barren and rocky and the north side packed with pine trees. The only apparent way was all the way to the summit or back down the way I cam up. I am not yet comfortable on steep narrow terrain and so I was not looking forward to going back down the way I came up. I opted to go along the saddle and hopefully find an opening to descend. As I looked down I could see openings that had been tracked out, but it was a dense 500 foot descent to get there. Because of the time of day I would not have the time to summit before dark. My only options were to turn around or find a way through the trees.
I pondered for a while what my best route would be. As I pondered the sun got closer to setting and a snow flurries started to kick up. I needed to make a decision. I then opted to go through the trees.
Not being comfortable enough with my abilities I hopped off my skis and then proceed to hike/butt slide down the mountain. Finally I got down to the opening and I stripped my skins off, got my layers on and clipped into my bindings to make my descent. The snow was amazing! I was gliding through light, airy powder with ease. It was so much fun. As I made my way through the trees I finally popped out at the road. I made my effort down the road to my car amidst snow flurries and ending an excellent day.