Gothic Mountain does not go unnoticed in Crested Butte. It's powerful appearance dominates the sky from so many other mountains. The east face is easily seen from the ski area:
It's east face is even more awe-inspiring from the East River valley, as we saw on Monday.
Thunk, thunk, thunk. That's the noise my crampons were making. It's the kind of noise that brings me confidence. It's the noise they make as they sink in solidly onto the icy snow. I looked down below me. I was reminded of the July day 3 seasons ago when I didn't bring crampons and went sliding several hundred feet down the mountain. But, this day, I had crampons. And it was good to have them on again.
I looked at my watch. Only 9:30 am, and we were over half way up the mountain. We were making good time. My mind flipped a switch. I wondered how Obama was doing in front of the million or so people watching his inauguration. Wow, Obama was being inaugurated while we were climbing a mountain I'd been wanting to ski for 3 years. It was a good day.
The day began with the smell of two-stroke engines from our sleds which drowned the noise of NPR coming from the radio. It began cold- downright frigid. And then came the sun.
The sun seemed to smile upon us that day as we began the skin up toward the base of the south face.
As temperatures rapidly warmed, we began our bootpack.
The bootpack was enjoyable. Supportive snow made it easy, like walking up stairs to the top of the mountain. Enjoying the calm day, beautifully clear blue skies, and with plenty of time to spare, we decided to summit, even though our line didn't require it.
Within view of the summit, we stopped to admire two things: The perfect looking snow dropping into the East bowl (sloping right in this picture), and the mountain goat tracks which graced the cornice- showing where the creature had taken a little cornice huck himself only to climb back to the ridge.
We sat for nearly an hour on the summit, basking in the sunshine and still air, admiring our mountain views.
Owen, with Purple in front.
Mt. Crested Butte, with Snodgrass in front, the East River Valley to the left, and the Slate River valley to the right.
We couldn't help but look at every mountain, picking out lines where we wanted to ski.
Precarious- on Frank's wish list.
The "town" of Gothic below, closed off from civilization for the winter as there is no winter maintenance on the road and snowmobiles aren't allowed.
Looking down the east face, where the choke is definitely stripped of snow from previous avalanche cycles.
Checking out the north side- another line on Frank's wish list.
Our line went down the west face.
And we found great snow. Frank found some powder.
And I found some corn.
After a few days of searching for good snow, we finally found it. Frank played well in it.
And I had fun too :)
When we got back to the sleds, the sky was still amazingly blue.
I wished every day could be like this. But, I suppose the not-so-good days make you appreciate the good days even more. Today couldn't have been more perfect. On our way out we took a moment to take one more look at Gothic.
The blue shows the way up, red the way down (out of view).
It was the kind of day that was so good, I was sad for it to end. Hopefully, there are still many more good days like this yet to come this season :)
Photos courtesy of Frank Konsella