Archive for the ‘Vail area’ Category

Trip Report: Snowboarding Beaver Creek’s “Bald Spot”

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
“The Bald Spot” of Beaver Creek (12’161′)
White River National Forest

During my many trips to Beaver Creek ski area in the past four years, I’ve always been interested in hiking to “The Bald Spot” but have never done so. It is a fairly popular “slackcountry” ascent, and I’ve known many people to do it.

Beaver Creek ski area from I-70. The “Bald Spot” is the obvious treeless knob.

Nevertheless, I decided to stop into the Ski Patrol Headquarters at the top of the chairlift to get some information.

When I walked in, there were three patrollers in the room. One was eating lunch and looked up and asked if he could help me.

“Yes. I’m looking for some information about hiking The Bald Spot.” I said.
“Umm…” he turned to another guy “Hey Johnny, do you know about the Bald Spot?”

“What do you want to know,” he asked me, sounding a little suspicious.
“Best way up, best way down, if there’s anything I should look out for.”

The first patroller was excited to help me and pointed out the window. “You can access the gate right up the hill from our shack, then…” he motioned me over to a trail map, and starting describing the route up the hill. As I already knew, it was a pretty straightforward hike up the ridge.

As he was describing things to me, ‘Johnny’ shouted out “Shawn!”. Both me and ‘Shawn’ looked over. ‘Johnny’ shot ‘Shawn’ a look and went into another room full of boss-looking guys.

‘Shawn’ continued, “This is a popular way down, and if you look across at the photo next to the TV, it shows some of the terrain.”

“So everyone basically skis the north bowl, which should funnel back to the ski area, right?” I asked, getting the picture.

Finally, the third patroller in the room spoke up. “Are you going alone? I wouldn’t recommend going alone, and without gear.”

“Well…I’ve got all my gear, just no partner. Besides, if I wasn’t comfortable, couldn’t I just take the same route back down the ridge that I used to hike up?”

Just then one of the boss-types entered the conversation. “We can’t give recommendations for anything outside of the ski area.”

I realized that ‘Shawn’ may have gotten in trouble for trying to help me out. “Sorry, man.” he said to me.

“Totally understandable,” I replied. “You showed me where the backcountry gate is. If that’s all you can do, I’m still grateful.”

I thanked them all and left. The third patroller still seemed skeptical of me risking the hike alone. After the whole encounter, I started to think maybe this could be something over my head. It was all very strange.

Regardless, I started skinning up the trail. I felt that I was educated enough and smart enough to make the right decisions out there.

As I came out of the trees and got my first view of the face, the tensioned eased. It was a relatively short hike, and I could see a half dozen people up on the ridge and skiing the face. Everything I thought was pretty much correct. I knew that ski patrol was required to react the way they did to me, but I still thought the whole risk was overexaggerated. Oh well.

Skinning up to “The Bald Spot”. It was much closer than I had always thought for years.

A skin track and boot-track parallelled each other. After about a half hour, I made it near the top of the ridge. However, where everyone else had dropped down into the bowl, I found that there was still a little more elevation to gain. So, I left the skin track and headed due south higher up the mountain.

My extra effort was well worth it. Once I got over the crest of the slope, I was rewarded with incredible views of some craggy mountains of the northern Sawatch Range. I knew that Mt. of the Holy Cross wasn’t far, but I couldn’t see it. I assumed it was just over the summit of the Bald Spot to the south. Looking in that direction, I saw that my route would continue out over a rocky, wind loaded ridge.

The sun was out and I still had a lot of time, so I made the final push to the ridge. Standing before me, just as I thought, was the large hulking mass of Mt. of the Holy Cross. I was looking directly at the north ridge, the standard route. Seeing the mountain from this angle was new to me and very impressive!

The North Ridge route and summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross. Many summers ago I made the grueling slogg through this never-ending talus field and summited the 3rd 14er of my career.

In addition, I discovered an amazing looking face on a mountain just to the northwest of Holy Cross. It had a huge, horseshoe-shaped northeast bowl, littered with many impressive steep couloirs! My best “guesstimate” puts these couloirs into the cirque of Turquoise Lake, and the summit above the cirque is point 13,202 just north of Mt. Jackson. If anyone has any other information to contribute to this location, please chime in!

The incredible bonus find!

The West face of Mt. Democrat, and the infamous scar of the “Climax” Moly mine on Bartlett Mountain.

The author on the summit of the “Bald Spot”. Mt. of the Holy Cross over my left shoulder.

After taking the requisite photos, I said goodbye to Holy Cross and made my way down. It was slow going at first, as the entire top of the Bald Spot was relatively flat. Eventually, I made my way down to where it got steeper and met a group of 5 skiers and boarders who were just about to drop in. The top section had many exposed rocks, but nothing I couldn’t make my way around. Once I got below them, I made soft turns in about 10″ of fresh snow on the steep pitch just below the Bald Spot. The run funneled into the trees, where I encountered the dreaded “luge-gully” and finally exited back in the ski area.

A look down my descent line.

Looking back up at my tracks (and a few others)

After it was all over, I could have had a laugh at the reaction I got from the ski patrol earlier in the day. However, I held back and counted my blessings, because there’s always a chance things could have gone bad, even on such a simple mission as this.

Oh yeah, the best part about riding The Beav’…fresh cookies!




Narrative and photos by Adam L. Reiner

HELL (frozen over) — Splitboarding on Vail Pass, Colorado

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I’ve got an unreal story to tell about yesterday’s adventure, but this dude does such a good job of spinning the yarn…

(While reading look for the photo with the dog in it.  Compare the height of the trench to the top of his ears!)