3 months have now passed since I decided to ski every month of the year. At the very beginning of this adventure, I had plenty of preconceptions about what the remaining 8 months of the year would entail. I figured I’d get to spend a lot of time with skis strapped to my back and make a few turns down fairly horrendous snow. Although these predictions have been proven correct in some cases, they turned out to be only minor characteristics of the more complex endeavor that is summer skiing.
July got off to an early start. On the wednesday before July 4th weekend I was up in the Cameron Pass area for a shoot with some folks at Topo Designs and couldn’t take my eyes off the patches of snow above the Lake Agnes. The (somewhat) continuous line from the saddle of Mt. Richtofen and Mt. Mahler to Lake Agnes was enticing due to the snow as well as the very mild 2 mile approach to the lake. Add to that the numerous trout cruising the shoreline and I knew I had to make a return trip.
Eric looking at the pretty lake. Our line started at the opposite side and meandered up to the saddle.
After convincing my roommate Eric that getting up at 3:30am to walk around a lot to ski a little was a good idea, we headed out on July 3rd. After spending previous weeks on the miles of stress and aggravation known as Interstate 70, the trip up the Poudre Canyon was remarkably relaxing. Turns out, stopping for deer is a lot less aggravating than braking for a caravan of 100 ft. RV’s. After passing scores of deer and several moose, we arrived at the Lake Agnes Trailhead.
With packs loaded/jerry-rigged, we headed up. We were soon at the lake and grateful to be leaving treeline behind, as catching your skis on every branch you pass loses its appeal rather quickly. Lake Agnes is a destination in itself, and although I had been in the same spot just a few days before, it was still an inspiring vista. We followed a trail that undulated in and out of the water until it deposited us at the bottom of the route, and then proceeded to scramble our way up hundreds of feet of chossy talus fields until we found what looked like continuous snow. Trainers were swapped with ski boots and the bootpacking began.
Eric regretting everything that led to this moment.
What we thought was a direct line of snow to our objective turned out to be one of many patches broken apart by plenty of rocks and small cliffs. I began to wonder why I had left my rubber-soled touring boots at home, but the numerous footwear changes gave us plenty of time to regret not being in better shape. After a lot of heavy breathing and four letter words, we reached the top of the saddle.
The real reason I ski in the summer is the upper thigh tan.
At the top we took in the vast expanses of the Never Summer Range, munched on granola, and eagerly took our skis off our packs. Relieved of the weight, we were able to focus on the reason we had not slept very much and walked a lot: the skiing. Boots were buckled, bindings were stepped into, and turns were made.
Trying to look cool.
Eric no longer regretting everything that led up to this moment.
Within a few minutes we had slid down what had taken us a great deal of time to hike. We soon began the summer-skiing routine of taking skis on and off in order to make the most of the numerous patches of snow, but mostly to delay the inevitable acceptance that we would be walking the rest of the way to the car. While we had been trudging our way up the snow and rocks, Lake Agnes’ numerous weekend visitors had been pouring into the trailhead. We were greeted with plenty of “what are those for?” and “are those tracks yours” on the way down, but the highlight was a woman in her late 60’s who informed us of the many times she had done exactly what we had just completed, but at a time when 200cm straight skis were the norm. It’s always nice to have your ego checked, especially by a badass old lady.
On the way back to town we stopped at Joe Wright reservoir where, earlier that week, I had witnessed the annual Arctic Grayling spawn. Casting to these rare fish after skiing in July, all while sharing the water with a massive bull moose was an experience I won’t soon forget.
Me not skiing with a moose.
Despite only requiring one trip a month to check off my goal, July would bring a couple more days of skiing. However, seeing as I’ve written a novel already, here’s the rest of the month in a few sentences and pictures.
Matt and I went skiing at Rollins Pass. He hadn’t slept at all the night before, and wore a collared shirt and khakis. There was a lot more sketchy downclimbing than good skiing, but the fishing after was good. I dropped my skis and had to glissade with baggies. I got really bad snow-burn. My butt hurts.
Matt not skiing ft. his hardcore skimo kit.
Smiling cause my butt is still numb and I don't know how much skin is gone.
Matt actually skiing.
Me not skiing.
Bern, Elmer and I went skiing at Cascade Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. There was a lot more downclimbing than skiing. Turns out trip reports from May are not very applicable to the same area in July. Having to hike back up the line you skied makes you regret skiing it all the way to the end. I was/am still out of shape. There were thousands of tourists. I was late to work that day.
Bern skies on one ski and does it sideways. What a weirdo.
With the conclusion of July comes a reminder that, like a lot of things, it’s gonna get a lot harder before it gets easier. So, I’ve got some planning to do, and maybe I’ll learn from July and get in better shape, but probably not. For now, I think I’ll just keep looking at every patch of snow I see and wonder how close I can get in a car.