The Definitive Indian Peaks Flyweight Ski Touring Exposé


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right here, right now
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 12, 2009 - 12:33am PT
Of course I meant to say: “Lightweight Ski Touring Sexposé ”....

But darnit’ all, you can’t never go back with an edit button on those titles…
So it is what it is…… deal with it kiddos!
I promise to make it up to you on the backside, er, follow through.

Standin' tall in EKat's hat!

So here’s the plan:

Today I went up to Left Hand Reservoir, in the Indian Peaks above Boulder Colorado, to take the opening shots for this beefy, wordy, info packed, super stylin’, color book style, slow-build-juggernaut thread. You know the drill: maps, drawings, pictures, detailed specs… lies, deceit, intrigue, thrills and chills!

As time permits, I’ll ladle in all the tours I did in the 2008/2009 season.
Probably feather in stuff as I do it this year as well. Why not.

All total this will be a pretty thorough look at what there is in the Indian Peaks for fitness style, non-avalanche terrain, light weight ski touring. 12 tours are already “in the can” from '08/'09, as far as pictures go, with some essential write up to be done in the weeks to come.

I’ll be sure to cover the what, where, when, why, who, and how of the whole shebang.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 12:33am PT
What you’ll get tonight: the opener, from what I shot today, starting with, after this first picture, the views from left-hand reservoir, followed up with snapshots of some folks I ran into on today’s tour.

First view of the peaks upon leaving the house, including things like Deshawa Pk Arikaree Pk, Mt. Albion and Mt. Kiowa.
They sit proudly up above the infamous Caribou Ranch, home of the recording studio were many famous 1970s rock groups laid their particular style of tracks:

The fabulous overlook from left-hand reservoir,
Taking in Kiowa on the left and Mt. Audubon on the right, and everything in between, which includes, left to right, the Isabelle Glacier Cirque and the Blue Lake Cirque:

(It happens that I have, during the summer and fall, traversed the entire skyline, which is exactly the Continental Divide south of Rocky Mount National Park. Various threads exist here on the forum which chronicle these exploits quite well)

A bit tighter on the same shot, Navajo peeping up on the far left and Audubon hulking in from the right:

Isabelle Glacier Cirque, comprising left to right,
Navajo Pk, Apache Pk, and Shoshone Pk, the last of which features an awesome rock prow first climbed by Jeff Lowe:

The Blue Lake Cirque, comprising left to right,
Pawnee Pk, Mt Toll, Paiute Pk, and Mt Audubon:

(That darkly shadowed ridge on Pawnee was climbed solo by Jeff Lowe, and the nice right hand arête on Mount Toll goes at 5.6)

And a map to go with the above photos,
Today’s short two-hour tour in blue, start point shown with a green dot.
My vantage point for the photographs taken from the red/blue dot standing upon Lefthand Reservoir’s berm, and the peaks visible in the photographs noted in green/red dots:

From the same vantage point today I was able to see all the way into Mount Alice, Chiefshead, Pagoda, Longs, and Meeker:


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 12:34am PT
A tasty little treat on the eastern flank of Mount Audubon,
Viewed quite easily from the Brainard Lake drainage early this morning.
I don’t drop into these things and I don’t know if it’s been descended:

In the trail loop depicted by the blue line on the map in the post above,
The bottom end of the loop approximates Little Raven Trail,
While the top end of the loop, the return, starts at the CMC cabin and approximates the Waldrop Trail.

Here’s the sign at the CMC cabin:

And the proximal view into blue lake cirque:

But wait…..
That’s not all folks!
Today had the pleasure of running into Gary Neptune and his lovely companion Bibi,
Standing proud in front of Mount Toll:

And they were shod with the definitive skinny ski, a time-honored norm for this type of moving about:

Gary loves vintage gear, so check the pack:

“I love the retro sweater you laid on me Gary!”
“But shouldn’t this pole with the hula hoop basket be hanging above some cozy fireplace somewhere?”

Back at the car after a cold windy morning:

John Moosie

Beautiful California
Dec 12, 2009 - 12:46am PT
Nice Tarbuster. I'm looking forward to the rest. Beautiful country that.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
Will know soon
Dec 12, 2009 - 12:48am PT
Awesome Tarbuster !!!&&&777

As always your threads Rock and Snow :D Super Duper pics and your verbage is always par excellente. Skinny skiing is on my bucket list and you and your friends make it look like a blast. Joy and Peace to your and your lovely bride this Holiday Season. Lynne

Social climber
No Ut
Dec 12, 2009 - 02:13am PT
Tar-burrrr-baby, the reluctant but un-recalcitrant however quite unlikely winter meister tour guide extraordinaire. Keep yourself bundled to the max against that old shyster Reynaud's, and bring 'er on. I'm waitin' - full-on anticipatin' - a winter's worth and more of wonders on the Tarbuster's On-Goin' Travelin' Alpine Ramblin' Show.


Dec 12, 2009 - 06:55am PT
Green with envy at your white.

goatboy smellz

Dec 12, 2009 - 07:07am PT
ha, I have a similar shot of that couloir on Mount Audubon from a few weeks ago.

Did you ask Gary if the rumors "he skis in a thong" are true?

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Dec 12, 2009 - 10:29am PT
Thanks Roy, very inspiring, since during our recent cold snap I managed only a couple neighborhood walks wearing every piece of wool and polyester I own. Hoo man, it's been cold.

I am sitting with a cup of of coffee, but am chilled none the less. To see you bundled up like that, when I know you move very fast in the backcountry, means that your excursion had to be dauntingly cold. Call me when it warms up and let's get out soon.

Looking forward to the complete edition of this year's winter travels.


Trad climber
Lee, NH
Dec 12, 2009 - 04:16pm PT
All total this will be a pretty thorough look at what there is in the Indian Peaks for
fitness style, non-avalanche terrain, light weight ski touring.

Excellent, I love Rockies TRs. The pictures take me back.

A friend used to California conditions dropped by on us one winter, while Leslie and I
lived in Eldo. We took him skiing in the Indian Peaks several times. He phoned home
to his wife, in amazement: "We only ski powder. It snows every night!"

Social climber
Newport, OR
Dec 12, 2009 - 04:39pm PT
Coolness Roy!!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:48pm PT
As promised, what follows is a salvo of posts delineating the What, Where, When, Why, Who, and How.
 I strongly advise donning your beer goggles for this next cluster of posts!

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:48pm PT

 Old-school, skinny ski, mileage/fitness oriented winter travel.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:50pm PT

Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado Rockies, just east of the Continental Divide,
Handily positioned due west of my house (30 minutes from Boulder), typically a one half hour drive plus a minimum of a two-hour trot or a four-hour hike to reach the Divide in summer.

 Tours most often take place in the trees on marked trails (out of the wind),
Culminating in some trail breaking to reach a high cirque.

The left-hand red dot is the Continental Divide (12,000 plus feet)
The middle red dot is Eldora ski area
The right hand red dot is my house, 9 miles from the Continental divide


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:51pm PT

 The ski touring season here on the front Range typically kicks off with an anomalous upslope branch-breaking early-season storm, runs from a thin, spotty, rock-ski-style start in mid-November, through a fat February snowpack, and declines in a waterlogged, mid April slog, traditionally (in more recent years) ushered out with a Stonemaster’s Reunion in Joshua tree.

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:52pm PT
Why (part one):

 There comes a time in the year when the bicycle just won’t cut it:

 Plus, every morning during the winter I get up and read the avalanche report:

Here’s the important part with the avy report: pay particular attention to Tuesday’s avalanche rose,
Denoting certain death on any slope between 25° to 50°, sometimes known to occur as low in angle is 17°:

Then when I go touring, I don’t touch that steep/turny sh#t, because I’m typically:

And because I am routinely unburdened with things like:
 pieps, shovels, probes, fat skis, full skins, companions …..

And I when I do pull turns, it takes place in a controlled environment, almost always looking something very much like this:


right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:53pm PT
Why (part two):

Mostly I like to go ski touring to offset a collection of lifestyle preferences & choices,
Easily exemplified by the following:

 Eating Habits


 Hobbies (primarily internet window shopping)

These engagements lead smartly and convincingly to the before & after discussion.

Added to the above depicted lifestyle choices, is the fact that, spring through fall, in lieu of fly weight ski touring, I engage in a movement style, a sort of rockclimbing thing, commonly known as 5.8 plus slab-aineering.

You don’t burn many calories doing *all or any of that*, so by the time the snow falls,
Tarbuster usually winds up looking like this (picture only a best approximation):

Before Ski Touring Season

But !!!!
After a full winter flyweight ski touring season I am buff and honed.
Looking much (picture of best approximation) more like this, ready to start the cycle all over again for the spring rockclimbing season:

After Ski Touring Season

‘Nuff said…………………

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:54pm PT

Usually moi, solomente as Kauk says, cuz I’m an irascible old bastard, who goes it alone for these reasons, in order of primacy:

1 I like it
2 don’t want to stop
3 if I do stop I get cold
4 when I stop my goggles fog up
5 when I talk to people my throat hurts
6 I implement better route finding decisions when alone, on account of unhindered mountain sense

However I have been known to enjoy company, after all I am a people person.

 Goatboy, when/if I think I can keep up with him.
 Stich, when he is not changing diapers or not chasing/shagging Colorado Spring’s finest.
 Seth Bayer, a former US downhill ski team member, a.k.a. “the Master”, who runs up Green Mountain once a week.
(very steep, nearly 3000 feet vertical)

right here, right now
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 12, 2009 - 04:55pm PT

This is the interesting/nuisance part:

My core temperature, upon waking, taken with a digital thermometer underarm is somewhere in the 97° range. We live at 8200 feet and for financial reasons, and because Lisa likes it that way, the house thermostat is maintained at a toasty 50°. Most importantly, my nose, hands, crotch, and feet begin to take a dive in the mid to low 40s.

But I really like it in the mountains in the winter!
I much enjoy the way skis feel moving over and through (not so much under) the snow.

So this is how I cope.
I use tools, the primary type involving travel itself:

 An 80s vintage AWD BMW 325IX, shod with Blizzak sticky compound winter tires
 190cm wood core metal edge skis, moderately flared tips & tails
 Kicker skins

 You’ll notice there are no poles.
 We don’t need no stinking poles. Besides, they just blow out my arms when I use them.
 I might take them if I have miles of untracked snow ahead that will be very deep,
 I might take polls if there is some climbing anticipated.
 However, the need for poles on the steep is rare because if there is I’m in the wrong place.

But the most crucial assets in the tool chest are the specifically selected, hard tested, absolutely required items of clothing.
As Kurt Albert once said: zee only reason to be cold in the mountains is in-adequate klothes…………

Always of course fuel up first with a breakfast including complex carbohydrates and protein, fluids and minimal coffee.

Typical temperature range from trailhead to high cirque throughout the winter is anywhere from 32° down to about 0°.
From head to toe here’s what I wear, nearly regardless of the conditions, with the following caveats:

 I might strip one of the two balaclava out.
 I rarely wear either of the vests once I get moving, unless it is in the single digits temperature wise.
 If it’s in the low teens I’ll start with two pairs of heat packs per boot.
 If the tour exceeds five hours I nearly always have to add heat packs to my feet.


Even around town, (as noted above), in 40° weather I cover my face.

  so here I have to do that in spades and I sourced the tactical goggles to minimize loss to peripheral vision
 I had to drill out venting holes in the tops of them
 goggles are a must to keep the nose coverage pinned down so I don’t fog up
 goggles are crucial for keeping the skin around the eyes from developing frost injury
 cat crap anti-fog balm
 lightweight balaclava for spring and to double up in supercold
 heavyweight balaclava with nose and breather holes
 heavyweight neoprene nose and face cover with nose and breather holes
 ear warmer
 E Kats Park Service issue felt cowboy hat with a tight chin strap!


With a vigorous movement regime, a light shirt and thin windbreaker is all I can stand
(usually start out with a thin pile vest and strip down):

Alternate vest for low teens and single-digit temperatures:


 Silk glove liners
 Fiber fill/pile mitts
 Gore-Tex over-mitts, mandatory in all weather:


The heart of the matter ‘n the crown jewel of the system!
 The Hand a very dorky branding concept for the essential ranch ready cowboy cod piece: pile lined.

Followed up with:
 Wind panel briefs
 Bicycle short liners
 Bike shorts
 Capilene-type underwear
 Wind Stopper softshell pants
(I never ever require a true wind shell leg covering for ski touring: only on higher ridges in late fall mountaineering traverses)


I don’t even think about going outside in the winter without heat packs for my feet:


 Knee joints are problematic so I use the Cho Pat braces.
 Overboots with extra foam inserted into the toe box and glued permanently to the rand.
 Overboots are mandatory for warmth and deep snow tracking (even in plastic double boots I wear them).
 Hybrid old-school leather boots for lightness, flex, with a buckle at the low ankle.


Never ever do I carry a pack in the winter for lightweight ski touring applications.
Chronic levator scapula tendinitis preclude swinging my shoulders and arms under pack straps.
Plus I don’t need the room.

 Hydration plan includes two 28 ounce bottles filled with hot almond milk (good fat source)
 Bottles are insulated with a neoprene sock
 4 extra heat packs, toilet paper, and a lighter constitute back up and bivi plan
 Cashews for protein/fat, figs for ready energy, and non-baked, low dietary acid bars
 Small contingency headlamp
 Lip balm & athletic tape constitute the first aid kit
 goggle squeegy


 The larger headlamp accommodates tours that start at dusk or extra long days where night skiing is planned.


Trad climber
Lee, NH
Dec 12, 2009 - 07:43pm PT
You've truly figured things out.

You’ll notice there are no poles.

Now me, I'm so pole-dependent that this time of year I take them when walking the dogs.
Three pair outside our front door right now!
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