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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 08:29 AM Thread Starter
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Mt Bierstadt in a whiteout

Mt Bierstadt, 14,060 feet, may 17th 2015

So, another attempt to round up some partners for another 14er ascent/descent was unsuccessful... we had been getting lots of snow up high and it's been raining here forever. I wanted to do another 14er this spring via splitboard and I had a lot of time constraints this weekend, so needed to choose one "close by" and one that would not (or so I thought) take too long. Mt Bierstadt was the perfect choice since it is so rocky most of the season and is rarely in shape to ride, but it was now. This mountain is rated D3/R on the ski mountaineering difficulty/risk scale, so it's no Mt Everest, for sure...

I can’t remember exactly when I got to the winter trailhead (maybe sometime after 7:00 AM, but it was snowing. I made a mistake here in leaving my ski crampons in the car. Also, I didn’t eat enough for breakfast and this came back to haunt me at about 13,000 feet. But at this time, I didn’t realize I made these mistakes.

the road beyond the winter closure gate


So it started with hiking up a slightly snow covered road with the board on the pack. Eventually you get to a switchback where you leave the road and put on the split skis and thrash through the woods for a mile or two ??

leaving the trees and getting into the meadow above timberline


I eventually got to timberline and it was quite windy, but the snow was firm enough to support my weight.. The next drama was crossing a wetland where the ice broke on me and I am in water (splitboard with skins totally submerged) almost above the top of my boots. Getting out of that was a pain, but I managed. I had to scrape the snow off the board that was clumping on due to it being soaked.

a very rare moment where the clouds parted for a minute or so allows me to at least start choosing a route


Ascending the peak was an exercise in trusting the GPS, since it was impossible to see most of the time. There was a cornice and large drop to climber’s left that would have been really bad to fall off of. There were a few other climbers and one skier I saw here and there. I was beginning to realize that I should have taken the ski crampons at this point. I was also starting to bonk. It was harder than I thought to deal with the altitude this day and it was a struggle to gain the summit ridge. Up top, there was another cornice dropping 1500 feet on climber’s right. It was a relief to gain the summit, as I was exhausted from not eating enough beforehand. My hands were going numb just wearing the light gloves I started with and it was time to put on my mid-winter clothes.

summit view (complete with finger in the way) where the heck do I go down?


A few pictures and transitioning to snowboard mode and I was ready to start the descent, but was worried about choosing a line. I didn’t get a good sense of the mountain on the climb since I could not see and I sure couldn’t see any better now.

another rare short break in the clouds allows a view down the mountain


I started slowly, picking my way through rocks and avoiding the 1500’ drop on rider’s left (as you can see from the vid). Eventually it occurred to me to hold my GPS so I could stay somewhat close to my ascent path and that way, I knew I would not get too far off-route.

looking down the ridge, with a skier coming up..


It was very weird riding without being able to see, as I could not see distinguish the snow surface from the sky and I had no idea how fast I was going. The vid isn’t great, but it gives an idea of the long length of the descent and the visibility limitations..

another short view window allows me to see to the east for a few seconds


I had to keep my speed up to get through the willows at the bottom and was able to avoid the spot where I fell into the water on the way up.

during the transition back to tour mode, I looked back at the mountain, and it was pretty clear !! If I would have waited 15 minutes at the top, I could have actually seen where I was going.. DAMMIT !!!

it is momentarily clear


After riding and losing all my speed, I had to transition back to tour mode and ski out (it took maybe another 45 minutes or so?). All in all it was about an 8 mile round trip and took about 5 hours.


not a very good vid, but it gives an idea of conditions, and length, etc..
Attached Images
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Last edited by deagol; 05-18-2015 at 08:43 AM.
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 08:52 AM
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fuck bro, be careful!

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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 09:08 AM
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you are making poor decisions.
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 09:14 AM Thread Starter
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what would you have done?

Edit: if you are referring to avy conditions, that's the main reason I chose this specific mountain..

Last edited by deagol; 05-18-2015 at 09:19 AM.
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 09:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deagol View Post
what would you have done?

Edit: if you are referring to avy conditions, that's the main reason I chose this specific mountain..
for starters i wouldn't be going up these mountains alone with what i think (perhaps i'm wrong) your experience level is.

poking around for your entry at the top of a mt like that in flat light like that is a recipe for death.

find a group of friends who actually want to go - because they already do. learn from them. go with a partner at least.

its pretty clear to me that right now you're climbing with alot of ego.

you don't need to make it to the top, you don't need to take pictures and video of everything - or anything, you need to learn to turn around and go home when it's complete shit and you have no idea what you're doing.
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ShredLife View Post
for starters i wouldn't be going up these mountains alone with what i think (perhaps i'm wrong) your experience level is.

poking around for your entry at the top of a mt like that in flat light like that is a recipe for death.

find a group of friends who actually want to go - because they already do. learn from them. go with a partner at least.

its pretty clear to me that right now you're climbing with alot of ego.

you don't need to make it to the top, you don't need to take pictures and video of everything - or anything, you need to learn to turn around and go home when it's complete shit and you have no idea what you're doing.
If nothing else your wife will appreciate this.

Also bonking in the winter alone just sounds shitty. Its shitty when the sun is shining and I got dogs and a pardner.

At least things worked out.

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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 10:03 AM Thread Starter
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I have been doing backcountry snow sports since my college days in the 1990's. I surrounded myself at that time with people who were mentors with decades worth of mountain experience. I have been going out with Killclimbz (among others) all winter. I am new this season to splitboarding, but not backcountry snowboarding. I tried to get partners but no oneís schedules allowed it, so it wasnít my first choice to go solo, but as you can probably see in the vid, there were several people on the mountain (solo and groups). You end up tag-teaming with people on popular peaks like this. I was passed by a faster skier (who was also solo) on the ascent and talked to him for quite a while, along with the snowshoer you see low down on the mountain. There were several others. Everyone watches out for one another up there. My intent is to share this type of experience with those who see value in it. For reference, lots of people go out solo to peaks with low risk.. So I guess I am pretty surprised you would draw all these conclusions from this. I studied the route before heading up which is how I was able to choose a safe and reasonable ascent route and to follow it on the way down. The visibility usually isnít like this. However, to do anything of this nature, one cannot eliminate all risk. To think that you can is to deceive yourself. There have been times when I have turned around from summits (or other goals) when safety was a concern. So I can maybe see why one might draw a conclusion that it is only ego driving a climber on. If that is true, then I guess everyone else who summited yesterday (including the 60 year old snowshoer I talked to- he is the one I waived to near the bottom of the run- is an ego maniac). I counted at least 6 people who summited before me this days and another 5-6 on their way up while I was coming down. Having said all this, I can still see why some people would look at it the way you haveÖ but thatís not the whole story. So, yeah the top ridge was a bit sketchy, but that's why I rode it so very slow and conservatively. The bonking part did suck- all the food I brought lessened the effects, but it wasn't enough.
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 10:18 AM
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fair enough - you have more experience than i thought... doesn't change much tho.

i have a real problem with today's culture of look at me look at me. i should probably stop clicking "trip reports" because to me they pretty much all look like an ego stroke. sometimes i take a lot of pictures when i'm out too - i just pretty much never share them with strangers on the internet. seems weird.

so - apologies, i probably jumped the gun maybe a little... i'll never understand why so many people want to share so much of their personal lives online.

the mountains and rivers are as spiritual as it gets for me.. its too pure to share with other people on the internet. they'll never understand how it feels to me.
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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fair enough - you have more experience than i thought... doesn't change much tho.

i have a real problem with today's culture of look at me look at me. i should probably stop clicking "trip reports" because to me they pretty much all look like an ego stroke. sometimes i take a lot of pictures when i'm out too - i just pretty much never share them with strangers on the internet. seems weird.

so - apologies, i probably jumped the gun maybe a little... i'll never understand why so many people want to share so much of their personal lives online.

the mountains and rivers are as spiritual as it gets for me.. its too pure to share with other people on the internet. they'll never understand how it feels to me.
Thanks, and I do relate. I have often thought the same thing about the trip reports. It's one reason I don't post "selfie" pics and stuff like that. I have had to come to a sort of rationalization with the whole thing: I do canyoneering which is rife with "look at me" trip reports and I never post (one reason is to protect the fragile environments). I hope you can see that I try to make it as non-personal as I can (perhaps I could do better?). One thing that motivated this is the talk that the season is over... just wanted to show for some reason that it isn't.. I also never post MT biking trip reports like many do on the web.

I actually have mixed feelings on the whole thing, but I have sort of adapted to the new reality while still not (I hope) going overboard. But I relate to your feelings and I am still not sure if it's the right thing to do. The thing is, though: the word is already out.

There are a few people on this site who I have met who seem to genuinely get interested in these things, so that's why I do it.. I actually don't want any "personal attention". About the trip yesterday: everything is relative: it was "crazy" in one way, if you know what I mean, but no where near 'tempting death". Thanks for you feedback, seriously..

Edit: I am with you about the mountains, always have been. One other thing that sometimes comes close is snorkeling over healthy tropical coral reefs.. spiritual.

Last edited by deagol; 05-18-2015 at 10:32 AM.
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 05-18-2015, 10:26 AM
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As soon as I saw the weather I would have turned around.

I'm glad you got down safely and everything worked out.

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