What better way to enjoy the snow than to go check on some new zones in my old backyard of Salida, Colorado?
I gathered a crew of Will Colemen and Lawrence Housley to go tick off a few lines that I had been looking at for years. We all have crazy schedules, so we settled on three full days of skiing. After pouring through guide books and trip reports, we decided on three peaks: Mt. Aetna (13,745 ft.), Mt. Hope (13,993 ft.), and Mt. Clover (12,955 ft.).
Trailhead: Boss Lake // Round trip mileage: 7.5 // Elevation gain: 4,000 ft.
On a Friday in mid-April, the alarm went off at a casual 5:45 am. While Will and I had driven to Salida from the Springs the night before, Lawrence rolled in to Salida at 7 am — right on time — that morning to meet us. We loaded up the car and cruised up to Monarch Lodge, where the trailhead for Mt. Aetna is. After a brief false-start up the wrong road, we got on track and made quick work of the 2-mile approach to the base of the Grand Couloir.
From there, the skinning was easy and straightforward until it got a little steeper at a small choke point near the bottom of the couloir. The sun hadn’t softened the snow yet causing us to slide more than we wanted. Luckily, I had my new G3 ski crampons on and continued straight up the couloir. We ascended the middle of the couloir until about 13,000 ft. where we cut up to the shoulder and boot packed the last 700 ft. to Aetna’s summit. Like most summit days in Colorado, it was way windier up top than what had been forecasted. Greeted by 50 mph winds at the summit, we didn’t linger for long.
The descent seemed it would be far more committing from the view on the way up than it actually did when we looked at it before heading down. The upper face has a double fall line that wants to pull you right, back to the shoulder, but the best turns are straight down from the summit. The upper 1/4 of the face was icier than I would have liked, but it still made for easy turning. After that, the slope opened up to great corn turns all the way back down to the road and we were able to ski all but the last hundred feet or so to the car. Great start to the trip. A run like that demands good food and even better beer, so we headed to Moonlight Pizza in Salida for beer, pizza and more sunscreen.