Between Christmas, Thanksgiving, illness, house projects, lack of snow, and a laundry list of other dumb excuses, we hadn’t managed to get on snow until MLK weekend. We fired up Xterrible at 5:36 in the AM and made good time on the highway until we got to Golden on I-70 at which time traffic ground to a crawl. Fast forward three excruciating hours to 8:30 AM, and we found ourselves standing in a humongous line in the A-Basin base lodge hoping to fill up on Huevos Rancheros and bad coffee. Regarding first chair: all hope was long since abandoned.
Over Thanksgiving Kelly, her mom Judy and I took a scenic ride through the Colorado backcountry. We were looking for something off the beaten track that we had never seen before and would worth checking out, even if we didnt get much of a chance to get out of the car. I had heard that there was backcountry skiing in the vicinity of the East Portal and Rollins Pass. A dirt road leads all the way to the tunnel terminus, and then a 4×4 road leads up toward the pass. Skiing and hiking opportunities abound from both the portal and along the road up the pass. November was almost entirely without snow, although a few moderate storms rolled through certain areas. We weren’t really sure how far up the pass we’d get so we planned to just play it by ear, picnic wherever the road ended and then head back after a quick reconnoiter.
After seeing the promising early season snowpack decimated by the Christmas rain event, Kelly and I opted to skip the resort scene and head out for a light winter hike. Now that we’re committed to a backcountry Montana excursion, some extra conditioning certainly couldn’t hurt. An arctic front was firmly entrenched in the Whites for New Years weekend, bringing with it bitter cold and blustery conditions. Not wishing to repeat our desperate scree-scramble atop Mt. Washington amid gale force winds, we selected a route substantially below treeline: Carter Notch via 19 Mile Brook Trail.
Before Winter 14-15 gets into gear (which seemingly won’t be for a while as of this writing) a couple of nagging issues have to be addressed with our adventure mobile. Firstly, the second generation Xterra in it’s factory configuration tends to bottom out when hauling ass over big potholes and rough roads. No fun when riding to or from the mountains exhausted at 10:30 PM. And second, the infamous Thule tried to sabotage my new carbon fiber skis last winter and such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated again!