Retold Tales for Summer - #2, August turns
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Denis - DCSki Supporter 
July 12, 2006
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,340 posts
This tale of August turns in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colo. was first posted here;
Only the picture links have been changed. Now they work.

The way to ski in summer is opportunism. I had a meeting in Denver on Aug. 10-12. No sense in returning home on Fri. the 13th. I'd need the full day for travel anyway. Why not find something to ski on Fri. the 13th and fly home on Sat. After soliciting information from friends and
checking guidebooks I decided on Isabelle Glacier in the Indian Peaks Wilderness west of Boulder.

This is possibly the most heavily used wilderness area in the US. Even at 9 AM on a Fri. the parking slots at the Brainerd Lake trailhead were full. On weekends it must be a zoo. The first mile or so of the trail is deceptively easy, almost like a city sidewalk and about as crowded. After Lake Isabelle (the second lake) that all changes; the crowds fade away, the trail turns into a true mountain trail and it gradually becomes a grind. I went slower and slower on each short climb to the next little plateau; that plus the ~ 30 lbs on my back took their toll. Half the weight was skis & boots and most of the rest was water. It took about 3 hrs. to reach the start of the last steep climb just below the glacier. It was tantalizingly close but I could not go on.

Isabelle Glacier, the unreached goal.

Probably an hour rest and some food would have made it possible, but I considered the hour, my state of fatigue, the week's record of afternoon thunderstorms, and the longer exposure above timberline if I had to retreat from the glacier, and bailed. This point is just below 12,000 feet and the continental divide is just about a mile beyond and 1000 feet above. It is obvious that the divide acts like a giant snowfence. The prevailing wind is from the west and many small permanent snowfields and a few named glaciers are tucked up against the divide on the eastern side.

Now the question was whether to ski the little patch of snow above a tiny lake at this point. I was exhausted. A semi-hallucinatory conversation took place in my head. "You came here for August turns, right? There they are with your name on them." 'Small, isn't it?' "Yeah" 'Absurdly small.' "Absurd? Are you the guy who skied 1/2 inch of snow over grass and cow flops in West VA last fall?" I don't know if it was the id or the ego that won the argument, but tracks were made.

Here's a view from the top; old glacial firn with ice flakes and just about 1/2" of sun softened snow on top.

And the obligatory self portrait (of a guy trying not to look wasted).

And finally, August turns.

It was the most work for the fewest turns I've ever done. And it was worth it. Then began the long wearying hike down. It is a very beautiful area and I felt privileged to be there.

Now the hardest month of all, September?

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

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