2019 Project Dreamin’ Updates

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(See my original post to understand what’s going on)

On a recent group run last Sunday, I was told that putting out audacious plans on what I’d like to do is somewhat admirable, as it forces one to commit: put up, or shut up. It’s also a little risky (for one’s reputation) to do so – especially when your objectives are in the mountains, where weather is fickle. This year is turning into a very challenging one to take on mountain adventures. So I have, as others have had to as well, made adjustments to my plans.

In general: there’s snow, and a lot of it and to move fast and light, I need a little less.

I haven’t listed everything down from my initial post – if I haven’t: I’m still interested in doing them by the end of the year. For example, I’m still guiding with Andrew Skurka, Peter Bakwin and I still want to do the Flatirons Classics in Fall. But here’s some projects I’ve quit, adjusted, and even added:

Self-Powered Longs Peak Project  (SPLPP!)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bag an April summit of Longs Peak, even though I’ve summited Longs in April many times before. This year has been a very strange one, and snow conditions/avalanche danger being what they are hasn’t instilled in me a lot of confidence to push my own personal abilities.

April was one of the most dangerous times on the mountain, and I couldn’t get a safe avalanche window to correspond to a time I was free. So are the challenges of the Longs Peak Project!

Avalanche captured coming off the Lower East Face/Lambs Slide of Longs Peak in June. Photo Credit: RMNP Ski Club/Alex Kostadinov‎

I am pretty stoked to have bagged a January, February, and March summit, which ties my personal record of three months of summits of Longs w/a bike approach. This was my first January summit, and the first self-powered February summit ever by anyone, which I’m very proud of. I also now hold the auspicious title of being the first to summit Longs in this fashion in all the months of Winter.

This is a wonderful project to take on though, as any time of the year you can start anew, which may be what I do, come June.

Full Sangre de Cristo Range Traverse

From left to right: Lindsey (small, in the background), Ellingwood, Blanca, Little Bear on Memorial Day, 2019. Photo Credit: Ted Mahon

The incredible snow pack levels has also impacted the project I’m most interested in – the Full Sangre de Cristo Range Traverse. I was expecting to get onto the route by the second week of June, but the snow levels just aren’t where I want them.

Snowpack in the Sangres: compare this to the 30 year average (red line), then compare this to 2018 (ultramarine line), when Cam and Nick did their project

I’d like the snow levels to be at a minimum – the mountains should have some north facing snow fields lingering, but most of the route should be snow-free. That would make the tricky technical traverses as safe as possible, and allow me to move quickly over the rest of the route. I can’t imagine snow below treeline covering a huge pile of blown-down trees.

At the moment, snow levels are at a 30-year high, and everything looks incredibly loaded. I think the traverse could still be done, but it would take a few weeks – a time frame I just don’t have. As it stands now, it’s most likely a good idea to bring along crampons/ice axe (or some clever UL alternative) for spots like the Northwest Couloir off of Crestone Peak, even in July.

Looking down the Northwest Couloir, on Crestone Peak – Image Source: Mountain Project

I still absolutely plan to do this project, but it’s going to have to wait till early July, where I feel the conditions will match what I want to anticipate. I’ll be coming back from Alaska – which in a way is a plus: I’ll have two weeks straight of off-trail backpacking in my legs. I may lose a little bit of elevation acclimation (but who knows). The monsoon cycle may also now play a factor – it’s just really hard to tell.

Tour 14er

This was always a maybe, and mostly hinged on if I had the funds to do so. This Winter has been cruel for Summer projects, and this just wouldn’t be a great Summer for anyone to take this on. Of particular note are many access points that are cut off due to avalanche debris damaging approach routes to the trailhead. I still plan to do some recon for an upcoming guide.

LA Freeway

This has become a larger priority for me – it just seems like a fun time out there! Still would be something I take on come September before my guiding in RMNP.

Nolans 14

I haven’t thought about trying the Nolans 14 line again in some time – my first attempt was a disaster. But, I’ve been writing a guide on how to backpack the route (with modifications), and it would be a good idea to put boots to ground and recon what I write still holds true.

Not feeling the greatest on Mt Massive in 2015 during my Nolans run

Maybe I’ll toe the line, once again? This isn’t as big of a priority to me, as is the Sangres Traverse, or LA Freeway, but if I’m free and in good form…

So some things on my mind. These types of adventures, as I’ve written, seem to always have a bit of fickle-ness to them, and the best thing you can do is be flexible as well. I can’t control the weather on the mountain, but I can certainly adapt my own goals.

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