Sunday, March 11, 2018

CDT: Stemple to Flesher and then some

Steve Taylor (left) and Wayne Phillips do check on avalanche transceivors 

Rob Phillips kicks and glides.  That's Mount Joy in the background.

Remarkably large snow amounts hung from most trees 
The star of our show, 76-year-old Wayne Phillips who says this is his last Stemple Flesher trip

Each backcountry ski season there are several trips that are on my "must do" list.
The Continental Divide Trail's 11.5 miles Stemple Pass to Flesher Pass trip near Lincoln is always one of these.
I missed during last year's horrendous season.
We made up for it Saturday with a run that included an inadvertent side trip because the trail makers were very difficult to find because the snow is so deep they are covered or at least partially so.  Usually the markers ---- the upside-down slash on both sides of a tree ---- are at eye level or above (5 feet or so).  This year they were at our feet.
This is a difficult section of trail to follow because it winds through thick forest and across the face of mountains that rise to more than 7,000 feet.

The trail markers were buried in snow.  They are usually at eye level
Luckily I had with me my GPS and on it was the marked route we had taken in 2016.  We were able to see if we were varying from the trail or the route we had taken that year --- mostly.
We were also blessed with an exceptionally beautiful bluebird day and a skiff of fresh snow.  Temperatures were in the teens at the start, warming up to freezing during the trip.
We started early knowing that when the sun hit even cold snow it could radiate heat far in excess of the outside temperature and clump up our skis with wet, heavy snow that are nearly impossible to move.
We had some of that which was remedied by some scraping and glide wax.
We also had some wind-crust that sent us hurtling down the trail out of control.
But overall, the trip was marked by pretty good, if variable snow and magnificent views and tired skiers at the end of the day.
We skied nearly 2 more miles than was necessary by prematurely climbing to a high point thinking it was another high point we needed to scale to avoid an avalanche exposed side hill on the CDT trail.  Also, because we wandered around looking for the trail markers and at one point got way off trail.
One of the highlights of the trip was the performance of 76-year-old H. Wayne Phillips, a long-time skiing and hiking partner, who said this would be his last Stemple Flesher run.
Over the 10 hours and 40 minutes of hardcore skiing Wayne performed like a 25 year-old.
Truly impressive.

Take a look at trip route on topo map with more by clicking HERE

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