Horseshoe Mtn A(13898 )
Mileage: ~7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3100ft
Elk on drive in
A word of warning: If you clicked on this report in hopes of seeing beautiful pictures of the picturesque Horseshoe cirque, this is not that report. If instead you were hoping to see many pics of an April snowstorm and ridiculous wind, then this is the report for you!
I have wanted to get centennial Horseshoe Mtn A for some time now, and was really excited to climb the Boudoir Couloir as well as grab unranked Finnback Knob along the way. Milan and I planned to climb it this morning, but the weather had other plans. I got a text from him late last night saying he was opting for one last day of skiing instead, as the weather forecast was not looking too favorable. He is moving back to the Czech Republic at the end of the summer, so I really hope he had an awesome day out on the slopes!
Snowy from the start
After getting his text I almost threw in the towel, but decided I might as well get up there and see for myself what the storm was doing. Knowing that the northeast ridge would be doable in horrendous conditions if the Boudoir was no longer in the cards made the decision easier. The whole drive down to Fairplay it was either raining or snowing and I knew in the back of my head that a couloir climb would not be safe today. I drove up the Fourmile Creek road and parked one mile after the Leavick Mine site, at the intersection with the roads leading up towards the Peerless Mine. The conditions report from earlier this week went out the window, as the road was covered in about 5 inches of fluffy new snow. Having gotten stuck on this road twice in the past, I was pretty nervous about getting out of there.
Tracks in the snow
While I geared up the decision was made that the Boudoir would be an avy nightmare, so I took the helmet and crampons out of my back, thankful to have a little lighter of a load to carry. There was around 6 inches of very fresh powder that had fallen overnight, but it was too fluffy to even consider bringing along the snowshoes, they would do no good anyway. So boots and gaiters it was, and they sufficed throughout the climb.
The route is very straightforward, just follow the mining roads up to the Horseshoe-Peerless Mtn saddle to gain the northeast ridge of Horseshoe. The wind was blowing extremely hard and blowing the new snow all over the place. Many, many times the visibility dropped to only a few feet and forced me to just sit tight and wait for it to pass. The road switchbacks up towards the Peerless Mine and occasionally I would be able to see far enough ahead to cut switchbacks and shave a little distance off. Knowing that the impressive Horseshoe cirque was just to my right would have been nice, except I could not even begin to make it out.
Gaining NE ridge of Horseshoe
Around 12,000 feet the wind had done a good job of blowing the snow off the route, so that was one nice thing. On the other hand, being almost blown over every few minutes was not so nice. Just before reaching the saddle I ran out of bare patches to jump from one to another and had to make my way up about 400 ft vertical of crotch-deep, but fresh and powdery snow. This was an energy suck but didn’t last too long so nothing to get too annoyed with.
Topping out onto the saddle was a nice feeling, as the deepest snow was now behind me for the most part. Looking at the topo map in the car I had made the call to sidehill around the summit of Horseshoe on my way to its saddle with Finnback Knob. Whether this was any faster than staying on the nice trail and descending from higher on Horseshoe I will never know, but it was too late at that point, I was committed.
Almost to Finnback's summit
Contouring around Horseshoe was extremely loose and slippery, but I kept plugging along. The wind at this point was beginning to really wear on me and my facemask was rock hard from the frozen breath and snot mix. Eventually I made it to the saddle between the two and started making my way toward the summit of Finnback Knob.
Summit of Finnback Knob
The ridge to Finnback was half rocks and half deep snow drifts. As before though, the snow was so fresh that busting through it wasn’t too difficult. It was actually nice dealing with powder snow, as opposed to the heavy cement that I have been dealing with lately. Reached the summit at 9:20 and spent about a minute on top before turning and heading back the way I came. I am sure the views of the area peaks are great from up there, but not on this day.
The traverse over to the summit of Horseshoe didn’t take as long as I had thought, which was nice. One benefit of 30 feet visibility is that you never really know how far you have gone, but most importantly, how much farther you have to go. I had to check my GPS from what I thought was the highpoint to confirm I was indeed on the summit, and I was. The weather did not allow a break and I scurried off back down the ridge after a few pictures.
Summit of Horseshoe
Peerless Mine on descent
Best view of the Horseshoe all day
The descent went extremely fast and in no time I was at the Peerless Mine and soon after I was walking back down the road. I kept looking back in hopes of catching a glimpse of Horseshoe, but that never happened, oh well. On the walk back to the car I was getting pretty anxious about getting my car out of there. This time I would keep all my winter gear on until after I was in the clear. Both previous times of getting stuck on this dang road I had already changed into sandals or tennis shoes and regretted it deeply as I was shoveling myself out. Upon getting back to the car I was pleasantly surprised. The wind that had been such a hassle all day had actually done a decent job clearing the road, and it was easier to get down than it was to get up, PHEW! So I didn’t get to climb the Boudoir Couloir, but it was still a fun, short day out, finishing in just over 4 hours. I think today was mother nature’s way of telling me I have been getting too many peaks too easily as of late. By throwing a snowstorm at me, she may have changed my plans, but I still came out on top!
A little bit of snow
Heading back to the car
Sorry for the ominous dark spot on so many pictures, can you say new camera time??? Hopefully by the time I write another report that issue will be taken care of.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):