Start time: 2:45 AM (from parking spot .5 miles up the Nellie Creek Rd.)
4WD TH: 5:00 AM
Summit: 9:00 AM
Descent (of main face): 10:30 AM
It might as well be summer on the Henson Creek Rd, at least to Nellie Creek. Per the Hinsdale County sheriff and two skiers I met on Sunday, the gate past the Nellie Creek turnoff is locked (another instance of the man trying to keep us down). The Nellie Creek Rd is also melting out quickly. I drove about 1/2 mile up the road in my really cool CR-V before parking, but a Nissan truck was able to make it up about two miles, in between the first and second creek crossings. The drivers indicated that they did get stuck in a snow patch, which resulted in about 30 minutes of digging.
The road up to the first creek crossing is snow-free except for a few patches, so be prepared to use that walk mode switch. Past the first crossing, the snow becomes intermittent, requiring some skinning but separated by long stretches of rock/dirt that apparently isn't good for skins.
Here is the second creek crossing. Apparently you're only allowed to use the snow bridge once.
About a mile from the TH, there is another little stream crossing. From this point it is a continuous skin; prior to that, not so much. I'd say your ski portage duties end for good about a mile below the TH. The snow is deep enough I think it will be around for a while.
Here are a few pics of the TH. The bathroom is unlocked for all you leave-no-tracers.
The Fun Part
This is a look at the scene upon breaking out of the trees. I think the summer trail switches up that headwall, but there is a cornice blocking it now. It's not huge, and isn't really an issue early in the morning but something to be aware of in the afternoon. Then again, I saw tracks from where someone hucked it at some point so what the hell do I know.
I skinned along gully beneath it until I found a good point to turn right and gain some elevation. I apologize I didn't get a lot of pictures of the upper basin, but I basically just followed the path of least resistance to the looker's right of the protruding ridge. I boot packed up a steeper slope to reach the bottom of the main slope where the summer trail does its switchbacks, but a more competent skinner wouldn't have to make the transition. I strapped on crampons for the main slope, but again, you could skin it if you think you're better than me.
Uncompahgre (hard to see but there is some point-release/wet slide activity):
Main slope. There is a small cornice at the top, so when I descended I dropped in on the southern end where there is no cornice:
Top of the main slope, looking towards the scree/scramble section:
There is a strip of snow leading to the scree section, but the scree section itself is dry. It's pretty short but kinda sucks in ski boots. The upper portion of the route is also pretty dry. And now for the part you've been patiently waiting for: a summit ski is not in (yes, you can stop reading my drivel now). I made a few ugly turns just below the summit, but the skis were on my back again soon. You can put them on for good at the exit (if you're coming down) of the scree gully (or you can keep carrying them, not sure why you would have brought them in the first place, though).
Summit (so you can stop calling me a liar):
I hit the main slope at 10:30 AM, and the snow had really softened up. This was my first true spring ski (Bross and Shavano earlier this month not so much), so I think I did pretty well on the timing (a stark contrast to situations in my personal life). It was very sunny, and the wind was non-existent. Warm temperatures as well with an estimated high of 51 on the day.
The trip back down to treeline was very enjoyable. I ended up skiing away from my skin track and heading down some gullies to the skier's right.
The trip back to the car was not as enjoyable. Very dirty, and not in the good sexual way. More like in the creepy uncle you have kind of way.
Do you ever yearn? My skis are yearning for the snow here.
Overall, a really great day in the mountains (no wind?! when does that ever happen?!) and a great way to get my first spring descent. I was never much of a fan of creamed corn when I was a kid, but that might be changing.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):