Imagine living with the rocky east face of Aiguille Blanche du Peuterey staring at you every winter. The 50-degree face drops 1350 meters from the Blanche's 4100-meter summit, and a narrow band of snow only skied once winds among the rock. Every season it leaves you wondering when conditions and opportunity will collide, allowing for a brief window to follow in the tracks of the legendary Stefano de Benedetti and ski its slopes.
Lording high above the vast West Desert, Deseret Peak is the tallest summit in Utah's Stansbury Mountains and stands with more than 5,000 feet of prominence. But what really makes skiers salivate are Deseret’s North Couloirs—twin chutes on the summit ridge that hold snow well into summer.
The morning sun is a welcome presence, its first few rays shooting at me over the ridge to the east. I huddle against the mountain, trying to maximize my surface area for sunlight while somehow minimizing my exposure to the wind. The howling wind dies down for a moment and I revel in the sweet, sustaining crepuscular light. A spasmodic shiver runs up my spine and I wonder what force of nature had lured my zombie-like body from my warm, comfortable bed this morning. What am I doing out here? Am I here to experience the simple joy of sunlight on skin? My numb face and fingertips convince me that there must be some other reason.
I hit Lake Ediza around dusk and set up camp on the north side of the lake. After salami, cheese, and beer, I turned in for the night. A full moon shone. I would have liked to stay up to admire it, but I needed to get an early start the next morning to summit and ski Mount Ritter, a 13,000-foot peak in the central Sierras.
The recent storms that laced much of the north and central part of Colorado with white has southern Colorado backcountry skiers seeing red. It seems like the same storms brought epic dust to Durango and the San Juan Mountain Range.
There’s nothing that drives home just how small the backcountry community is more than a tragedy. So when I heard the vague radio report on Sunday morning of Saturday’s catastrophic avalanche that claimed five young men near Loveland, Colo., there was little doubt a text or phone call was soon to follow....