The weekend before last I had the pleasure of joining a great group on Homestake Peak in the northern-Sawatch Range. After a few trip reports were thrown up on 14ers.com indicating good coverage and ski conditions high on the peak, it became an obvious option for a late-January tour. Rick, David, Brian, Dillon, and I met Brandon Chalk, his wife Kristine, and two friends of theirs, Jay and Mike at the Crane Park Trailhead the morning of the 26th at 8am.
This was our group’s first time getting out with the Chalks, though we had read many of their reports over the years and followed their recent quest for the 7 Summits. A few weeks prior to meeting them on Homestake, Brandon and Kristine successfully summited Vinson in Antarctica, completing the 7 Summits including Mont Blanc in France. Needless to say we felt like we were in elite company.
The peak features a long, broad east ridge with low-angle bowls dropping off its north side all the way down to Slide Lake and the 10th Mountain Division Hut. The military history in this area is rich, which made our visit all the more interesting. The hut is a few mile skin up a well traveled ski/snowshoe track that contours around to the south before gradually climbing up through a series of open meadows. We didn’t realize it at first, but we took the standard trail for the ascent which required a healthy amount of up and down early on. We knew there was a more skier friendly option somewhere to our north, which we intended to try and find on the way out.
After breaking out into an open meadow due south of the 10th Mountain Division Hut, we worked our way up Homestake’s northeast shoulder and eventually hit the ridge proper.
After awhile on the ridge we finally arrived at the snow-capped summit of Homestake Peak, where celebratory brews were served as well as a warm hot chocolate and (Bailey’s?) courtesy of Kristine’s thermos.
After a long summit stay we clicked into our respective modes of travel and started the descent. Good coverage allowed skiing from the very top with only one minor rock band to deal with. I think most of just kept our skis on and stepped over them. Below the summit we were treated to a set of creamy turns on the ridge followed by a low-angle bowl filled in with recycled powder.
After we each took turns making turns down the bowl, we regrouped again and headed for the 10th Mountain Division Hut. I think we were all pretty excited about the prospect of taking a load off on the deck under the afternoon sun.
The ski back to the car was quick and uneventful for us, having found the alternate way of descending from the hut which allowed for an unbroken descent with minimal poling. Skis really are great when you can take advantage of them.
Last but not least, I tried my hand at making a short video depicting the day. Though it’s a tad shaky, it does the job. The skier in green towards the end of the video (when The Who goes nuts) is Rick as I tried to chase him down the mountain.
Brandon, Kristine, Jay, and Mike – it was great meeting you guys! Let’s get out again soon.