Partners: Gerlinde Debbie, Matt Kamper
Route: Ascent and ski of the Southwest Flank/Gully on “Lackawanna”
Numbers: ~3,400′ climbed, 3,000′ skied
As soon as I started researching Centennials it became apparent there are several that just beg to be skied. Rising dramatically from the northern side of Highway 82 and offering up numerous prominent 3,000+ foot road shots off its flanks, “Lackawanna” is undoubtedly one of them. A few trip reports on the interwebs single out a specific gully that drops southwest off the summit ridge of this humble peak. Several parties have used this gully for a late-winter/spring snow ascent, though as of last week no one had logged a ski TR on the internet (that I could find at least).
I decided to take a day off work to head up and check it out, and lug skis along with the hope of possibly skiing the West Face as Davenport and crew had done several days earlier. If the West Face was out I knew it’d be fun to ski the southern gully as an alternative.
I assumed in going after a straightforward climb and ski on a lesser-known peak during the middle of the week I’d be going it solo, but I assumed wrong. Coming from Vail this was a perfect morning outing for Matt and Gerlinde to get some exercise on, so they readily signed up. Thanks again guys for indulging the idea!
We parked on the south side of Highway 82, crossed the road, and had a few hundred feet of grass to climb before we hit snow. We got the impression the snow filled avalanche gullies in this area are receding up the mountains quickly, so the lower the start the more likely you are to encounter a dry booting section (great beta huh?).
We made decent time up the gully though no one was really in a hurry. Not knowing exactly where the summit was we made the mistake (though that word is a bit strong) of heading climber’s left once in the upper-bowl. We wound up on a sub-summit of sorts and had a short ridge run northeast to the true summit. The views were just awesome.
Hiking along the upper-summit ridge provided equally spectacular views in the other direction as well. “Lackawanna” is perfectly placed among the northern-Sawatch giants to grant some of the better views I’ve seen from the summit of a peak.
We topped out and took a look at the West Face which was completely out; not a single continuous ski option dropping off the summit ridge for over a quarter mile. I couldn’t help but marvel at how Davenport and Co seem to nail every descent perfectly, even when the route is temperamental enough to be in one week and completely out the next.
West Face or no West Face, none of us were that bothered by being relegated to ski 3,000′ of corn down the south side. This ski run really does offer up some great vert and if you’re lucky enough, it may just take you back to your car on Highway 82.
Below 13k the snow funneled into a narrow double fall line pitch which provided good (albeit a tad dirty) corn turns down to the end of the snow near 10,800′.
As we shouldered our skis for the short hike down to the car we saw the news vans driving up towards Indy Pass to cover the grand opening. We headed the opposite direction to the Tennessee Pass Cafe in Leadville for a beer and sandwich. Matt, Gerlinde, it was great seeing you again and getting out for some turns!
Cheers and happy corn season!