sitting in the middle of the road, changing from my boots to my down booties and picking ice out of my hair, it felt downright balmy out. then john turned the car on and checked the temperature: -6.
it had been -4 when we’d left the car that morning, and john set a pace that had me peeling layers, and rethinking the wisdom of downing an entire mason jar of hot chocolate on the drive to the trailhead.
our plan was to spend the next couple days traversing the front range, starting at south suicide and heading north. our chosen route was over fairly technical terrain, so we opted for snowshoes for the valley portions and alpine climbing gear for up high.
we timed it so that we’d ascending hauser’s gully between the north and south suicide right around dawn. that worked perfectly. i summited south suicide before the sun rose. it crested the mountains as i worked my way back to windy gap to where john was dealing with some gear issues.
it was cold. really cold. i discovered that my feet can get chronically cold in my favorite, super warm, double boots even when i’m working hard up a steep couloir. that was a sad moment, as i had it in my head that those boots had special powers to keep my feet warm at all times. i also discovered that it’s possible for me to frostnip my fingertips even wearing mercury mitts (i actually didn’t realize i’d done that until later in the evening).
it was hard, with north suicide right there and looking fairly accessible, but the right decision was to bail. we were prepared, but perhaps not well enough. continuing would have made for some amazing time in the mountains, but it would have been flirting a little too aggressively for too long with the cold temperatures and chilling wind.
given how warm it felt back at the car, i’m pretty curious as to the temps on the ridge and, in retrospect, wish i’d checked. but at the time, the only extra thing i was willing to fuss with was snapping a few pictures.
despite the inevitable disappointment of bailing early, it was a really rewarding day. summiting at dawn was amazing, and i got to relearn many winter-travel lessons that seem to fade each summer. my favorite: the utility and convenience of storing things down the front of my shirt. camera, gps, spare gloves…really, just about anything. it’s super handy. not sure if it’d work for guys — john doesn’t seem to share my fascination — but with a tank top as a base layer, it works really well for me. coming back to town wasn’t a complete bust either: our friends were hosting second thanksgiving and the timing worked out so that we got to crash out for a few hours and then go enjoy an awesome meal. that was a great way to end to the day, and took away a bit of the disappointment of calling it. the other upside: we have an unfinished, but mapped-out route for the next time we’ve got a three day weekend (and a better weather forecast!).