The 6-hour journey to Big Sandy Lake was well worth it after arriving and getting our camp set up. The solitude of being at Big Sandy Lake with amazing views of the mountains all around us was pretty surreal. The three of us were feeling beat up so we decided to pick a ski line with a shorter approach for the following day. From our campsite, we had an amazing view of the backside of Warbonnet Peak (a beautiful peak in the Cirque of the Towers). There was an amazing steep couloir that came down the southern aspect that looked fun.
That night was beautiful and clear. It happened to be the only night that we got a real freeze. This was a good thing since we were planning on skiing a south-facing couloir. The next morning we awoke to coyotes howling and birds singing. Knowing that we were the only humans around was a satisfying feeling. We started up toward Warbonnet and made the summit in 2 hours. We had great views into the Cirque and looked back at Temple Peak, where we had been a few days prior. The skiing was perfect corn off the summit all the way down the couloir. It was one of my favorite lines of the trip. We were back at camp by 12 for a much-needed nap in the sun.
The next day we ventured into the Cirque to see what kind of lines we could find there. The skin was beautiful through boulders and over lakes. It only took us about an hour to arrive but the temperature was rising rapidly. Peaking into the Cirque of the Towers (which is an amazing granite climbing destination in summer) we noticed a few couloirs that looked super fun to ski. We decided to go have a closer look. I could not believe that we were in the place that I first came to when I was 8 and now I was visiting on skis! This day happened to be our warmest day and we were only able to ski a few small lines due to the warm temps. Our crew made it back just in time before a small thunderstorm hit came into the valley.
On our last day we got an earlier start and awoke at 400 am, to head up toward Schissler Peak. As we skinned around the side of Big Sandy Lake the sunrise was unbelievable coming up over the peaks. We decided to go up the eastern side of the peak making our way up a couloir. As the group reached the summit we noticed a hidden couloir that we were unsure if it went through to the bottom. Skiing off the summit we had great corn and decided to go for the hidden couloir. Luckily, it went all the way through with large rock walls on either side. It was a nice little treat! The temperature was heating up fast again and it looked like thunderstorms. We decided to go back to camp and pack up our things and make our way out the 10-12 miles back to the car.
Leaving camp we were all hopeful that the way out would be a little better than on our way in. Little did I know that it could be 10x worse. Unfortunately for us, the snow had melted a lot. There was more water running and thin cover on the southern slopes. This made for pulling sleds a bit of a nightmare.
The group left camp at 11 am to start the trek. We got sucked off the route down to the left of the trail. When pulling sleds it is hard not to just follow the easiest way down! With our map, Kim lead the way and was able to get us back on track. We thought we were home free. Not so lucky, we decided to go a different way home to avoid some of the thick trees. Instead, we got ourselves in even thicker trees and near water that was impassable with sleds. The sleds would roll over every time you went near a tree well and down a hill. Then you had to wrestle the sleds back into position.
Finally, after 6 hours we made it to the trailhead with still 4-5 miles to go. At least we were on a road, but the last couple miles were still trying with water crossings and sloshy snowpack. Our feet hurt and the sleds felt heavy. We just needed to cross a 3-mile meadow and then we were hoping that people would have driven a little further up and we would be able to ditch our heavy load and walk the rest. This is when I went into endurance and mental toughness mode. It is amazing how training at the gym and getting stronger really helps with this aspect. Thank you Mountain Athlete for helping me train and become tougher than I thought I was!
To our surprise, my parents had moved the truck 2 miles closer. Seeing the truck was the best feeling! After 15 hours from starting our day, we were able to get back to the ranch that evening! This was an adventure I will never forget. I learned a ton about wilderness camping and skiing. Honestly, I might not ever want to pull a sled again. Ha Ha. I can't wait for the next fun ski adventure!