Trip dates: April 06-07, 2019
Caltopo map here: caltopo.com/m/6NM8
This would be my first winter trip to the Gore Range since I discovered it--and subsequently became obsessed with it--this last summer. The only bad thing I've found is having to drive on I-70 to get there.
This also turned out to be my favorite winter trip ever.
I started at the Vail-Tenmile TH (at least I'm pretty sure that's what it's called).
For this trip I made two modifications to my pyramid shelter setup for winter. I have the DCF Solomid XL from MLD. In the standard configuration, there is only enough room behind the single trekking pole for 1 sleeper and the rest becomes a small vestibule. This is fantastic in summer when I'm using an emergency blanket as a ground sheet in the sleeping area and can spread my stuff out on dry ground in the vestibule. For camping in the snow, I wanted more dry area to spread my gear out.
I made these inverted V gizmos out of carbon fiber tubing with cheap foam sheets as a cushion with heat shrink tubing for the joint. The finished product only weighs ~1.5 oz. You can see my socks "drying" on the DIY inverted V in the picture immediately below and the bathtub floor in the next two pictures. (Soon, I'll have more details on how to make these on my shelters page). The interior space is then large enough to fit two sleepers snugly but without a vestibule. Or 1 person plus all of their winter gear. For the floor I used the Duo bathtub floor (weight is 6 oz for the DCF version).
There's got to be a better way to deal with frozen boots. Maybe I should start putting them in a plastic bag inside my sleeping bag at night so they don't freeze?
Thawing my boots on my homemade winter alcohol stove (you can't see an alcohol flame during the daytime). Basically I just get them warm until they soften enough to go over my foot. This stove has enough heat for reasonable snow melting times and has become my go to in winter. Also, I wonder if this is why my boots are no longer waterproof? (just kidding).
I did a little better on having a snow-wall wind break around the edges compared to last time at Eagle Lake in RMNP.
Alright, enough time in camp. Off to find Gore Lake
I like going into these things fairly cold, not knowing what the scenery will really be like. I know that the Gore Range is generally a beautiful place but I didn't expect this. This is part of the fun of planning a trip based solely on a topographic map.
At this point the basin around me has already been more gorgeous than I expected but I noticed a hill to my south that looked like a local high point on my map. The slope was gentle enough that I could be fairly sure to not trigger an avalanche so I went for it.
This place sure looks different in the winter. In the picture below I'm looking towards last summer's trip that included a scramble up Deming Mt (from the opposite/south side) and a visit with a useless Mt Goat before dropping down from Red Buffalo Pass to camp in the valley on this side in the trees. Oh, and it also featured that crazy dragon elk skeleton.
Last summer's useless mountain goat below. Not recommended to help you find things you've lost.
"This must be what Alaska feels like"
The skies were clear, and I feel like the pictures came out pretty well. But it's just hard to capture how BIG it felt. This is the first time in Colorado I've thought "this must be what Alaska feels like". The video below is shaky (it's hard to turn 360 degrees in snowshoes) but I hope it captures to scope of what I was seeing.
This is why I do this.