Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dodging Storms on Mt. Hagar

I wasn't optimistic when Mike and I drove up to Loveland on Sunday, hoping to ski a 13er called Mt. Hagar between rain storms.  We had to hike through puddles and small, raging torrents of meltwater to reach the first snow. But higher up the snow was actually pretty decent, and though we had a brief rain shower and a longer snow/graupel event, we also had some blue sky and sun, giving us nice views of the surrounding peaks, including the craggy Citadel (13,294 feet).

On Mt. Hagar's 13,195-foot summit the clouds were thick, but we still hadn't heard any thunder, which was weird, considering what we'd see later. Mike went first off the rocky top and immediately buried an entire leg in waist-deep slush. After the extrication, we gingerly traversed away from the rocks and into a broad chute where there was better snow. Our first turns sent a slush river, three to four inches deep, streaming toward the bench 800 feet below, but underneath was a firm, sun-baked layer, and the skiing in and out of the flowing slush turned out to be fun rather than terrifying. Strangely, the snow just got better the lower we went, with a steep, 400-foot slope of near-corn at around 11,500. As we walked out, the rain started in earnest, but we still had heard only a few faint rumbles of thunder. Then, during the drive home along I-70, we entered one of the most violent thunderstorms I've seen in years—it dumped up to two inches of rain in parts of metro Denver. For whatever reason, we'd escaped it all on Mt. Hagar.

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