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  1. #1
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    Exclamation TR: Animas is a Hard Mother - 40 miles and 400ft rock walls

    75 pound packs, 60 long hours, 40 brutal miles, 2 determined skiers, 1 mountain


    Adimmen


    Summit


    Animas Mountain

    We found Animas Mountain on Google Earth. It sits in the middle of Colorado’s largest and most rugged wilderness, the Weminuche. Reaching 5000ft above its main drainage, the Animas River, the mountain’s North face with its 3000ft 50 degree rock walled chutes demanded to be skied no matter the effort required. It took nearly a year to do it. We don’t claim a first descent. Surely, somebody got to Animas in the past… the miserable bastards. This was the hardest, most brutal trip either of us have ever made.

    2008 Plan - Use The Train -16mi, 8000 vert, ski 2 lines, 50 hours

    We discovered an area harder to travel through than the worst of the cursed Gore. We averaged about 0.5mph of pure suffering and while wading through waist deep slush, realized we would run out of time and miss our real world commitments. With great regret, we decided to turn back.


    All Aboard the Fail Train! May 10, 2008

    2008 Actual: 10mi, 2000 vert, no skiing, 24 hours

    The mountain haunted us. Adimmen tried to scout in the summer. Distant pictures peered from distant peaks. All clues pointed to it being everything we wanted if we could only reach it. It was our obsession.

    2009 Plan: XC Ski the Railroad & Ford the River - 35mi, 12,000 vert, ski 3 lines, 80 hours.

    Actual: 40mi, 8000 vert, skied one line, 60 hours

    I haven’t put up many TRs this year. Those who have seen my many past TRs know they are mostly pictures and little writing. This TR has more words because pictures cannot communicate the meat of this venture, and when you are suffering most is when you are least likely to take out your camera.

    Sunday April 19th, 2009

    0200 (Home) – Loaded the car and left on no sleep.
    0300 (Vail) - Naptime
    1100 (Silverton) – The slog begins down the rail line.
    1110 (Narrow Guage Railroad) – Adimmen: “Screw this XC stuff. I can’t balance on it. I’m going back to put it in your roof box.”

    I have little XC experience, but quickly understood why XC trekkers use pull sleds instead of 75 pound packs. It’s like trying to balance on a tightrope. It wouldn’t have mattered. There were too many avalanche debris piles on the tracks; a sled would have been impossible. What’s more, about 4 miles in, we discovered that the rail crews had been plowing the tracks from Durango. We began taking our skis on and off as we traveled hundred foot patches of thin snow separated by 20 feet of bare track. Eventually we packed our skis. Now I had two pairs of skis on my pack plus AT boots and began walking in XC boots… which are horrible for walking in. Adimmen was walking in his ski boots!


    Too many skis and boots

    I should make it clear here that walking on narrow gauge rail tracks is miserable. It is actually much preferable to walk up a steep trail. The railroad is either doused in small rocks such that it is like walking through scree or gravel robbing you of balance and energy with each step, or you must step from plank to unevenly spaced narrow plank. We called this Splinter Walking because it splinters your rhythm, then it splinters your energy, and after a mile or two, it splinters your spirit as much as post holing in snow. On the short stretches where the rail bed was slightly wider, we gladly walked in sidehill or mud for 20 feet to avoid splinter stepping. We walked on 20 miles bare tracks on this trip.

    Very early on, Adimmen’s waist buckle broke. This is really critical when dealing with 75 pound packs. I gave him some parts and he made something that worked… but not that well. Both of our packs were truly terrible tools, which shouldn’t be shocking because Lowe Alpine sucks at everything they do. They swayed, loosened, didn’t balance, and we are both sporting bruises that look strangely like backpack straps.


    Adimmen says "I'm returning this piece of crap to REI"

    It was beautiful slogging through the gorge. We eventually reached the river ford that Adimmen found in the summer. It was crotch deep. The Animas, “River of Lost Souls,” is a cold river and falling would abort our journey right there (and it would be expensive). Adimmen went first and we both made it fine. We then started hiking up No Name’s North side. It was steep, but we quickly realized that if we had gone up this side a year before instead of the infernal South side, we’d probably have reached our goal then.


    Brrrrrr! Almost across!

    After stumbling through deadfall and following a “trail” that came and went, we reached snow around dark. After some post holing, we were able to skin. Skinning up the narrow drainage with waterfalls and cascades everywhere, we realized we would not reach the base of Animas Mountain at any reasonable hour. After skinning up an ice fall around a cascade, we found two tiny flat spots on the bank close to open water and decided to camp there.


    This pack balances so sweet! I'm returning it too! Better than railroad tracks though...

    With gusto, we dropped our packs. In horror, I saw that I was missing my hard shell and one of the crampons that I had strapped to the outside. So, in the dark, I began skinning back down the way I’d just fought up! I found my shell. I kept skinning until I got to where we started. Then I took off my skis and started walking. I walked a ways. Eventually realizing I’d end up back at the Animas River, I turned around, hoped I wouldn’t need that crampon in the morning, and hiked/skinned all the way back to set up camp.

    We got to bed around midnight. The nights were not warm. I put my eye meds (4 days post LASIK) and boot liners in my sleeping bag, but they still froze. My battered feet never dried. I wore all my clothes and was warm enough.

    Monday

    After breakfast, we skinned up the valley. We thought we had 500 vert to go, but the valley was some of the craziest rolling terrain and we had to zig zag and go up and down repeatedly, tripling the distances. The snow quickly began sticking to our skins. Many of you know that feeling of an extra 10 pounds of snow on each foot dragging like an anchor. Eventually it breaks off and your foot shoots forward like a rocket to your relief, but the snow reattaches with the very next step. Ugh!


    This is some BULLcrap!

    Animas Mountain finally came in to view. It looked different than Google Earth rendered or the topo maps made it out to be! When we saw our primary line, it was a disappointment. While not going to the summit was only a minor problem, the massive midline cliffed out choke was a game killer. It was supposed to be filled in. We observed that this range seemed to have less snow than the surrounding areas and certainly much less snow than previous years. How can you know ahead of time? There are no Snowtels in the range and nobody goes there.


    Distant Animas


    The Real Animas

    Adimmen went on three separate summer scouting missions, all of which were dogged by pouring rain. Apparently it doesn't snow in the Weminuche, but it rains all summer! He only got fleeting views of the couloirs through dusky clouds and those pictures were destroyed in an ill fated river crossing! His phone call saying, “I hope the lines go!” rings sardonic. That said, the Google Earth image and zoomed in pictures simply held too much promise. We had to take the chance and neither of us has regret. It’s part of the passion. We went after the farthest up valley line.




    Adimmen skins

    The farthest line was as expected. It was the most aesthetic of the lines, deeply inset and guarded by 600ft rock parapets and 400ft rock walls. With skins still sticking, we started up the apron until it was time to boot.


    Adimmen climbs

    Adimmen broke through to his knees and I broke to my waist following him. It was hard and slow going. We watched the snow crumble off the vertical walls turning to mist long before it reached the couloir.


    Rockwalls!


    Almost there!
    Last edited by Summit; 04-27-2009 at 09:15 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

  2. #2
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    Arrow Part 2 - With SKIING!

    The sun finally hit the chute, but though we gave the sun its full time to expose the snow, the crust in the chute never softened.


    Adimmen

    We skied the semibreakable crust and even with DPS 120s and 138s, it was not fun in the chute.


    Summit

    But the apron was smooth corn.


    Adimmen

    It was all inspiring, breathtaking, and beautiful.



    We had reached our target. Our obsession was quenched. We’d skied all that we could there, and decided to make haste in our exit. We made our way out fighting snow sticking to our skins through the deadfall and rolling terrain. It took as long to get out as to get in. We reached camp near sunset and elected not to move camp as we wouldn’t ford at night. I desperately tried to dress my wounded feet which had me in agonizing pain all day (click for pic, be warned).

    Tuesday

    The descent from the camp to the river was not nearly as hard as getting there. As we reached the river, we saw a rail crew on a bulldozer heading south, the wrong way with us on the wrong side. So much for the fantasy of an easy out!

    We aimed to ford at an earlier hour than before so as to find lower water. However, we found the river orange and swollen, running a foot deeper, many rocks having disappeared. The crossing was certainly unsafe. We knew there was no better crossing, upstream and downstream the river narrowed and went class V. A fall in the river would be extremely bad, but it would add a full day’s worth of extremely hard hiking to use the nearest bridge. We carefully scouted the river bed without packs and crossed in a way keeping it less than belly deep. I went first. The water seemed even colder (still 32F). It was the edge of capability to stay standing in those freezing flows while wearing unbuckled massive packs, but we made it. Later, looking at the stream flow gauges, the flow literally doubled between the first and second the crossings.


    Adimmen says "10% of the way there... UGH!"

    The walk out was much as the walk in. We somehow made a pace of 2 mph despite the suffering and exhaustion. It was quieter. There was some talk amongst the groans of pain and frustration along with the occasional scream of anguish and agony. Those who embark on similar endeavors know precisely of what I speak.


    Summit says "Let's take a break!"

    It became dark right as we reached the patchy snow on the tracks. The snow was ice. Side hilling frozen avi debris with XC skis and a gargantuan pack is hideous business. We fell several times. Adimmen navigated by my headlamp because it was easier than removing his pack and messing with the waistbelt.

    Summit: “Steak… juicy steak… medium rare. I’m going to buy us steak dinner when we get out.”
    Adimmen: “Steak… must be cut… effort… a hamburger can be shoved down.”

    At one point I remember hearing “thump thump thump” from behind me and Adimmen came running by with skis in hand, pack swaying, and he disappeared out of headlamp view trying to outfight the Weminuche with a frustrated sprint. It was surreal. I found him stopped a little ways on. The canyon seemed endless. The constant and unending side hilling was very wearing.

    Summit: “‘Weminuche’ is a Ute word. I think ‘Wemi’ must mean ‘spirit’ and ‘nuche’ means ‘bleed.’”
    Adimmen: “$&#* this! How are we not out? $&#* you Weminuche!

    We finally got out (and immediately took off our packs then boots) 60 hours after we started. Everything in Silverton was closed. In Ouray, Adimmen found that the one bar that was open didn’t serve food. I found that I could no longer walk, but rather waddle/shuffle. In Ridgeway, the Subway was closed and I discovered my arms no longer lifted above shoulder level.

    Wednesday

    0-dark-thirty (Montrose): No other choice, so I bought us dinner at Denneys.

    0-why-am-I-awake-thirty (Glenwood Canyon): a “construction delay” which mainly involved sitting parked with my engine off for two full hours. I didn’t mind much because I was sitting instead of walking.

    0600 (Home) - 76 hours after I had left - I hit the hot tub, dressed my wounded feet, went to bed for four hours and made my way with the rest of the day.
    Quote Originally Posted by blurred
    skiing is hiking all day so that you can ski on shitty gear for 5 minutes.

  3. #3
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    awesome. that is the best tr i've seen on here.

    edit: my first ever rating..

  4. #4
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    Holy shit, what a TR.

    You know what? I'd actually like to see a longer, more verbose version of this TR. I'd love to know what else you guys went through, what your decisions were, and how everything went. Kick-ass man.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    nicely done. some great pics in there...
    "I reckon i'm one of the only people who could ski this line" says my drunk friend

  6. #6
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    Dec 2005
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    I've spent some quality time at that denneys in montrose!

    way to go on that trip, even though it did not go as planned, it is still quite the accomplishment. I think i would be OK with never having to deal with a 75lb pack for that amount of time/number of miles.
    ‎Preserving farness, nearness presences nearness in nearing that farness

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
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    Thumbs up

    Hell yes! Well written, really captures the pain of the sufferfest.
    "If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    i don't usually post but that was damn impressive. great work!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2004
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    I heard first hand what an utter slogfest this trip was.

    Adimmen is one of the toughest if not THE toughest hiker around, knowing this trip wasn't easy for him speaks volumes.

    Nice TR A.
    Watch the seventh episode of
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    'Karma' is an Eastern religious concept which views all human dramas as the will of God as opposed to present - and past - life actions.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by smmokan View Post
    Holy shit, what a TR.

    You know what? I'd actually like to see a longer, more verbose version of this TR. I'd love to know what else you guys went through, what your decisions were, and how everything went. Kick-ass man.
    i agree.

  11. #11
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    I didn't read all that, don't have time now, Pics are great though, nice work

  12. #12
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    Nov 2002
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    Thumbs up

    So good! Makes me proud!

    Let me know when your feet are healed up and we'll head into the "cursed Gore."
    Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
    Henry David Thoreau

  13. #13
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    I would love to hear from anyone else who has skied the north side of this peak and if their experience was any different/better. I still dream about skiing from near the summit in good conditions. Maybe we'll have to wait for global warming to really kick in so that CO's snowpack goes coastal.

  14. #14
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    dude, your best writing ever. fits a memorable, awesome trip- even if it didnt go exactly as envisioned, you'll never forget it. wish take 2 had gone better!!!! i know this wont be the last attempt....

  15. #15
    adam is offline The Shred Pirate Roberts
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    That sounds like something I'd be glad to never have to experience.

  16. #16
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    Apr 2006
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    Damn. That looks fun, in a really painful sort of way.
    Ride Fast, Live slow.

    We're mountain people. This is what we do, this is how we live. -D.C.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blurred View Post
    I heard first hand what an utter slogfest this trip was.

    Adimmen is one of the toughest if not THE toughest hiker around, knowing this trip wasn't easy for him speaks volumes.

    Nice TR A.
    Thanks for the kind words.

    One thing Summit didn't mention (and not that I care) is that the beginning of this trip marked my eighth day of touring in a row. Without a busted pack and mildly fatigued legs, the hike out would have been much more fun.

    What really amazes me though is how time dulls the pain. Coming out, I thought this will be the last time I ever walk up or down these tracks. Now I could reasonably see going back for other goals.

  18. #18
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    Dude, that was unreal. Massive props. Any more photos, add them!

    Sick, sick, sick

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the report and what an incredible recount. Blurred certainly nailed the summary with his comment.

  20. #20
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    Stunning photos!

  21. #21
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    Ha! weminuche= "spirit bleed". Sounds like my description of the easier chicago basin approach as "soul crushing"
    I bet that was the best Denny's dinner you ever had.

    cool TR, way to find something different and give it a go.

  22. #22
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    Nice! Way to grind it out.
    Quote Originally Posted by bptempleton View Post
    tit ass balls. that's a better sig. or fucktardnutz. YOU MUST NOW CHOOSE!!!!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by smmokan View Post
    Holy shit, what a TR.

    You know what? I'd actually like to see a longer, more verbose version of this TR. I'd love to know what else you guys went through, what your decisions were, and how everything went. Kick-ass man.
    It's good Summit wrote the TR because my description was dream line turned into a nightmare.

  24. #24
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    Wow.. bravo guys. That was a pleasure to read. Hell of a TR.
    "Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God."

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  25. #25
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    dude... having done some suffering of my own, you really nailed it. Great TR; rough trip!

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