After making it to Big Sandy Lake and getting our camp set-up, it made the whole 6 hour journey worth it. 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 all pretty beat after our last few days, so we decided to pick a line with a shorter approach for the following day. From our campsite we had an amazing view of the backside or Warbonnet Peak (a beautiful peak in the Cirque), there was an amazing steep couloir that came down the south aspect that looked fun. That night was a 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 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 looking 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. This was one of my favorite lines of the trip. We were back at camp by 12 for much needed nap in the sun.
Top of Warbonnet/looking into the Cirque
Jim skiing couloir down backside of Warbonnet
The next day we ventured into the Cirque to see what kind of lines we could find there, the skin in was beautiful through boulders and over lakes. It only took us about and hour to get there, but the temps were heating up fast. Looking into the Cirque of the Towers (which is a very amazing climbing destination in summer) there were a few couloirs that looked super fun, we decided to go have a look. I could not believe that we were in this place that I first came when I was 8 and now I was here 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 thunder storm hit came into the valley. Because of the warm temps 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 sun rise was unbelievable coming up over the peaks. We decided to go up the east side of the peak making our way up a couloir. As the group reached the summit we saw 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, it went all the way through with large rock walls on the either side. It was a nice little treat/ The temperature was heating up fast again and it looked like thunderstorms, so 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.
Looking back at Temple, heading into Cirque
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. Since we had come in the snow had melted a lot more, making for more water running and less snow on southern slopes. This made for pulling sleds a bit of a nightmare. The group left camp at 11 am and started our trek, we got sucked down to the left of the trail and off route. 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 and then we thought we had it home free. Not so lucky, we decided to go a different way home to avoid some of the thick trees, but 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 that made our feet hurt and sleds 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 be train and become tougher than I thought I was! To our surprise my parents had moved the truck 2 miles closer. Seeing the truck there 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 camping, skiing and I might not ever want to pull a sled again. Ha Ha. Cant wait for the next fun ski adventure!
Sled pulling- not recommended through thick trees…