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Mt. Roosevelt Circumnavigation, January 1, 2011

With baby Eli at home, Seth's ski touring schedule has been curtailed a little the past few weeks, but Holly gave the go-ahead to a tour on New Year's Day. Kevin and I joined him in Lot #4 on a perfectly clear but cold day - Seth's thermometer at the condo read 9 degrees when he headed out the door, but it felt even colder in the shade. With an hour to go before the lifts started, we busted out over the Source Lake outrun trail coming back from the Alpy backcountry, and were ascending a well-packed (and slightly slippery) skin track in Chair Peak Basin in about twenty minutes.

Cold as it was, we warmed up enough on the ascent of the bowl to take off the puffies in the sun, but had to re-layer in a hurry once we hit the ridge and the wind. Skiing down into Snow Lake was a "variable" experience - a little bit of powder mixed with lots of heinous rain crust right at, or near, the surface. It's a quick ski, so it didn't make as much of an impression on us as the howling 40 mph wind that chased us down to the lake surface. Yikes. We applied the skins and jogged (literally) across the lake as quickly as possible, never really managing to get warm. Fortunately the wind died down as we rounded the corner in the lake about half way across, and we eventually found the sun's warmth as we climbed onto the slopes of Mt. Roosevelt.

Ascending Roosevelt was fun, especially with Seth breaking trail the entire way. Kevin and I remembered our last trip with him when we had both been pretty exhausted by the end of the day and decided to let him get his exercise; Seth delivered as usual. The penultimate pitch on hard, thick raincrust with sugar underneath became a boot-up, but the texture of the snow under the crust made the going even more difficult for the last person (me) - I ended up seeking out fresh crust for most of the climb. The last few hundred feet of skinning up the ridge in the sun yielded great views and let me catch my breath.

We skied off the top and slipped into a north-facing, shaded col west of the summit. The top was bullet-proof crust with a nice coating of beaded, frozen rain which we could barely break through and offered zero edgehold. Nice. Fortunately a pocket of wind deposit to skier's left held some nice wind-deposited fresh that skied well, though with a couple of "surprises." We took it all the way down to the drainage that winds around the north end of Roosevelt, and followed the creek for a bit before re-skinning and climbing out over a series of rolling ridges. We noticed some tasty-looking potential ski terrain around the back side of Roosevelt and the unnamed mountain next door, though it might be tough getting access to some of it.

Seth again stomped the skintrack back toward Snow Lake while Kevin and I paced ourselves, and we toured through some beautiful terrain that borders Wildcat Lake and Gem Lake, some of which I had never seen. Skiing back into the Snow Lake basin in the sun gave us the best turns of the day. After a quick re-skin, during which Kevin submerged one boot in the frigid water, we hoofed it back over the lake (fortunately the wind had quieted a bit, though not entirely) and up to the divide. Plenty of snowshoers near the ridge and on the backcountry out track, and a number of skiers lapping the Chair Peak basin, but thankfully none of them had made the effort to get to Roosevelt. We finished up the day with a trip to the Walker residence for tea and cookies, and to watch little Eli sleeping. Way to welcome in the New Year!

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