Temps hovered right around 17 as we parked a car and took another up the road a ways to the Colorado River Trailhead at the base of Opposition Creek.
The skin up to the Grand Ditch was pleasant and enjoyable. We hardly felt any wind and from the looks of the sky, we were in for a bluebird day. We began at the Holzwarth cabins and followed Ditch Road up to The Grand Ditch
Once on The Grand Ditch, we traversed the base of the Never Summers north. Our tracks were the only ones visible on the top of the ditch, but several parties had skinned the road. As we moved, evidence of warming was all around us. Small sloughs had been dropping from heated rocks and the debris rolled down into the ditch. To our west ran a fairly steep cliff band, but to our East (right) were several tempting, steep gullies leading down to the Timber Creek Campground. We’ll definitely be back to check these out…
Finished in 1936, the Ditch is an irrigation channel carrying runoff from the Never Summers into the Poudre River and out to the plains. It runs roughly 14 miles, north to south, and, as we found, is a fantastic way to access the Never Summers.
We moved north around the base of Red Mountain and eventually up a fairly steep drainage to right around treeline. Skinning was flat and consistent until we reached the base of the saddle between the West aspect of Red Mountain and the East ridge of Mt. Nimbus (12,706). The skin up to the saddle was of considerable steepness and had been blasted by the sun early. A significant crust was forming by the time we got there, but the slope was still manageable.
Here, the trees started to sink away sharply and the gain of elevation caught up to our adrenaline soaked bodies. Morning was melting from the trees around us and the heavy snow of Spring was clinging to our skins. The upper section of the basin yielded a clear direction to the top of the ridge. We moved on at a steady pace, still unaware of what the ridge above us held.
Once on top of the ridge, we briefly contemplated skinning the ridge and, for a while, we would have gotten away with it. At some point, this ridge requires 3rd class moves and some spicy exposure. Consistent choss and rockfall are issues and should be taken seriously. We were also treated to wonderful and unforgiving pockets of waist deep snowdrift.
The ridge lasts a bit over a mile. The last half mile was a slog on choss up to a false summit and then on to the true summit to the West.
The ski descent directly down the North East face of Nimbus was short lived but there was good snow to be had along the East ridge.
From the open bowl beneath the summit of Nimbus, the ridge leading to Cumulus is easily attained on skins.
At this point, the summit of Cumulus is almost a no brainer. It is a quick hike along a massive ridge with a large drop to the east. Should you need to bail, the drainage between the North East face of Nimbus and the South face of Cumulus is straightforward and a really engaging ski. You won’t regret it. No matter what you do, you’ll land at The Ditch.
Austin, Jesse and Brian summited Cumulus and encountered variable conditions. Most of what was right under the summit was boiler plate ice, but they were able to find decent snow on the East face. At the time of their summit, no one had signed the register since October of 2015.
The ski out through Opposition Creek is not to be taken lightly. It follows a creek that is not always filled in and the terrain is tight and very steep at times. It can be a lot of fun with large amounts of snow, but if conditions are thin, its best to traverse back across the ditch, which will add a bit of time. We were able to ski Opposition Creek on this particular day.