Stratus

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold,

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold, The Never Summers do not disappoint. This was our second visit to the Holsworth cabins and the Grand Ditch. This time, after skinning up the road outside the cabin site, we made a left and headed south along untracked snow up toward the Baker trail which hugs the base of, you guessed it, Baker Mountain.

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold, The skin along the Grand Ditch is pleasant, flat and, as you round Baker, exceptionally scenic. The area is reportedly vacant most of the time. We saw one set of tracks skinning up to the ditch and not a single track implying human activity which is surprising considering there is a vast landscape to the west of Stratus which houses some really great looking terrain. Obviously our access began on Trail Ridge Road, but there is access via a network of Forest Service roads to the west all stemming from Rand, Colorado on CO 125 and Arapaho National Forest. During our ascent, we heard snowmobiles somewhere off in the distance toward these roads, so it may imply that the roads are open to that sort of access. That is speculation – we came to ski.

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Staring at the west face of the ridge that connects Stratus and Nimbus, there appeared to be two snowfields which would grant full access to the ridge. One closer to Baker and one closer to the actual summit of Stratus. They both sit in the 30 degree range and are skiable down to Baker Gulch. This would make for another fun outing for a few spring laps. There was, however, already a bit of a crust on the surface. We chose the line farther to the south and worked our way up to the ridge on skins.

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold,

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold, After gaining the ridge, we made a quick traverse north. As we moved toward Stratus, the intended line on the south face came into view. From where we were, the south face was exceptionally imposing and stood with dominance over everything in front of us. To gain its summit, we had to work our way farther north to find some snow to boot up.

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold,

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold,

From the summit, we were directly on top of the intended line. Austin scouted the line from a few other vantage points and determined everything was good to go. We dropped in, one by one. The line begins in the 50 degree range and descends through a medium sized choke. From the exit of the choke, we found a safe spot skier’s left and surveyed the rest of the line. At this point, the line opens up to a very manageable 40 degrees. Satellite images from Google show a significant amount of debris which we didn’t encounter in the least bit. Being south facing and a bit craggy, most of the line had sloughed the day before so we did have to manage a bit of wet slough debris, but otherwise the line went without a fight.

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Farther down the line, the snow was a bit better compacted and revealed some excellent skiing. We took our time to enjoy the perfect temp and bluebird weather.

ski, skiing, rmnp, colorado, winter, national park, rocky mountain national park, bear lake, alpine, trail ridge road, front range, osprey, dynafit, zeal, usa, america, snow, cold,

The exit from this cirque is nearly flawless. It was straight forward and refreshingly simple. Few trees, no rocks and a consistent slope down to the Grand Ditch. We skinned back along the Ditch until we came to the road and were able to ski the road back out to the cars.

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