Colter Hinchliffe Feeds the Stoke!
While many of us have moved past the ski season, the Aspen Local is just getting started. Putting the easy, fun-fueled resort days behind him, Colter sets his sights a bit further. Often times, Colter checks in with some rambling post about a half-crocked mission — usually involving his dirtbike and a TON of walking — to bag some remote and rarely skied peak.
This year is no different; The lifts have shut down, but Colter is — perhaps unsurprisingly — Not Over It. We reached out to Colter and ask him to recount one of his favorite late season missions. Oh, and while you’re at it, enter the LINE Not Over It Photo Contest. Maybe you can snag a pair of LINE Sick Day Tourists for those late season pushes.
It’s 9 PM in Aspen, Colorado. I can’t take my eyes off the sky. I’m looking for the stars. If I see what I’m looking for, I will toss my skis in my truck next to my dirt bike and begin my journey no later than 11pm. All I need is a weather window.
Our lift served skiing came to an end only a few days ago here in Aspen Snowmass. We are one of the later operations to shut off the lifts – especially with the bonus week tacked on. But with a healthy snowpack and longer days ahead, I am Not Over It – I never am. My love for skiing gets me out searching for turns amongst the rocks as early as September and as late as July here in the high mountains of the Colorado Rockies.
Colter and Tim Durtschi Take on Moab
More often than not, I find myself walking. It’s not easy; it’s type 2 fun at best and often type 3. Walking with my skis, boots, skins, crampons, ice axe, full water bottle, lunch, camera, shovel, probe, first aid kit, and more strapped to my back. But the with prospect of harvesting high-alpine turns in new zones, I find myself walking – usually at 1 in the morning – with all of my gear strapped to my back. It’s for the love of it, right? Something like that.
The slogs – those long days deep in the mountains have become a staple of my spring. Last May, I decided to capitalize on this, and even pieced together a project, Sandstone and Snow. We skied the north face of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz – a technical climb and ski that involved a dicey rappel mid-line – and I was still hungry for more.So as I left behind those sandstone cliffs of the La Sal Mountains, I started scheming, plotting my next mission.
My route home took me south of the La Sal Mountains towards Telluride and the San Juan mountains of Southern Colorado. Late in the afternoon I came into the town of Naturita. To the south, a striking peak rose out of the horizon, basking in the last light. It looked like a mini volcano. I saw a sign for the local forest service office and pulled up, looked at a map outside and quickly learned that the mountain was aptly named Lone Cone with a summit elevation of 12,618 ft.
I wasn’t planning on skiing anything on the way back to Aspen – my thoughts were focused on peaks closer to home – but the weather was nice, and I didn’t have a reason to book it home. My thoughts quickly focused on a solo mission. But I was hungry, and I don’t think well when I’m hungry. Or if I have to pee really bad. So I went and got a slice of pizza on Main Street in Naturita as I contemplated my next move.
In the end I decided I might as well give it a shot. I ordered a couple extra sliced of pizza for the road and followed National Forest Access signs towards Lone Cone in the fading light. Eventually the road got muddy and rutted out, and I decided to find a flat spot and call it a night. It would be the farthest my truck would go. I pulled my dirt bike out of my truck, pitched my tent, and scarfed down one last slice of ‘za.
Not a bad place to start the day. Photo: Colter Hinchliffe
I slept in – a rare occurrence on these adventures. I planned on skiing the North Face of Lone Cone. The couloir itself that had a big wall that would shade the slope well into the afternoon. Corn o’clock is a fickle and fleeting beast, and too many times I’ve found myself too early or late to actually harvest her bounty. So I chanced it with a late start, departing shortly before sunrise.
I only made it a few miles on my dirtbike before I had to switch to foot power. So, like many of these half-crocked ideas, I soon was hoofing it with all my gear loaded on my back, trudging through the low angle flanks of this volcanic megalith. For what seemed like an eternity, I stumbled around, unable to see the objective. I was navigating off of pure luck and hope. But I’ve made enough wrong turns in my life to trust my instincts, and sure enough, I crested into the basin of my planned ascent route.
Pushing the West Ridge of Lone Cone
I kept moving up the west ridge. I switched from skins to crampons and began directly ascending the ridge, front-pointing most of the climb. The breeze kept things firm, and I was in no hurry; so naturally I took a bunch of selfies with my go-pro. GTS at all costs, am I right?! There’s something enjoyable about being alone in the mountains. I can move at my own pace, chose my own route, listen to music, and waste as much time as I want taking stupid pictures.
I dilly dally’ed my way to the top of the frozen Lone Cone hoping the sun would begin to do its thing, gracing me with soft corn to plunder. But it never did. I dropped into that North facing couloir around noon and skied frozen snow 1500 feet – not exactly the reward I was expecting. The angle finally eased and the snow began to soften for another 500-1000 feet of mellower skiing into the basin that drains the north face.
I followed the basin and followed it and followed it until it ran out of snow. It was only this point I realized how far west I had travelled. I would have to backtrack to my campsite – plus the additional 2 miles to my dirtbike. So I ditched my gear and moved quickly on the road with no weight. At camp, I re-hydrated, switched from ski boots to hiking boots, and jogged up to my dirtbike. By late afternoon I was rambling back down the muddy road with the Lone Cone in my rear view mirror. Satisfied, relieved, and happy that I just went for it.
As for now, it’s 10 PM here in Aspen, and the stars are not shining. In fact, its snowing. It looks like I will be sleeping tonight. But the entirety of #NotOverIt season lies ahead. I am just beginning to feel the inspiration to endure early mornings, long days, and less-than-great snow. I know the inspiration to push onward and upward will come. It always does. I usually just need to see a mountain to light the fire.
How Not Over It are you? Check out the LINE Not Over it Photo Contest on Facebook. Upload a shot of you showcasing how far you’d go to get your summer shred on, and enter to win a pair of LINE Sick Day Tourists!