RIMBY Trip: Crested Butte

Photo by Irwin Guides

By now, all of you have probably heard a thing or two about Crested Butte this winter.  Inundated with snow throughout most of the season, we’re now feeling warm sunny rays and spring skiing is in full swing.  My friends over at Mountain Standard couldn’t resist the call of the mountains right in my backyard (RIMBY), so they packed up and headed over a few passes to the Gunnison Valley.

Photo By: Mitch Warnick

Without a doubt, the climax of the weekend warrior-style adventure was Saturday’s cat and backcountry skiing trek with Crested Butte’s very own Irwin Guides.  Enter Irwin Guide and fellow Mountain Standard Field Agent Ian Havlick—the badass who made this happen.  I will just say that even as a local I never really thought I would have this opportunity.

The plan was: hop in the snow cat, or in this case more of a limousine on snow tracks, cruise up to Scarp Ridge, tour over to the top of the Red Lady Bowl and drop in.  A fun challenge resulting in exhaustion and the massive reward of skiing one of Colorado’s most iconic lines all in one—perfect Type 2 fun.

 

Photo By: Alton Richardson

The first cat ride was bumpy and filled with a combination of laughter and awe-inspired stares at the stunning beauty of the surrounding West Elks.  After a quick break to switch cats and enjoy the wonderful vistas, we toured from the east side of the ridge and went over to the summit of the Red Lady (officially Mt. Emmons) to our drop off point.  Conditions were perfect.  Picture the ideal alpine day—sunny, warm, and wind free.  Check, check, and check.  

Photo By: Alton Richardson

Skis and skins ready to go, we headed off down the cornice-edged ridge.  The thrill of touring in such a jaw dropping setting after spending embarrassingly little time in the backcountry this season made me giddy. Sunshine and smiles all around, I couldn’t help but think that the Mountain Standard crew was the type of casual and stoked group Ian looks forward to spending some quality backcountry time with.

 

Other than an unfortunate rubber band (which is a story Brennah may be more apt to elaborate on) the tour was relatively uneventful—in a great way. Massive cornices hung off the stratified cliff bands that make this area famous.  Without prior knowledge of the location, it would have been fair to assume this was deep in the Canadian Rockies or even in the Andes—the point is, we were immersed in some prime alpine and loving every second of it.

Photo By: Irwin Guides

Perhaps the ‘hardest’ part was a mandatory, rocky boot-pack up the summit ridge, which is certainly indicative of spring skiing.  One clunky ski boot after the next, we made our way to the iconic red prayer flags strung up on the summit ridge overlooking the bowl below and towering over Crested Butte even farther below.  Snowpack safe—it was time to drop in.

Photo by Alton Richardson 

One by one, we sent the edge and glided down Colorado’s iconic Red Lady Bowl.  Corn, potatoes, butter, cream—a recipe of sorts, but really the various ways I’ve heard excellent spring conditions referred to.  This was all of them—heavy, but so smooth. Let me tell you, the turns were as dreamy as the burn in my quads was deep—so they were very dreamy. 

Photo By: Alton Richardson 

After collecting ourselves, reveling in the stoke, and basking in the hot spring sun for a little bit, the party continued via one big ol’ party lap down to and through the exit gully below.  The lot scene was full of smiles, exhaustion, Hawaiian shirts, and two sort of cold beers—what a day.

Photo By: Mitch Warnick

By the end of the weekend, thinking back on the previous 36 hours involving a launch party getting shut down by the cops, an unbelievable backcountry skiing adventure, and many beverages with many good people—it’s clear the Mountain Standard crew knows how to do things right.

Photo by Jessie Williams

Story written by Field Agent, Mitch Warnick. To follow along on more of Mitch's adventures, follow him on Instagram @mjwarnick or check out mitchwarnickphotography.com!

Photos provided by Field Agents: Mitch Warnick, Alton Richardson (@agrphoto), and Jessie Williams (@jadubya) and Irwin Guides.

 

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