Landscape: Belleview Mountain, CO

On any clear spring morning, straight out the front door of the Maroon Hut in the backcountry just north of Crested Butte, you get this view of Belleview Mountain:

And when you see it, you pretty much decide that this is what you want to climb and ski. So last weekend, Bill, Ralph, Igor, and I set out to do just that. We skinned in through the trees along the ridge at looker’s right in the above photo, dropped down along the saddle in the center, and then did some power-skinning until it was too steep and too wind-crusted to continue. To reach the summit, we skinned and hiked more than 3,000 vertical feet and then skied down some great, varied terrain.

It was a warm day, so we were moving along quickly and stopping on occasion (as above) to keep a good layer of wax on our skins to prevent them from balling up with snow.

Above tree line, we had to put our skis on our backs and weave our way up a steep, rocky ridge punctuated with some sections of hollow snow that would collapse without notice (me, above…punched through the crust to my hip!).

One delicate step at a time over shifty, iced-up boulders had us at the first point on the summit ridge. From there, we surveyed the line we wanted to ski. We decided on skiing the face to looker’s left (in top photo, above) of the first point on the summit ridge. And then we hiked to the true summit just to get a good look at our surroundings before skiing back down into the saddle and setting off from there.

Bill on top, above, smiling with amazing snowy peaks all around (and Ralph in the background). The skiing from the saddle was steep and solid and nothing you’d want to even consider falling on…so none of us took photos through that section. We eventually traversed north to get into the glades, which ended up being some of the steepest, most beautiful snow-filled trees I’ve ever skied.

I was smiling ear-to-ear, skiing through these trees…until I suddenly got the feeling that we were in a super sketchy spot. I could see cliffs on both sides of us and a ridiculously steep drop-off below. Ralph skied ahead, skirting along the top of the cliff band that we picked our way through.

Below the cliff band, the terrain smoothed out, and we cruised through more trees and some gentle rolling terrain until we ran into a stream. Each of us had a different plan for crossing it. Bill and Ralph pony-rode a log that crossed the stream (Bill kept his skis on!), while I chose to make a few Zen-like steps across some snow-covered stones to reach the other side. The successful stream crossing topped off a super adventurous day.

From there, we skied easy terrain back to the front door of the hut, where we cooked some good food and passed the evening hours in the company of some really good friends. After all of this, the view from the hut’s front door became more than that of a beautiful peak. Belleview Mountain’s the place where we cursed and laughed and struggled and climbed and skied our hearts out, together, for a day.

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