Jupiter Traverse: Classic for a Reason

Well, what a rough early season that was. I came home from a month and a half in the Andes (which I swear I’ll write about soon) all full of stoke. But as is nearly always the case, early snowfall rotted out and everything in the Rockies went to basal facet hell. Further west, I missed a little November window due to work and then all kinds of snowpack nastiness turned up. But eventually, Rogers pass built up enough depth to bury the crap. Then the high pressure came in and all of a sudden, unnervingly quickly, it was game on.

The valley is nice, and trees are fun. But let’s be honest, the alpine is where it’s at.

Thing is, I never just trust what seems like good stability in the wintertime. Or really, ever. Call me paranoid, but I like to feel things out for myself and draw my own conclusions. So when this obvious window rolled in, Kieran, Joel and I started somewhat small. On day one of the high pressure, we took a little walk up Young’s Peak and a little ski down the Forever Young couloir. There were a few tracks in it already, but it gave us a great opportunity to get up high, look around and feel things out on multiple aspects. We liked what we saw, so the following day, Kieran and I decided to step it up a notch.

Always enjoyable: Forever Young.

Finishing the Jupiter Traverse with a descent of the fairly massive Thorington has long been on my list of things to do, but for various reasons, it’s never quite worked out. This seemed like a great moment to turn that around though, and that’s exactly what we did.

Travel was quick and convenient up the valley to Triangle Moraine on a great skintrack highway. From there, we got to break trail as the previous day’s little-used track had been filled in by some light wind overnight. A relaxed lunch in the warm sun at Sapphire Col, and we headed up Castor Peak – the first of the three which make up the traverse. Also the easiest, especially with the bootpack already set.

Pollux and Leda, the next two peaks, were up to us though. We realized quite quickly why the creators of the Castor bootpack had dropped in where they did. A monster cornice, nipple deep facet wallowing and early season route finding challenges made the rest of the traverse a bit of a project. The cornice in particular is notably nasty and deserves a great deal of respect.

Kieran wallows downhill for a moment.

Eventually, we did summit Leda though, and from there all that was left was a gorgeous run down the absolutely massive Thorington ramp. We’d been scooped by a few parties who had come around the back without doing the traverse, but that was alright. It’s a vertical kilometer of sustained fall line and plenty roomy width wise as well, so neither of us had any trouble finding space for our own lines.

Upon arriving at the bottom we both agreed: the Jupiter Traverse and the Thorington are both classics for a reason.

We gave some legitimate thought to a sunset lap on Young’s peak to close out our day. Feeling confident in the snowpack on these steep polar aspects though, we elected to save our legs for further exploration tomorrow. We schemed in the car while heading back home to Golden for some rest.

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