Byers Peak: Last and First

Sure, it was a little desperate, but after a winter like ours, who doesn’t want to end the ski season under blue skies, with a good buddy, a relaxing day, and some primo corn? We chose Byers Peak, outside Winter Park, for a potentially season-ending session. At just shy of 13K, with a loooong approach in winter, we tried to get up there while the road is drivable/rideable, but with enough snow to still ski–for the most part, mission accomplished.

Avy guru, Brian Lazar, on the NE ridge of Byers, about to indulge in a happy meal of corn, corn, and then some more corn…

We drove in one of the approach roads from the Fraser Valley, stashed the car at a gate, then pedaled the final 2.5 miles and 1000 feet of road to forested slopes at about 10,500 feet. From there it was easy skinning on frozen snow to treeline and then a scenic cruise up to our high point at 12,750 feet or so. That point on the shoulder offered the most continuous line back to the trees, so we ripped skins and enjoyed the ride.

A bit of combat traversing from 11,500 to the bikes and we were home free…or so we thought. Descending the road in ski boots, with skis a-framed across our packs, we made good time until my bud, Brian Lazar, hit the deck outta nowhere. I was 50 feet behind and watched the whole debacle: down on his right side HARD, not quite an endo (thankfully), but definitely an awkward skid along his right arm, across his chest, to a stop. I rolled up and surveyed the carnage.

“My handlebars broke,” he said calm as could be.

I was banking on a busted collarbone at a minimum, but he seemed pretty relaxed.

“You sure you’re cool?” I asked.

He looked up and down his arms (serious scrapes), stretched his arms out (no prob), and pointed out a few gruesome flappers on his hands–but other than that, nada. His handlebar, indeed, had sheared off clean at the edge of his stem. WTF?!

Had this been a Campagnolo product, it would have failed upon arrival at the car, without any danger to the pilot. Mmmph.

Moments after hitting the deck, Lazar inspects the damage: a 20-year-old mtn bike converted to a townie…yep, something was bound to fail.

We lucked out. Lazar pancaked on a soft section of road with few big rocks, right at the edge of a snow patch, so he slid pretty easily and didn’t shred against rubble or gravel. Phew.

Whether or not that’s the end of my season remains to be seen. I have a possible guiding gig with some high schoolers just after Memorial Day, but they’re gunning for some “ski mountaineering” and I’m not sure there will be much to deliver. We’ll see. Until then, maybe it’s time to hit the mountain bike and get on the rock…. Right on!

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