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Guides Ridge: Scary 'intro' winter route up Mount Crested Butte
MT. CRESTED BUTTE — John MacKinnon steps tentatively onto the steep, icy face, the heels of his boots teetering hundreds of feet above the deck.
"Ah, you're in luck," he hollers. "You're getting the whole package today. You're getting rock climbing, snow climbing and ice climbing. Be careful here."
Although it looks intimidating, the wintertime Guides Ridge route up to the 12,162-foot summit of Mt. Crested Butte is an everyman's climb, more scramble than technical, yet terrifically exposed. And since a chairlift replaces the typical several-hour approach of most high-alpine technical ascents, the route is perfect preparation for aspiring alpineers.
"Really, it is accessible to anyone who is fit," said MacKinnon, my guide on this trek. "A great introduction to winter alpine climbing if you are thinking about fourteeners like Capitol (Peak) or the (Maroon) Bells."
Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Crested Butte Mountain Guides began offering winter ascents of the knife ridge, which usually is scaled only in the summer, this year.
The route was first winter-tested for guests by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association — certified guides at the venerable Crested Butte Mountain Guides outfit, several of whom are experienced in classic European winter ascents. The crew's guide-training on the ridge two years ago planted a seed.
Read more about the climb and what a few ski mountaineers thought of the route.