Powell Peak, October 1973

When Paul failed to show at 6:00 I drank more coffee, paced the house, and thought with irritation that he probably had overslept. Sunrise lit the foothills in yellow October light, perfect weather for climbing. I moved outdoors through the clear air to fetch firewood and kill time with small chores, looking up at the mountains and back down at my watch. It would be a beautiful day on the divide. I went back inside to share a second breakfast with my wife. The fine day was slipping away.

As the sun moved higher I slowly accepted that our planned alpine adventure -- an ascent of Powell Peak's North Face icefield -- was not going to happen. Shortly before lunchtime, Paul rattled up the dirt road in his fading green truck. He explained that it had broken down on the drive to Lyons.

It was too late for the icefield. Our motivation for a big effort was gone anyway, along with the early-morning light. Still, the sky remained cloudless; we ought to do something. Near my house in Pinewood Springs sat a number of small crags, one of which, V-Slot Rock, featured a 5.9 corner that looked possibly worthwhile. Leaving alpine gear at home in heaps, Paul and I racked crag gear instead and slogged up the approach. The V-Slot turned out to be okay. It felt disappointing, though. All afternoon I imagined the bite of crampons and swing of an axe on Powell Peak's cold north face.

A few days later we learned that two friends from Boulder had set out that same morning, in a more reliable car, for the Powell Peak icefield. While I had been pacing around my house and Paul was coaxing his truck, Bob Hritz and David Emerick climbed from shadows towards blue sky. Soft new snow over last summer's ice made their ascent unexpectedly easy. Then, as they neared the top, the snow cover began to slide. An avalanche swept all life off the route.

Larry Hamilton, 2002