ASPEN, CO — The Lost Man Loop on Independence Pass is one of Colorado’s favorite day hikes and spring ski tours, topping out at an altitude of 12,800 feet high above Aspen. Normally skied by driving to the trailhead as soon as the pass opens, my wife Natalie and I decided to give it a try even though heavy snow has kept Independence closed for another week. To make this adventure happen, we packed up our trusty Madshus Nanosonic skate skis on our Alpina team issue packs and hopped aboard our road bikes for the hour and a half bicycle to the Lower Lost Man trail head.
Once there, we stashed our cycling gear behind some trees at the trailhead and geared up for a long climb to Lost Man saddle at 12,800 feet. The normally reliable freeze at 10,000 feet didn’t materialize the night before, and what might have been an easy cruise turned into a wet, dirty slog for most of the day, but we were committed to making the loop over Lost Man and back around to the car. Climbing ever higher, skating became increasingly more difficult and we eventually succumbed, making it to the top with a mixed side step and herringbone technique. But we made it, and for me, this first time out in the big backcountry after years of groomed trails and in-bounds skiing, felt like a great accomplishment. The total beauty was inspiring and the depth of view and steepness of the surrounding slopes brought on a feeling of vertigo. What utter joy to make it.
Over the top we were able to carve some solid turns before we bottomed out in the valley below. Natalie and I spent the next hour and a half figuring out good, downhill, V-1 technique as the snow was impossibly slow. Near the ghost town of Independence, the snow finally gave into the heat and we began to bottom out, we would have to go on foot from there. After a 1.5 mile jog, we finally made it back to the bikes, and after gearing up for the long descent, we were coasting back down to the car. The bonk was starting to set in when we mercifully made it back in just under 8 hours since we had left. Memorial day was truly memorable for us this May, thanks to an epic winter and two of the greatest tools humans have ever invented, the skis and the bike.
Natalie and I also want to take a moment to offer thanks to all the veterans that have helped make this country great and to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Thank you.