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Holy Frozen Water: Laura Hadar’s Colorado 14er Project

2
Jun

Laura Hadar drops through the Snake Couloir on Mt. Sneffels, May 2017.

What brings you passion? What gives you purpose?

These are the questions that inspired veteran pro shredder Laura Hadar to embark on an ambitious new backcountry snowboarding project. Laura is now 20+ summits deep in a quest to be the first woman to ride all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers.

We are beyond stoked to begin working with Laura on this peak project. Laura has been a super hero of snowboarding for over a decade, helping set the standard for women’s street and backcountry freestyle riding. This is a whole new shred chapter for her and no doubt it will be a wild ride. Honored to help support this dream and share her stories as her splitboard adventures unfold over the next year. Laura hopes to finish the project in 2018.

Read on to see some rad images from Laura’s journey thus far, plus hear highlights from the first twenty summits.

Early morning approach to Little Bear, April 2017

What inspired you to take on this project?

The project was really a product of time and place. I recently moved back to Colorado after living in Portland and I didn’t have that thing in my life. I have always been really goal oriented, like this is the next thing I am doing. For a long time the thing was pro snowboarding. Then I opened a shop and that was my thing. When I moved back to Colorado I started coaching and it was really cool, but I questioned my purpose. I was missing something in my life to work towards and focus on. That’s when I met my partner in the project, Nicky Anastas. In May 2016 Nick and I rode my first 14er together, Castle Peak. Then we made an attempt on South Maroon in the Maroon Bells near Aspen. The route on South Maroon is really committing. We bailed on our first try because of too much snow, but we went back a week later and rode it successfully. Ten days later we rode North Maroon which was even more technical, definitely the most technical line I have ever hiked and rode down. After that I was like, ’Damn, I don’t think any woman has ever snowboarded these lines?’ Got me thinking that if no woman has ridden all fifty-four, why not try to be the first? That could be a project I could get into.

How many peaks did you cross off the list last winter?

We rode five - Castle Peak, North and South Maroon, Torreys and Quandary. After that I was hooked. I needed to ride them all.


The route up and down the Widow Maker on Mt. Windom. (Blue = Up, Red = Down), May 2017.

When did you start chasing summits this winter?

Nicky and I finished up winter work in March and then started after it again. We’ve been on the road over two months now. First peaks in 2017 were in the Collegiates - Belford, Missouri and Oxford. We’re up to 17 in 2017 now, 22 total. Our goal for 2017 is 20 so we have a few more to do before we start summer work.

Dropping off the summit of Blanca Peak.

What have been the highlight lines of 2017?

Blanca Peak and Little Bear were both pretty heavy. On Blanca you get three turns off the top, then you must navigate through twenty feet of death rocks. I didn’t unstrap, I just downclimbed on my edges and an ice axe. I had never done anything like that on a snowboard. After the pepper the route opens up into a nice apron thankfully.

Climbing the Hour Glass on Little Bear.

Little Bear is considered one of the gnarlier ones and it lived up to it’s reputation, so scary! The upper face funnels down into an hourglass chute that splits the lower face. Definitely sketchy in unstable conditions. We had pretty good conditions though, just a little bit of ice poking out below pow. The drop off was insane though and strong winds made things even more crazy.

Dropping off the summit of Little Bear.

We also just rode the Snake Couloir on Mt. Sneffels. It’s a really iconic line that you can see from the highway outside Ouray. There’s a fourth class rock section you gotta climb at the top of the approach couloir. First time busting climbing moves that high was kinda gnarly. Then you rappel down into the couloir which is super sick.

Climbing through a fourth class rock pinch on Mt. Sneffels, April 2017.

What is your average approach? Have you been going in overnight?

If it’s an area with more then one peak we’ll do an overnight mission. For Blanca, Little Bear and Ellingwood we spent a couple nights in a renegade cabin on the Lake Como road. Most approaches are between 5-7 miles to camp. Then no more then 9 miles roundtrip to the summits.

One of things that is so great about climbing these mountains in the winter is that there is no one out there. All the trailheads are empty, all the campgrounds are empty, we might see 1-2 parties max and they are rarely going in overnight like we are. It’s a really nice time to be in the Colorado wilderness.


Touring into the Chicago Basin, May 2017.

How have the snow conditions treated you?

We’re not going for good conditions necessarily. We’re going for peaks and a lot of times, in order to safely climb them, you want semi shitty snowboarding conditions. It’s best when the snow pack is locked up and stable which means you don’t want knee deep pow. The snow conditions are usually really variable. Often times the snow doesn’t get good until you get down into the heart of the line.

What summits still on the list scare you the most?

The two that have me really scared are Pyramid and Capitol Peaks. They are both in our backyard. We can see Pyramid from Aspen Highlands. The Landry line on Pyramid is ridiculously steep and exposed. It’s doable, but you need perfect conditions, and even then I’m sure it’s scary as fuck. The Landry is perfect this year, but we are saving it because I’m scared, haha. And we want to save some of the bigger lines for when we have more attention to the project. We’ve been filming all our lines and are planning to produce a documentary edit once we’ve completed the project. My partner Nicky is a film major so he has been focused on the shooting. He’s also a tele skier and we’re pretty sure no tele skier has ever skied all 54 either.

How many people have skied all 54?

I think twelve male skiers, three female skiers and three male snowboarders have ridden them all.

The partnership behind the project, Nicky Anastas and Laura.

What inspires your confidence in completing the project?

Well, we started with success on the Maroons which are some of the harder ones. That gave me confidence for the rest of the gnarly lines. And there are a lot of 14ers that are not that technical, like the Sawatch and Collegiates in Summit County. They are basically just big hills. But more then confidence, the project will just take patience. The goal is to snowboard them all, not die or get hurt on one of them. Hopefully the snow is good next year and we can finish the rest, but if we need to back off because bad conditions we will.

How has the project re-fueled your personal stoke?

I’m just really happy that the mountains called me back. I don’t know what’s next after this project, which is kinda scary, but it’s also exciting. It’s helping me see that you can have different priorities in life, you don’t have to settle down and just get a new car payment. It’s also been really nice to reconnect with my snowboard in a new way. My snowboard has always been there for me, telling me everything is going to be OK. It still works every time. Soon as I take my snowboard into the wilderness I get this feeling that everything is going to be OK.

Rippin’ through the sun butter on Mt. Shavano, April 2017.

Follow Laura’s progress on instagram at @laura.hadar #holyfrozenwater

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Category
Adventure Season, Trip Reports
Published on
2 June 2017

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