It was right around 8 pm on Tuesday May 24th when Brent Meyer reached out to me about a backcountry mission for the following day. The texts read "Free tomorrow and have energy for an early mission? Leaving Breck at 5am. Drift Peak off Mayflower Gulch." That meant a very early 3 am wake up for me in Denver so I hesitated to say yes. I did some quick research and Drift Peak was no joke. At 13,900 ft it's not quite a 14er but had all the same challenges of a long approach and a solid elevation gain of 3,000 ft over 3 miles from the trailhead. After a few more texts figuring out details, Brent let me know that he had never done Drift before and that his buddy was leading the way and that his buddy moved quick. Not wanting to possibly slow down someone I had never met before I decided that it was best if I sat this one out.
Luckily Brent encouraged me to come and told me to think it over and let him know within the hour. By 9 pm I had decided that I would suck it up and do whatever I could to keep pace with Brent and his friend. I was in. I finished up whatever work I had left for the evening, had dinner and started prepping for the next day.
The clock struck 3 am and the hardest part of any backcountry day had arrived: getting out of bed. With the struggle being real, I managed to get up, brush my teeth, make a cup of coffee and hit the road. Just before getting to the parking lot at the trailhead, to my left I was able to see what looked like a fun, albeit intimidating peak, a few miles down a valley. A couple of hundred feet later I found the parking lot which confirmed I saw Drift Peak. So I popped the car in reverse and stopped in the middle of the road to get a few pictures. This is definitely not recommended but it was 5 am and there were no other cars on the road and I wasn't sure if I'd get another chance to capture the whole face on the approach.
I arrived a solid 30 minutes before Brent and his friend to give myself plenty of time to gear up. First impressions are everything so naturally I did not want to risk holding them up right from the start! They pulled up and I met Brent's friend who was introduced as simply Chad. We went over some last second gear choices and got on our way. Chad and I were on splitboards and Brent was bootpacking directly from the parking lot.
The first 1.5 miles on the initial approach are pretty mellow without much elevation gain and a solid skin track. It isn't until you pass the old abandoned mining buildings around 11,600 ft that things start to pick up a bit. We stayed together until about 11,900 ft where Brent opted to climb up the ridge to our right and follow the ridgeline. Chad and I continued skinning more or less straight another 1/4 mile or so before making the decision to get our of skin mode, throw our crampons on and climb up the ridge on the right. We had the option to continue skinning a little further and going up the west face of Drift Peak(which the only other person we ran into that day ended up doing) but that had a more strenuous climb than simply following the ridge.
Up until this point the weather was very calm and quite pleasant but as soon as we gained the ridge I realized why it was called Drift Peak. The wind whipped around the mountain from the valley behind it and across the ridge. We were in for a little bit of a chilly ascent. At this point we also linked up with Brent again and scouted our lines before we started making our way up. Although we were rapidly gaining elevation, there was a solid bootpack to follow which made things a bit easier.
Brent wasn't kidding when he said Chad is quick as he was a couple hundred feet ahead of us for the entire climb and only periodically stopping just long enough for us to catch up. We reached the summit a little before 10 am. Our descent was west facing so that meant it was time to hang out and wait for the sun to do it's thing and soften up the snow a bit before we were to drop in.
With the hard part being over with the only thing left to do was to duck out of the wind, dig out a snow bench and relax until our descent. Among the random topics of discussion, Brent and Chad had an ongoing joke about DMX so I figured this was the ideal time to let them know that DMX was from my home town. Here we were, sitting atop 13,900 ft, talking about a rapper from Yonkers, NY of all things.
After an hour and a half long powwow we decided it was time to drop in. The snow was nice and soft up by us and we were hoping it would have the same consistency for the whole way down. Unfortunately, it did not. We got some great turns in for the big open upper face but about halfway down the snow was still very firm. Checking our images of the face from the approach, we carefully made our way down the lower half of the face into the chute we thought we had planned to go down. Once all three of us were safely down we looked back up to realize that we went down the wrong chute but were lucky enough that it had a clean runout.
With the help of my collapsable poles I was able to make it most of the way back to the parking lot. Once back at the cars we gave ourselves the obligatory high fives, loaded up the cars and went on our way. There was something in the back of my mind all day... was that the Chad Otterstrom I had watched in video parts growing up? He was introduced as simply Chad and I didn't want to embarrass myself if I was wrong so I didn't ask. Once back down in Denver I went and checked Instagram and low and behold Chad Otterstrom tried tagging me in his post from Drift Peak. I had just spent the day in the backcountry with two OG's of snowboarding!