Backcountry Skiing in Colorado

Skiing and Hiking in the Colorado Backcountry


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Cross Couloir, Mt. Of the Holy Cross (14,005′)

 

Mt. of the Holy Cross smiles, as if to say "you're welcome."

Mt. of the Holy Cross smiles, as if to say “you’re welcome.”

We all have those goals in life that just seem like they’re never going to materialize.  We try and try, yet something always finds a way to thwart our best laid plans.  Then, one day, the clouds part and you see your goal in front of you in all its glory.  For the first time it appears totally attainable and that attainment unfolds almost effortlessly.  For me, this scenario describes my relationship with Mt. of the Holy Cross to a T.

For 5 years I’ve wanted to ski this mountain but it never quite worked out.  No partner…road closed…bad snow year…. and then last year I finally made it to the base of the elusive couloir… only to be shut down in the worst way.

But this year would be different, very different.

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Red Peak – What Big Eyes You Have Couloir

As April came and went without getting a tour in, I was itching to get into the mountains and ski something big.  I reached out to Eric to see if he’d be down.  At first he told me he was busy on Sunday, then I sent him this picture:

What Big Eyes You Have Couloir.  Photo courtesy of Stan Wagon, www.stanwagon.com

What Big Eyes You Have Couloir. Photo courtesy of Stan Wagon, http://www.stanwagon.com

Needless to say, Eric was in.

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Portillo, Incredible Portillo

 

Pretty much every skier in North America knows that when the snow melts, and summer arrives it’s time to shift gears.  The mountain bikes come out, the trail running shoes go on and we go about our summer.  Yet, in the back of our minds we all know that somewhere down south… way down south, it’s winter, and winter means skiing.  Some of us have a harder time than others shifting gears.  Before last summer I had skied 32 months straight, until the Colorado drought put a stop to that.  This summer I knew I would need something more than skiing dirty snow on St. Mary’s glacier.  So a year ago, I booked a trip to Portillo, Chile, with my friend Marcus.  What followed was an incredible, life-changing experience which I will never forget. Continue reading


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Notch Top At Last

On June 2nd Eric and I set out from Denver at 1:30am. We met up in Boulder at 2am to transfer gear and make the drive to the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive was a familiar one, since this would be the 3rd time in over a year that we had attempted this line. Our hopes were high that this would be our day.

Ptarmigan Cirque from Lake Helene.  Notch Top Mountain is on the right.

Ptarmigan Cirque from Lake Helene. Notch Top Mountain is on the right.

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La Plata, Eric’s First 14er

La Plata… ain’t she a beaut?

It was another 1am departure as Eric Internicola and I left Denver to try and tackle La Plata Peak (14, 336′) on June 3rd.  This would mark my 32nd straight month skiing and for Eric, this would be his first attempt at both a 14er climb, let alone a ski descent.  Needless to say he was pretty pumped, but I could tell Eric was concerned about his fitness.  Eric would be the first to tell you he was moving slowly on our attempt at Notch Top which turned into a descent on Dragontail.  Although I think it was more the weather than Eric’s pace that led to a plan B descent, I know Eric did not want to keep us from summiting La Plata, and I was sure he was up for the challenge. Continue reading


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Mt. Elbert (14,433′), The Top of Colorado!

On May 28th Jon Jay and I set out for an early morning assault toward a thin Box Creek Cirque on Mt. Elbert.  I climbed Mt. Massive over 5 years ago and have wanted to get after Elbert for a while now.  However, I figured if I was going to climb it, I’d rather get a good ski in as well.  I’d just been waiting for the right time and Jon was down for the trip… it was on! Continue reading


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Hopeful on Cinco de Mayo

Mt. Hope, Hopeful Couloir Descent

I’ve been waiting to publish this trip report to make sure I give it the credit it deserves.  On April 28th I attempted the Hopeful Couloir on Mt. Hope (13,933′) with my buddy Eric and due to some route-finding errors (actually one BIG route-finding error) we never made it.  Hungry for redemption I called Jon Jay that week and told him I knew where to go, and we were going to ski the Hopeful.  Jon agreed (as he usually does) and I met him at the trailhead at 4:15 am and we started to climb.  Much like my trip up Dragon Tail I knew we would be fighting a hot sun so we set a brisk pace with headlamps donned. Continue reading