| Mt. Toll Ski Descent
Mt. Toll (12,979 ft)
Indian Peaks Wilderness
May 4, 2012
Skiers: Alan (clemsonmtneer), Sarah (sstratta)
There is still some good skiing to be had out there, even this year! I haven't seen much beta on the Indian Peaks recently, so hopefully this will be helpful. Sarah and I met at Brainard Lake on Thursday night... shockingly, the road was actually opened all the way past the lake! (still gated before the Mitchell Lake trailhead, but only a short walk). This was huge, since we had fully expected it to be closed till June 15, and had planned to just hike the 2.5 miles to the trailhead. Apparently it might only be open on a limited basis until June 15, from what I've been reading, but who knows. Maybe we just got lucky.
We slept in our cars on Thursday night, and were hiking by 5 am Friday morning. There is continuous snow all the way from the parking lot. We mistakingly decided to leave the skins in the car, thinking the snow would be firm enough to hike in our ski boots no problem, but we were wrong. Lots of postholing even at that hour. The snow below treeline did not see a good freeze, but fortunately, the snow above treeline saw a strong freeze as we would find out. The trip started out rough with the post-holing, very strong winds, and some route-finding difficulties with no defined set of tracks after the first half mile.
Once we made it past Mitchell Lake, we were able to mostly stay out of the deep trees and on firmer snow, which helped make the going quicker. Amazingly, the wind pretty much stopped completely, too, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful morning.
Mt. Toll in the background
A closer look at our intended ski line
Eventually, we made it to spectacular Blue Lake, with Mt. Toll rising tall right above. We hiked around the right shore of the lake, up into a basin below the lake. From there, the we put on our crampons as we had three pretty steep sections to climb to reach the summit.
Sarah in front of Blue Lake and Mt. Toll
Alan in front of Blue Lake and Mt. Toll
Sarah hiking above Blue Lake
The snow was softening/corning up as we climbed, and it was becoming apparent that we were going to have great skiing conditions.
Alan kicking steps up Mt. Toll
We reached the summit around 10 am. A little later than I would have preferred, but with a surprisingly good freeze (in spite of what turned into a record warm Friday), we still caught the snow while it was prime. The views from the summit of Mt. Toll of the surrounding Indian Peaks are probably better than most 14ers I've been on.
Sarah approaching the summit of Mt. Toll, Navajo and Apache Peaks in the background
We took a quick break and refueled on the summit. It would have been great to enjoy the sunny, windless weather on the summit for longer, but with the quickly warming temps, we couldn't hang around for too long.
The skiing ended up being amazing. Perfect five-star corn snow for the most part. Good, fairly steep skiing most of the way, too.
Sarah skiing off the summit
On the second pitch, we stayed skiers left and hit a mini couloir that was maybe 45 degrees at the most, and was really, really fun to ski.
View of the couloir from the climb up
Alan dropping into the mini couloir
Sarah making turns in the mini couloir
Even after the fun, steep section, the skiing the rest of the way down to Blue Lake was fantastic. Really couldn't have asked for better conditions. This next picture, my camera decided not to focus, but it shows the main slope with Blue Lake below. We exited on skier's right side of Blue Lake (opposite of our ascent) and found better skiing than we would have on the other side.
Sarah skiing the main section
Alan skiing the final pitch above Blue Lake
Sarah skiing the final pitch above Blue Lake
It was all smiles when we reached Blue Lake
Surprisingly, we were able to ski all the way back to the trailhead, only having to take our skis off once for a brief time. Of course we did have to get creative and do some bushwhacking, but that's all part of the fun. We took our time, enjoying the classic Colorado bluebird day, and it was actually pretty easy getting out of there. We found some old ski tracks that we followed the rest of the way back. Whoever's they were, they knew where they were going, even through the mazes through the woods, and were very helpful!
Sarah skiing along the shore of Mitchell Lake
Getting creative on the way out
Took these last couple of shots of Navajo, Apache, etc. from Brainard Lake on the way out, to hopefully give people an idea of snow conditions on these peaks. Looks like that couloir on Apache (is it Queens Way?) is in. Crooked Couloir on Audubon is not even close to being in, just in case anyone is wondering.
With all the negativity around the skiing and poor snow conditions this year (and understandably so), it was great to find such an awesome spring descent. Toll is in prime skiing shape for the time being.
Also, I had the helmet cam with me, so here's a little video from the ski descent.
Mt. Toll Ski Descent Video
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):