| Bierstadt Winter Summit Ski Descent
-Guannella Pass Power Station Road Closure to Guannella Pass Summit with Snowmobile
-Guannalla Pass Summit to Bierstadt Summit via West Slopes
-Ski Descent of West Slopes (D3 / R1 / II)
Stats (not including snowmobile) :
-Elevation Climbed and Skied: 2,850'
-Mileage: 7.0 miles
Snowmobile to Guannella Pass Summit, 12-23:
With the first Blizzard of 2006 over, I set my eyes on getting some big peaks skied which generally dont hold good snow for summit ski descents. The first objective was Bierstadt's west slopes. My brother Ted and I, who I am stoked is getting into climbing, started off Saturday the 23rd of December by driving up to the power station road closure on Guannella pass from Georgetown towing our two Polaris RMKs. The unplowed road beyond looked perfect for some snowmobile face shots at high speed. Oh ya, and it was bluebird
Making the sled track up the switchbacks to Guannella Pass summit
The sled in was great until we reached the swichbacks were multiple instances of digging the sleds out of 5 feet of snow had us replanning our goals for the adventure. Anyone thinking using snowmobiles makes this easier is either a very experienced sledder or hasnt ever driven them in deep and rotten Colorado snowpack. Making this sled track was more work and took longer than it would have to simply skin up the road. So instead of summiting Bierstadt and skiing it this day, we planned to finish the sled track to the pass summit and return Christmas Eve to complete the job.
Finally, the sleds got to the top of the pass, time for some deep pow turns down the switchbacks
Adversity is always present on winter climbs of 14ers and I had my share on this one. After finishing the track to the summer trailhead around 1:30pm (3.5 miles) we got in a ski lap of the switchbacks through the deep snow. On the drive out down the pass, I fell forward into the windshield of my snowmachine and busted my left front tooth in half. (Ya ya ya, faceshield you dumba$$!) After spitting out tooth chuncks we got back to the truck and called my dentist. He kicks a$$... met me at his office at 8:00 pm ready for a root canal. Luckly, I didnt need it as a small bit of tooth surrounded the root yet so he rebuilt it with a tooth covered filling. Now thats service!
Summit Ascent, 12-24:
My brother bailed on me to return for the summit citing some BS about his girlfriend not approving so I headed out solo. After unloading the sled and getting ready at the road closure, I was on my way at 9:45 am and at the summer trailhead by 10:00pm. Yes, with a sled track, its really easy to put miles behind you with the two stroke.
Gasing up the sled at the end of winter maintainence on the pass
The weather was far more ominous this day as all the high peaks were covered in cloud and the wind roared; it was cold. I rarely need my third layer, but this day I wore it even while skinning up to the summit. Balaclava very necessary as I was constantly fighting back the frostbite. There was more snow on the West slopes of Bierstadt than I have ever seen personally or in any pic. The skiing promised to be well worth the climb.
Looking toward the summit of Mt. Bierstadt from Guannella Pass summit
The willows were very deep and very rotten. After wallowing for an hour and a half or so I reached the lower slopes of the mountain and practiced avalanche terrain avoidance in the lower cliffbands. Luckly, the clouds began to break up a bit.
Looking up Bierstadt's west slopes from the east side of the Scott Gomer willow fields
The gentle slopes after this were a breeze. Up high near the ridge the snow was heavily wind affected with 3 feet deep troughs of frozen ocean. The ridge to the summit was heavily corniced as usual so I would get a summit descent. It took me nearly 3 hours to summit from the pass which is slow IMO. I blame the willows
Looking west southwest off the summit of Mt. Bierstadt, Christmas Eve 2006
Ski Descent of West Slopes:
After getting some pics, I began my ski from the summit. Skiing next to a 15' cornice with a 6 foot wide snow track is always a joy, especially if its styrophome windboard. I actually got in some really good turns just before the saddle and then some boney ones out onto the large west slope snowfield.
Skiing down the summit ridge of Mt. Bierstadt
After passing the frozen ocean of the upper slopes, the snow became very enjoyable powder on the lower slopes. Did I mention the snow was blowing off the mountain rapidly as I skied it. Yep, I am sure the mountain is bare as usually by now. This next upslope should open another window of goodness though.
Looking down my ski line on the west slopes of Mt. Bierstadt
Skiing through the lower cliffbands was the best of the day.
Evidence of my ski descent through the lower cliffbands of Bierstadt's West slope
With the willows once again behind me I was back at the sled were I tugged on it a good 50 times before it started (always does that). Over the hills and through the woods to Christmas Eve dinner I went.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):