Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  04/22/2012
Date Climbed:   04/22/2012
Author:  scramble
Additional Members:   SnowAlien
 Democrat SE Slopes Ski   

"For tomorrow may rain, but I'll follow the snow."

Just wanted to upload the photo of the line we took and give a bit of description, since I didn't find a lot of existing info on this route. Hope it helps somebody!


My ascent/the group descent is marked in purple. The green dots are spots that I thought were steep enough that I liked to have my ice axe security blanket. The orange marks the ridge that half of our group took.

From Kite Lake, we kind of followed the first bit of the "South Slopes Ski" route, but then took a right onto a snowy ramp. Skinning was fine until the ramp got steeper. Some people did okay and some people struggled. A couple people in our group were able to switchback up the whole face without ski crampons or anything, which I found really impressive. Some of the slopes were steep enough that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to stop a fall without an axe, so I switched from skis and skins to crampons and ice axe.

I bet if we started earlier like 7 or 8 am, the snow climb would be a lot of fun. It was pretty post-holey and tiring for me. Plunging the whole shaft of the axe into the snow in front of me, grabbing it with both hands and duck-footing up worked ok for me. The slope was ~40 degrees at its steepest.

After getting over the ridge, um I told myself that walking over loose talus/scree slopes in ski boots builds character. The summit is obvious on the left. Just have to go up, then to a relatively flat bit and then up to the summit. We all met at the top. Natalie did a steeper snow climb to get there, maybe she will report on it too!

There was a bit of snow to ski off the summit. Whee. Then climbing down more loose crap to get over the same ridge and back to the snow slope I had exited. (Skis in one hand, poles in the other, wobble wobble.)

The ski was similar to some of the steeper resort back bowls. Space for traversing and wider turns if needed. You probably wouldn't want to do a cartwheeling fall into some rocks at the beginning, but otherwise the terrain was pretty mellow.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

I am
04/23/2012 05:49
the somebody that is looking for something to do on skis. Thank you!


04/23/2012 21:59
Would the lower part of the upper bowl(below the top rocks) be skiable by a more beginner skier?


upper bowl
04/24/2012 00:59
yes the wide snowy bowl between the top rocks and the ramp we took across the bottom part had few obstacles to avoid and it was generally less steep. (if you fell, you'd stop.) you can see the faint horizontal line of rocks at the end of the bowl. from there, perhaps some more care is required.

sorry if it's obvious but i'll note that it's a solar aspect near avy terrain so i'd recommend the necessary training/equipment/CAIC checking/keeping an eye on conditions during the day/etc.


04/25/2012 00:35
Would this be a good novice snow climb(room for error) and would the upper bowl be a good first ski descent of a 14er? Would there still be enough snow in early to mid May and would it be stable? Sorry for all the questions, I am not very experienced.


re: your questions
04/25/2012 04:03
hey lots of people on this site have been awesome about answering my questions so don't worry about asking! ooh but i am not very experienced either and i don't know what you're used to skiing. i can try to answer your questions, but take my answers with some salt.

i think it is a good novice snow climb, assuming you've already spent a day or two walking around in crampons, practiced self-arrest with every permutation of the ways you can fall until you feel good about being able to stop yourself, and you're used to using your axe as a cane on more moderate slopes. you should know how to use your axe as a self-belay and how to ascend a slope with crampons. helpful to me were instructional youtube videos, the snow chapter of freedom of the hills and a day of practice on st mary's glacier.

if you have some backcountry skiing experience, you are used to the variable conditions in resort back bowls and spring snow the middle 1/3 of the line would be a fun ski. if not, maybe go fool around on st marys.

would there be enough snow? would it be stable? i can't say what the weather is going to do in the coming weeks. you've taken an avy class and are keeping an eye on i hope?


04/25/2012 22:34
I have only used an ice axe once(on Torreys) and didn't practice arrest techniques and have not used crampons. I would love to do a climb in the snow this year. I was going to try to climb/snowboard quandary but there is no snow. If democrat is too hard do you have any suggestions?


st mary's
04/26/2012 02:17
you could do james peak via the standard route that goes up st mary's glacier and board down the glacier. stay on the standard route and away from avy terrain (slopes > 25 degrees).


04/26/2012 02:32
Do you think I will be able to do Democrat after James Peak? If so, will it still be in good condition(enough snow) to climb in early June?

Air Squared

04/27/2012 17:02
You were the group we spent part of our hike that day watching.....that's my tent and Envoy in your picture. We got awesome shots of your ski route from the slopes of Bross. I've always wanted to board down a 14er, and this report has given me more motivation than I'll ever need. Thanks!!!

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