Peak(s):  Mt. Toll - 12,979 feet
Date Posted:  05/07/2012
Date Climbed:   05/04/2012
Author:  clemsonmtneer
Additional Members:   sstratta
 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):

 Comments or Questions

Very nice!
05/08/2012 11:23
This has been on my to-do list for awhile. Thanks for the great photos and nice job! Glad you both found some nice snow!

Dave B

06/22/2012 13:18
Thanks for the beta and good TR! If the road's open, my plans for Friday just might have changed.


Decent spring
05/08/2012 13:55
”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.”

Isn't that the truth! This spring has been uniformly good, certainly much better skiing than I found most of the winter. Another few inches yesterday should help stretch it out a bit longer.


IPW looks dry
05/08/2012 19:02
cept for Toll. That face always seems to deliver. Nice report and ski.


05/08/2012 19:19
Anybody up for checking out Apache?


05/08/2012 19:24
On Sunday I dropped into the little mini couloir you guys skied. We were stuck in a whiteout and I found a foot of snow on top of my Jeep by the time we returned. I'll post an update. There's more to be done with skis in the IPW this year yet.


On the list!
05/08/2012 20:25
This peak has been on my list for two seasons now. Nice work. In image 10 are those Highball or Manhattan skis? G3 makes some good ones.


05/09/2012 13:51
Those skis are the Highballs. Absolutely love them, first season on a pair of rockers, and they have been great in every type of conditions/terrain... would highly recommend.

Didn't realize it snowed that much up there! They definitely need it, that's for sure. Glad you made it down safe, and hopefully got some good powder turns as well.

I was thinking the exact same thing, how the spring skiing that day was better than just about any ski day this winter, with maybe one or two exceptions.


Nice Job
05/09/2012 13:59
Looks like a fun day out!

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