Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  06/19/2013
Date Climbed:   06/10/2013
Author:  MonGoose
Additional Members:   BenfromtheEast
 Skiing Laps on Mt Columbia   

Mountain: Mt Columbia
Route: Ascend SW Couloir, Ski Descent (currently under review), and Scree Descent of West Slopes (standard route - Class II)
RT Elevation: 4,250'
RT Distance: 12.5 Miles
Travel time: 13 hours (yes, I realize that's < 1 mph)

Group Members:
Ben (BenFromtheEast) - Ski Dreamer
Nick (MonGoose) - Summit or Bust!

Throughout the spring, Ben and I shared the dream of skiing our first 14er. While I was achieving this feat on Quandary Peak back in April, Ben was stuck in graduate school, buried under a mound of thesis work, dreaming of one day skiing his first 14er. I told Ben I would love to ski a peak with him, but by the time we could both get a day off together, it was already the 10th of June. We knew the SW Couloir was in (thanks to beta from Speth and Zdero1) but we weren't sure how much snow was left after a warm week. I was confident there would not be enough snow for a ski descent, so I left the skis at home. But Ben was a man with a dream. I encouraged Ben to bring his skis because I figured that might slow him down just enough for me to keep up.

The Trail

We left the trailhead around 6:45am, I wish we could have slept in longer. The first 3 miles of the hike were pleasant, with no snow on the trail. Just below 11,000', we caught a glimpse of the SW Couloir where Ben immediately exited the trail and made a straight shot towards the snow proclaiming, "I seek the gnar!". It was easy hiking at first, until we got into a section of downed trees. Before we knew it, we were stuck in the thick of it as poor Ben was bouncing off of trees, trying to go over and under but his skis kept clanking along. Ben looked like a baby giraffe on roller skates trying to play a game of limbo. Like a good friend, I was there to pick him up when he fell down.

"Does that guy really think he is going to ski today?"
"Phfff, whatever."

Ben brought everything, except a chainsaw.

Finally the trees thinned and we were in the smaller brush of the avalanche run-out, just below the couloir. We figured we were out of the woods, so to speak, but the brush was rather difficult to navigate and at times annoying, as bushes scratched our knees and little thistles burrowed into our feet. A few feet of snow would have made travel through this section much easier. The day was heating up and the couloir was starting to come into view but still loomed in the distance.
A view of the route from the avalanche path.

Continuing onward above treeline, we followed the stream of water flowing down the gully that would lead us straight to the couloir. The ascent of the dry gully was okay but I wouldn't want to descend this route without snow.

I was hoping there'd be a little bit more snow here.

The Southwest Couloir

Around 12,000', we arrived at the snow (or what was left of it) which was in good condition in the late-morning. We quickly put on our crampons, pulled out the ice axes and began our ascent of the Southwest Couloir. Ben took two measurements of the slope angle: 37 and 42 degrees. A few sections on the south slope looked even steeper. If the couloir was completely filled in, lower angles would be available to ski down the gully. As has been previously discussed, much of the couloir lies between 35 - 45 degrees providing many areas capable of triggering an avalanche. The run-out avalanche path is also a good indicator that this guy is capable of a big slide.

For more skiing ostrich --> Click Here

Ben heading up the couloir with Mt Yale in the background.

A steeper section of the couloir. (Photo by Ben)

Snow is a state of mind.

The steepest part of the slope.

The Ridge

When we reached the ridge, Ben became disheartened at the lack of snow on the remaining trail to the summit. The couloir was growing soft and the window to ski was quickly closing. It was already 1:00, the couloir was turning to mush and clouds were starting to form overhead. A ski down would mean the end of the day.

I looked at Ben and asked, "What do you want to do?"
Ben replied "Let's push on for the summit," generously sacrificing his ski down the couloir in exchange for my summit attempt.
"You could leave your skis here, and we'll pick them up on the way down," I suggested.
"No! I'm taking my skis all the way to the summit".
Hmmm, not much snow.

The Summit

We reached the summit around 2:00pm after a long morning of climbing, and to our surprise, found a nice patch of snow on the summit. Ben's eyes lit up. Clouds were forming across the Sawatch Range and rain could be seen in the distance, but the skies above Mount Columbia were clear. We snapped a few photos, ate lunch and warded off an aggressive marmot who was vying for a free meal. I might have even filmed a dance video on the summit.

#48 for the MonGoose.

The bromance continues!

Ben preparing for his first ski descent!

I watched as Ben unstrapped his skis, helmet and gear from his backpack.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm going to ski Mount Columbia," he replied.
"But there's only 8' of snow?" I interjected.
"I came here to ski Mount Columbia and that's what I'm going to do."

Ski Descent - The Movie

When it was all said and done, Ben had summited and ski descended Mount Columbia 4 times - a feat never before accomplished in a single day. A combination of his four attempts netted him a total of 32 vertical feet of skiing. Unfortunately, we still had 4,242' left to descend to get back to the trailhead.

The Scree Descent

After Ben finished skiing, he strapped his skis back on his pack and we proceeded to hike down the standard route of Mount Columbia. I now understand why so many people feel such disdain for this route.

Skiing without snow is a rather popular pastime down under.

Ben shreds the Scree.

The Controversy - You Decide!

I dislike this entire trip report.

On the descent, Ben and I divulged into a heated disagreement over what constitutes a ski descent and more specifically, whether today's efforts warranted a ski dude check-mark. Granted Ben did ski from the summit as far as he could go and then carried his skis down the mountain, which was much more tiring than actually being able to ski the entire mountain. But, I'm reluctant to give it to him so easily. So, in an effort to settle our grievances, we have decided to throw open the debate in the court of public opinion to a group of unbiased and highly knowledgeable internet users (that's you!). Due to a lack of polling capability within the trip report format, we will use the "Like" and "Dislike" keys at the top of this page as the primary method to cast your vote.

If you feel that Ben deserves a ski dude for his efforts on Mount Columbia - "Like" this report.

If you feel Ben did not ski enough of the mountain to earn a ski dude - "Dislike" this report.

The results of the voting shall be considered as final and binding by both parties. Please state your opinions in deciding the fate of Ben's ski dude in the comments section below. Those with actual ski icons (aka real 14er skiers) next to their name will be given extra priority. Being new to skiing 14ers, it would nice to hear your opinion on what constitutes a ski descent? When the snow runs out before reaching the car, where do you draw the line?

Final Thoughts

I had another great day on the mountain. I must say, I'm a big fan of the Southwest Couloir and I can't wait to climb it again. I hope we'll get a chance to return next year, perhaps a little bit earlier in the year and do a full ski descent. Until then, I look forward to some great summer hiking.


Note: All Mount Columbia photos, unless otherwise noted, are © Nicholas Gianoutsos, 2013.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

those filtered pics still freak me out...
06/19/2013 16:15
...but this TR is pretty awesome Nick. If that's what all you boys call skiing, can I come next time? Looks like you both had a great day out there.


The Couloir
06/19/2013 16:37
How much vertical was skied in the couloir?

For his project (and for subsequent projects) Dawson defines a ski descent of a fourteener as skiing ”the best (most often the longest) continuous descent available on an average snow year, almost always from the exact summit, with the exception being the few fourteeners (such as Wetterhorn and El Diente) that have rocky summit blocks or boulder caps that were never known to be in skiable condition prior to the project.” (

Looks like you guys had some fun up there regardless


Women's Skis?
06/19/2013 16:38
Ben, why are you skiing Women's BD Joules?

And no, that's not an official 14er ski descent. Sorry That's called ”skiing on a 14er”, not skiing a 14er. I have a few of those myself.


My opinion...
06/19/2013 17:19
Is NO! I have fallen further in elevation on Columbia than Ben skied in four laps that day... it was a bad episode after a good snow storm, I don't wish to discuss it.

Good use of the report Nick & Ben.


It's Columbia
06/19/2013 19:15
Why we're you even there? I vote ”no” and I'll ”dislike”.

Billy the Kid

That's funny...
06/19/2013 19:23
That picture of the guy with the pipe at the end of your report...I actually went to junior high and high school with him! He's from Lakewood...nice report!!


Was für eine Hetze!
06/19/2013 19:38
Wow, Ben really played up his day! I'm glad to see an actual record of the climb's true occurrences. Nice report, but I think you have too much time on your hands.


06/19/2013 19:57
It's nice to see the shorts and gaiters fad continuing, but it's just not the same without JEAN shorts.


06/19/2013 20:26
It had enough rocks to constitute a 14er ski descent. Count it.


06/19/2013 20:40
Pretty low standards for a self-proclaimed elitist, Darrin. Based on his use of tele skis, I would think Ben would hold himself to the 14er skiing paradigm and click the ”dislike” button.


06/20/2013 00:35
Ben is an inspiration. And the star of the feel good movie of the season.


06/20/2013 00:50
It's controversial, but I'll vote YES on calling it a ski descent. He committed and lugged his skis all the way to the summit. If he got to descend in elevation at all in one continuous line, it counts. Otherwise, where do we draw the line? 5ft ski descent? 500ft ski descent? Or solid line all the way back to the car?


Heroic effort!
06/20/2013 03:40
You can count it but you will always have it in the back of your mind that you need to go back and do a true decent. I vote no.

I do like the TR though, and give Ben a thumbs up for hauling his skis and boots to the summit and all the way back down.


It totally counts!
06/21/2013 00:44
Hilarious video, Nick and Ben!


06/21/2013 22:03
Will Mongoose become the Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open of the Dance OFF? So much effort, already taping a Dance on this summit...he taped one atop Pikes in January...the effort is there, but will he be stuck in runner-up position? Big props for already thinking ahead, but I'm guessing your dance taping on Pikes & Mt. Columbia was only part of your ”practice rounds”... I must admit, when it comes to summit dancing... I've only done 1...ever.


Beast Mode
06/25/2013 20:59
”Ben had summited and ski descended Mount Columbia 4 times - a feat never before accomplished in a single day”

Counts in my book


Excellent, excellent
07/17/2013 18:16
Thanks for the laugh. I will disagree that it counts as a ski descent but I enjoyed the trip report and the laugh. The TR had it all, babes in bikinis, gnarly skiing (including ostriches), beautiful mountain pics, and a lot of walking with skis on your back! Thanks!


08/21/2013 17:24
This is not a trip report...try writing something next time.


08/21/2013 20:06
Bastard Peak... I agree whole-heartedly with what Dan said.


Sick Video Duders
08/29/2014 13:24
However I am disappointed to learn that Ben is a tele skier!!

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