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Peak(s):  Red Mountain  -  13,238 feet
Date Posted:  03/17/2015
Date Climbed:   03/15/2015
Author:  bergsteigen
 A LateWinter Day's Dream   

Red Mountain C

Trailhead: Pennsylvania Gulch
Mileage: 8.3
Elevation Gain: 2,900'
Barely decent skier: Me
Resource: Making Turns in Colorado's Front Range, Volume 1

I had originally planned to ski this peak a month ago, but as I arrived in Breckenridge at 7am, I saw that the entire north ridge was bare of snow. Nada. So in a sleep deprived state that couldn't find another winter safe option to ski, I turned tail and headed to ski Copper. Since then, we've gotten a decent drop of sticky spring snow, that has plastered the previously bare summit ridges. So after a day of speed skiing Copper to see how much vertical in a day I could ski (66.4K), it was off to get some sunny turns on the last weekend of winter.

Good Morning Quandary

From the tiny winter parking lot, I set out up the well packed trail up to the junction with the north ridge. Plan A is to just skin up the north ridge and then down it. It's perfectly avy safe, and I was solo. Simple, safe, kinda boring. It seemed like a good plan at the time. I hadn't been on backcountry snow in a little bit, so it was time to dip my toes in again.

The morning was cool, so I was wearing my standard winter ski kit, minus the fleece and puffy jacket I had on at the resort the day before (yeah - I skied fast enough to warrant all the layers, face mask included). The shell didn't even make it to the meadow, so into the pack with the puffy it went. Glad I left the fleece in the car, at least I wouldn't be carrying that all day too.

Once at the meadow, it was a matter of choosing which uphill track to follow. As well as avoiding skinning up a downhill track... yeah that's not fun. After a bit of navigating, I found a good uphill track that took me to the top of the sparsely treed ridge. Once out in the blazing sun, I kept having to stop frequently. It was hot! I kept bargaining with myself, just make it to that next tree. Eventually I had to stop, and remove a top and bottom base layer. Down to 1 baselayer now. That should suffice! Right?

First good view of the north ridge

Meadow stream crossing

10 Mile range

I didn't get many photos of the way up, as I figured I would be skiing down it. Plus I hadn't planned on writing a TR. Fritz (killingcokes) wrote one for the north ridge a couple years ago. It's also in his guide book as well. The north ridge is fairly devoid of trees and low angle.

Baldy looking fat

Once above the last tree, I had expected some wind, but nothing. So with one top base layer remaining, it had to go. I should have swapped the clothing for more water on this trip. I don't think I've ever been this hot on an ascent before. I'm usually the freezing one.

I chose a route that skirted the bare ridge above, for a snowy traverse slightly below, figuring I would need to find the continuous snow line for the way down. Once I got to the last saddle with a view of the east face and the final ridge push, I could see a way to skirt the east face off the ridge to stay on snow the entire way up (and down). It would work, not pretty, but it would work.

East face of Red Mounatin C

On the way up the ridge, a large herd of bighorn sheep were grazing. I slowly approached, wishing that I had my longer lens with me. I was downwind, but they soon spooked and moved further west away from me.

4 legged visitors

Moon over the fairies

Above the excitement of the sheep, it was a short stroll along the non-corniced ridge all the way to the summit. Fritz warned of the monster cornice, so I didn't even consider the Horsehoe Basin route, which is also in his book. But as I made that final push, I started to ponder whether "spring" was really here now, and if I could find a descent route that fit my risk tolerance.

Finally approaching the summit

Hoosier Ridge pano

Mosquito-10 Mile Pano

Quandary being hit hard by skiers

G&T, Baldy, Evans and Bierstadt

I brought up a caltopo image on the summit, and I could spy a line through a few steeper spots that could work. Dropping directly SE off the summit is the steepest, but if I followed the ridge north for a short bit and then turned east, I could keep the descent in the very low 30's, if that. Based on what I was seeing with the snow the entire way up, I was comfortable with that decision. It would mean a painful slushy exit, but skiing a better line was worth it.

So after putting on a couple more layers and zipping up my bibs, I set off for the first corn ski of the real season.

Non-existant cornice ridge

Dropping the mini cornice

Summit turns

Looking down the east face

After skiing the ridge section, my confidence grew. Looking down the east face, I could see the places to avoid, and saw a good line for conditions as they were right now. What followed was a pretty good, mellow ski with great snow conditions. I even let my skis fly a little faster than I normally would, it felt so good.


Some lovely turns

Like paint brushes on a canvas

Last look back at a fun ski

Once down the face and across the first basin, I took a last look back at the fun ski, and removed layer after layer. It was a solar oven unlike any I had ever experienced before down at this elevation. After the previous day with a copious amount of clothing, now my pack held more layers than I was currently wearing. I didn't expect to see anyone out here, so I went as far as I needed to stay comfortable. I normally don't take selfies, but I figured non of my usual ski partners would believe me, since they see how many layers I usually wear.

Valley back to the road

Titania's twin

I got a couple more great turns before the slope started to really mellow out. Then I was just straight lining, hoping to keep momentum up. I turned down a steeper stream drainage, and still my skis wouldn't move. So I took them off to find a huge fin acting as a rudder. Uggg! Thankfully I carried my flourinated wax with me, and furiously spread it on my skis. Phew! Glad I packed that this morning!

Open stream drainage

Puck's concoction

Lazy turns in the stream

After a great ski down the drainage, I found myself on the flattish road back to the trailhead. Lots of poling and stomping in the heat. At least without all the layers I was staying cool and not dehydrating too much. Thankfully some backcountry skiers had made it as far as I got, so there was a track from the previous weekend or so. Not that it helped much, as I still sunk a little, and the fresh snow from the previous week stuck to my skis in the shady areas. It would erode on the sunny spots, so it worked out.

The long flat, sticky road home

So if you are looking for a great beginner summit ski, this should be on your radar. Not a lot of mileage or vert for a great descent and solitude.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Comments or Questions
Steve Knapp
3/17/2015 8:00pm
That’s a nice winter peak Otina. It’s great to see you out skiing the big peaks again, hope you can get a few more this spring. 66,400 vert at Copper? Wow, that is really moving. I think I hit 60k once, but it took a pretty full day at Vail then I tacked on some bonus night skiing runs at Keystone. It takes a day with no lines and lunch on the lift.

Oh, ditching the last layer? Really awesome! Hope you brought the sunscreen.

to incinerate or not to incinerate
3/18/2015 6:13pm
Way to hit a meh peak in cool way! Looks like a lot of fun.

King Lear >> Midsummers (IMO) but I like the reference

Back on the skis again :)
3/18/2015 7:46pm
Steve - I have big plans for peak skiing this year. That’s why I’ve been working hard at the resort. I was hoping for 70K, but unfortunately there were small lines to deal with at times. Unfortunately I didn’t put the sunscreen on soon enough, as I have some pack lines!

Nat - I hiked the group of peaks a couple falls ago in Nov: Hoosier, Red^2 TR (Here’s a view from the unranked Red Peak C: Red Mtn pic)

Abe - Whether ’tis smarter in the body to suffer the heat and sweats of dehydration or to take off ones layers... I manage 40 GPS data servers, all named after Shakespeare characters, King Lear, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia included 8)

cool route
3/18/2015 10:17pm
and nice turns. gotta love it when they look like that! Neat to see some action on the ’other’ side of the road.

3/19/2015 1:03am
We might be going after Fletcher or Atlantic sometime soon, if you’re interested. Oh, and possibly Traver Peak or Geneva Peak.

Nice trip and report
3/19/2015 5:30am
That looks like a fun outing. Your TR makes me want to go check that one out some day. And beautiful tracks! One can tell you’ve been doing this for a long time.
Glad to see you coming back so well. Stay safe this year.

3/19/2015 5:39pm
ulvetano – Curves like that mean lovely consistent snow! Some great stuff on the other side!

Bill – Definitely interested. Fletcher and Atlantic have been on the list for a while. Traver looked good as well

Britt – It became a fun outing once I committed to the more exciting way down! 35 years of working to perfect my turns, I hope for many more.

4/2/2015 7:45pm
I like this. I wonder if this peak will have any snow on it in the Fall... oh, and it was brutally hot on Sunday. My strategy was to run out of water on the summit ;)

4/2/2015 7:45pm
peaks are looking completely blasted by the winds in November. I hiked Hoosier ridge once, but we didn’t even make it to Red C – too many bumps. You guys were troopers (and in better shape than us...). Thanks for the beta.

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