Peak(s):  Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
Date Posted:  03/25/2015
Date Climbed:   03/23/2015
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   joelmpaula
 Huron's East Face - Looks like steeps back on the menu!   

Huron Peak: East Face

Trailhead: 0.55mi from Missouri Gulch
Mileage: 17.6
Elevation Gain: 4,530'
Sloggers: Joel, Max and me

Ever since breaking my leg on Maroon, I've been thinking long and hard about skiing peaks only in condition. No more skiing things when they are before or past prime. So when Joel suggested going for the East Face of Huron before it got runneled out, I was game, despite knowing it would be a heinous approach.

There's also been the question of my confidence skiing on something this steep. I was certainly shaken after Maroon, but I've been working really hard to regain strength, skills and confidence since the snow started falling this season.

So after a weekend of skiing Fletcher Mountain on Saturday and going to Monarch for an informal 14ers gathering on Sunday, I was carefully driving up FS 390 to see how far we could get in the wee hours of the morning. I made it to 7.4 miles, before I was bottoming out and worried about getting stuck. So I backed it up 0.1 and did a 3 point turn and headed back into cell range to update Joel and come up with our start time based on the new beta.

So at 3am we were driving up the road in the pitch black, and Joel stubbornly does the exact thing I did on the road, and eventually parks it at 7.2 miles, about 0.55mi from the Missouri Gulch TH. We gear up and start skinning at about 4am, and reach the Rockdale road about an hour later, busting my time estimate. Too bad the stream crossing and pitch black wanderings ate up 45 minutes. Note: finding the other side of the road in the dark, while trying to cross multiple streams (since the main one has branched out) is non-trivial. It was a GPS driven navigation once I realized how far away from the road we were. Many postholes and loss of energy encountered.

The main stream crossing itself was not without further drenching incidents as well. Joel dunked his arm in, and me my right boot, when a rock moved under my weight. Ugggg! At least it only soaked my calf, and didn't get past my ankle. Coulda been a trip ender right there.

Stream crossing

Once we made it back to the road, we got back on track on setting a steady pace. I'm quite glad that Joel was having a slow day, as I was able to put down a non-stop, go forever type of pace that used very little energy. I felt great until after the saddle, but we'll get to that later!

Once at the lake I took Zach's advice and chose the far stream drainage to ascend. After hearing about his trip, I made the decision to chose efficiency over distance. I think it worked out better, since we made decent time without much effort.

Cloyses Lake

Skinning up the drainage

Giant boulders

Once we got up the drainage with the giant boulders, an amazing view presented itself! The sun even started coming out, after a fairly gloomy gray morning. Too bad the sun would not last to warm up the snow much.

Stop napping!

Skinning towards the prize - Photo Credit: Joel

Impressive drainage!

Oh the views

Huron sunning her shoulders

Once at the base of the mountain, we got our first good view of the line we wanted to ski. It was in and rather fat! At this point my confidence was quite high, it looked totally doable, and there were routes around the typical summit cornice.

We skinned up a bit higher, and then transitioned to crampons. Since I got done first, and was feeling really strong still, I started making the booter up. Pretty nice cramponing as the snow was nice and styrofoam like.

Max with our line behind

East face of Huron

Joel skinning towards the saddle

Me making the stairway to heaven - Photo Credit: Joel

Joel booting with the Missouri group behind

Joel about to top out

After what felt like the never ending couloir, we topped out and into the wind, full force. While we had only a short distance to the summit, it seemed to take forever. Loose unconsolidated snow and gusty winds, made this section rather nasty. And for those who may want to ski the standard route - it's not in, not by a long shot. I didn't take any photos, since the wind was pretty brutal at this point.

Summit drop...

We didn't spend much time on the summit, as the snow wasn't going to get any warmer, and the wind was still strong. So after transitioning, we started to scope the line we wanted to drop. Below, I had been thinking to drop lookers left, but ended up going with lookers right. I only went down the ridge a short distance before I was satisfied with the drop.

Joel "happy" to finally be on the summit

Yay! #41

3 Apostles Pano

Looking down the line from the summit

View of Huron's East from Missouri (2011)

Joel on top of the summit cornice

Looking down the line from where I dropped

While I had been feeling confident all the way up to the top, standing on the precipice, I started to get a bit nervous. Joel was going to let me drop first, but I wanted to see how the slope skied with the light coating of new snow. So I asked Joel to go first. Seeing his first couple turns made me feel ever so much better!

Based on a previous TR on this route, the upper section is 50 degrees, goes 50+ in the choke, 50 below and then goes to 40's in the apron. Based on how I skied it a jump turn at a time - I'd say yeah, even though I didn't break out the inclinometer to measure it (too busy skiing it).

Joel dropping in

Kicking up some pow off the top - Photo Credit: Joel

Hard turn! - Photo Credit: Joel

Looking back up at Joel

Looking down the remaining line

During my first pitch of skiing, I got hit with a mini ground blizzard. The only thing I could do was anchor in with my whippet and wait till it passed. We leap frogged past each other all the way to the base of the couloir and out onto the lower apron. The steepness was pretty consistent all the way until out onto the apron, where I could then easily link turns without too much effort. As you will see in the video, much of the camera shake is due to my heavy breathing (especially int the ground blizzard section, it becomes apparent).

Joel's sunny powder trail


Joel skiing a rib

Joel getting after it

Me jumping it up - Photo Credit: Joel

Max the skimo fiend!

Joel and Max tearing it up

Have to have one photo of Joel in the air during a jump turn

Me aproaching the lower apron - Photo Credit: Joel

Joel skiing the lower apron

Looking up after a long steep ski

Once off the east face, it was an icy firm ski through the upper basin until the drainage. Thankfully there the snow had warmed up enough to get down and around all the boulders and back down to the lake below.

Basin skiing out

A look back at a picturesque drainage, and some powder turns found!

Back at the lake, we took a short break before starting the loooong deproach back to the vehicle. I had to deploy some water skiing technique lower down, when the snow became slush and unsupportable. My tails of my skis would sink in, and yet I wouldn't catapult face first into the snow, even though I was in tour/tele mode for some of the road sections. While the road to the lake was mostly downhill, with only a couple uphill and flat sections, 390 was a rather nordic exit.Ultra slog mode was deployed, and we just focused on our upcoming steaks from Quincy's once we got back to civilization.

(Note: video is still processing - it's a bit long, but I make them mostly for myself to remember the ski better.)

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 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

 Comments or Questions

Solid team
03/26/2015 00:55
Great work after the previous two days. Glad you found the approach/exit gully. You’re back at it!


steep is right
03/26/2015 01:26
The top section will raise the pucker factor for sure. I was able to drive almost to the lake and the boulders in the drainage were completely buried in snow. Nice work.


Awesome TR
03/26/2015 14:08
Great job; think I ran into you guys at the dam on Blue Lakes Saturday morning, as I was heading up the Cristo. Thanks for sharing the TR. Got me both psyched and somewhat full of trepidation at the same time for skiing Huron!


03/26/2015 14:40
Nice job getting Huron and I love the photos. 18 miles! That’s a lot of work.

Julian, at Blue Lakes, you met me, bergsteigen, eatinhardtack and Craig as we were headed for Fletcher. That was a gorgeous day and a nice, mellow climb+ski. Congrats on Cristo!


03/26/2015 14:41
Natalie, Missouri is probably ripe right now.


gnar gnar!
03/26/2015 15:25
Very impressive! Looks above my pay grade, but...I see some talk of Missouri - how does that compare with what you guys did? I assume you’re referring to the N face couloirs on Miss.

BTW, what kind of dog is that? Looks a bit like mine (border collie–husky mix)


Great to be back!
03/26/2015 21:49
Zach – Thanks for your beta. We didn’t need any more obstacles on that route!

GerryRigged – I knew it would be steep, just didn’t remember how sustained it was! Some snow years are better than others...

JulianSmith – Excitement and fear, that’s what big lines should inspire! I’ve wanted this line for 4–5 yrs now, I just had to build the skills to get there, and the patience to wait for the right time.

Nat – Glad the jump turns happen when I need them! Now I just have to stay consistent and rebuild my speed.

Bill – Sometimes the ones that take the most effort are the most worth it! Looking at what I have remaining, lots of work is in my future as well.

AlexeyD – Missouri’s N face couloirs are a wonderful ski! It’s a D8 or ~40 degrees and rather straight forward. If there weren’t those horrid switchbacks, I’d repeat that one with enthusiasm. I think it’s a regular border collie. Not very good at fetching dropped items...


03/27/2015 17:28
Thanks for the info! Sounds very fun. One more question: you mentioned in the TH status that nothing looked in on Bel/ that true even of the NW gully on Belford? Seems like that should hold snow decently...anyway, just curious!


03/27/2015 17:44
Here’s a crappy cropped photo of Belford:

That dark pointy part is the summit. If you are looking for a true summit descent, I’d say it’s likely not in perfectly (down to the NW gully). Lots of billy goating or such. The east face could be in. If you also want Oxford at the same time, that’s usually a west facing ski. I caught it after a spring sticky storm, and got it cleanly (but with sharks). Based on this photo, I’d say Oxford is definitely "not in".

All depends on what you are going for. Summit descent (a la Lou Dawson), or skiing on a peak and making transportation faster.


03/27/2015 19:10
Much appreciated. I’m definitely more of the latter. Will see how the next few weeks go!


03/27/2015 21:00
That approach through tree line has got to be one of my most asstastic adventures on the 14ers. Solid TR as usual, let’s crush it this weekend!


03/27/2015 21:32
I have really liked reading your last several ski descent trip reports!!


04/02/2015 19:45
I am jealous - you guys got an amazing line in prime conditions. In a day. Your jump turns looked great in the video. You rock. All that hard work and training is paying off.
p.s. Was sitting on my hands all winter hesitant to pull a plug on Missouri given a long road approach - should have just day-tripped it. lol

p.p.s. Bill - I skied Missouri awhile back (one of the favs of all time), but I still "need" it in winter! 8)

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