Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  12/28/2006
Modified:  12/03/2009
Date Climbed:   12/24/2006
Author:  doumall
 Bierstadt Winter Summit Ski Descent   

-Guannella Pass Power Station Road Closure to Guannella Pass Summit with Snowmobile
-Guannalla Pass Summit to Bierstadt Summit via West Slopes
-Ski Descent of West Slopes (D3 / R1 / II)

Stats (not including snowmobile) :
-Elevation Climbed and Skied: 2,850'
-Mileage: 7.0 miles

Snowmobile to Guannella Pass Summit, 12-23:

With the first Blizzard of 2006 over, I set my eyes on getting some big peaks skied which generally dont hold good snow for summit ski descents. The first objective was Bierstadt's west slopes. My brother Ted and I, who I am stoked is getting into climbing, started off Saturday the 23rd of December by driving up to the power station road closure on Guannella pass from Georgetown towing our two Polaris RMKs. The unplowed road beyond looked perfect for some snowmobile face shots at high speed. Oh ya, and it was bluebird

Making the sled track up the switchbacks to Guannella Pass summit

The sled in was great until we reached the swichbacks were multiple instances of digging the sleds out of 5 feet of snow had us replanning our goals for the adventure. Anyone thinking using snowmobiles makes this easier is either a very experienced sledder or hasnt ever driven them in deep and rotten Colorado snowpack. Making this sled track was more work and took longer than it would have to simply skin up the road. So instead of summiting Bierstadt and skiing it this day, we planned to finish the sled track to the pass summit and return Christmas Eve to complete the job.

Finally, the sleds got to the top of the pass, time for some deep pow turns down the switchbacks

Adversity is always present on winter climbs of 14ers and I had my share on this one. After finishing the track to the summer trailhead around 1:30pm (3.5 miles) we got in a ski lap of the switchbacks through the deep snow. On the drive out down the pass, I fell forward into the windshield of my snowmachine and busted my left front tooth in half. (Ya ya ya, faceshield you dumba$$!) After spitting out tooth chuncks we got back to the truck and called my dentist. He kicks a$$... met me at his office at 8:00 pm ready for a root canal. Luckly, I didnt need it as a small bit of tooth surrounded the root yet so he rebuilt it with a tooth covered filling. Now thats service!

Summit Ascent, 12-24:

My brother bailed on me to return for the summit citing some BS about his girlfriend not approving so I headed out solo. After unloading the sled and getting ready at the road closure, I was on my way at 9:45 am and at the summer trailhead by 10:00pm. Yes, with a sled track, its really easy to put miles behind you with the two stroke.

Gasing up the sled at the end of winter maintainence on the pass

The weather was far more ominous this day as all the high peaks were covered in cloud and the wind roared; it was cold. I rarely need my third layer, but this day I wore it even while skinning up to the summit. Balaclava very necessary as I was constantly fighting back the frostbite. There was more snow on the West slopes of Bierstadt than I have ever seen personally or in any pic. The skiing promised to be well worth the climb.

Looking toward the summit of Mt. Bierstadt from Guannella Pass summit

The willows were very deep and very rotten. After wallowing for an hour and a half or so I reached the lower slopes of the mountain and practiced avalanche terrain avoidance in the lower cliffbands. Luckly, the clouds began to break up a bit.

Looking up Bierstadt's west slopes from the east side of the Scott Gomer willow fields

The gentle slopes after this were a breeze. Up high near the ridge the snow was heavily wind affected with 3 feet deep troughs of frozen ocean. The ridge to the summit was heavily corniced as usual so I would get a summit descent. It took me nearly 3 hours to summit from the pass which is slow IMO. I blame the willows

Looking west southwest off the summit of Mt. Bierstadt, Christmas Eve 2006

Ski Descent of West Slopes:

After getting some pics, I began my ski from the summit. Skiing next to a 15' cornice with a 6 foot wide snow track is always a joy, especially if its styrophome windboard. I actually got in some really good turns just before the saddle and then some boney ones out onto the large west slope snowfield.

Skiing down the summit ridge of Mt. Bierstadt

After passing the frozen ocean of the upper slopes, the snow became very enjoyable powder on the lower slopes. Did I mention the snow was blowing off the mountain rapidly as I skied it. Yep, I am sure the mountain is bare as usually by now. This next upslope should open another window of goodness though.

Looking down my ski line on the west slopes of Mt. Bierstadt

Skiing through the lower cliffbands was the best of the day.

Evidence of my ski descent through the lower cliffbands of Bierstadt's West slope

With the willows once again behind me I was back at the sled were I tugged on it a good 50 times before it started (always does that). Over the hills and through the woods to Christmas Eve dinner I went.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

12/06/2010 17:43
hey my friend and i are wanting to try skiing our first 14er this year. i was thinking of doing biersadt as our first ever one, weve climbed it during the summer so we know the mountain and the area and i was just wondering if i could get some advice from someone who has done it. i was thinking of doing the west slope hopefully soon, is december/january to early in the season? we dont have sleds so i was thinking that we could drive guenella pass until we the snow stops us and from there walk/cross country ski. im not sure how long of a way it would be, do you think that would be unreasonable???? and would you say this would be a good first mountain to try our luck at? if you could get back to me on this it would be much appreciated and if you have any other advice or words of wisdom for my friend and i. you can email me at
thank you


crummy answers
12/06/2010 22:43
If you're in good skinning shape, start early and have a good weather day you should have success. There are a few areas of avy concern on the road, mostly from stuff up high. Regarding whether its in ski shape is hard to say. It usually isn't clean from the top due to wind scouring, so if you want a clean descent wait unit a low wind event storm covers the rocks like I did. There is a bit of avy terrain right as you start climbing after the willows.

As I mentioned in the report, the snowmobile actually made my attempt up there harder than it would have been just skinning the road. A better rider would may have a different result but if I were to do it again I would definitely start skinning below the switchbacks instead of using the sled.

Good luck, it can be cold as a sob up there this time of the year.

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