Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  05/15/2007
Date Climbed:   05/12/2007
Author:  skisotope
 Mt. Elbert Ski Descent   

Three of us left the main range trailhead at 5:00 am on 5/12 and began the climb. The trail was patchy, with east-facing sections devoid of snow but most other aspects and sections in thick timber still snow covered. There was a thin, compacted portion of the trail that would support our weight, but we post-holed quite a bit. Though it was below freezing when we left, the snow on the trail was not well consolidated at all. When we reached a point on the east ridge where we could see treeline the snow was thick enough that we decided to skin through the trees to treeline. This proved to be a smart move and saved us some time through this section as the snow on the leeward side of most trees was 3-4‘ deep. Once we reached treeline we elected to strap the skis back onto our packs and bootpack up the ridge, was was only sparcely snow covered. The cirque on the eastern side of the mountain was still covered from the top of the bowl, but there was certainly evidence of recent loose-wet avalanches from the previous week‘s snow. We worked our way up the northern edge of the cirque and up the steep slope to a false summit. This steep slope was well consolidated and kicking steps was sufficient to make it up. The push to the summit was straight forward from there. We summited around 10:30, which would have been too late to ski anything east or south facing, but the west couloir was our goal so we decided to continue. We skied off the summit and made our way into the largest of the west-facing couloirs. The snow was thin and still frozen at the top, but descending roughly 700-900‘ brought us to softer spring snow. The center of the path was scraped clean and icy due to a recent avalanche that was frozen solid when we passed it. Below the point where the debris had stopped we found soft, wonderful snow and few rocks-perfect!
Once we reached the bottom of the couloir we began following the stream out, staying in the woods to remain on skis. The snow was soft and we alternated breaking trail because this was exhausting. We were able to stay on skis for roughly 1 mile, then post-holed the rest of the way down the seasonal road to reach the main stream. There was snow on the trail virtually all the way down to the stream. With no bridge, we walked gingerly over some logs and got a little wet to get back to the main road, but made it we did.
Note: Anyone interested in ascending the west couloir should wait for a serious cold snap for the snow on the road to consolidate, or else wait for it to melt. Since much of the snow on the road was at least knee-deep, this might take a few weeks.

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