Peak(s):  Commando Run - 11,710 feet
Date Posted:  04/06/2008
Modified:  05/27/2015
Date Climbed:   04/05/2008
Author:  MountainHiker
 Commando Run   

My friend John had been lobbying us to do Commando Run for the past few years.
It finally came together.
I had done Commando Run previously with John back on 4-2-95.
Vail wasn't as big then, so our route was necessarily longer.

Commando Run is named for the 10th Mountain Division ski troops who used to train along this route.
The basic route starts at Vail Pass, heads up Shrine Pass road,
turns onto Lime Creek road, then heads over some mountains to Vail Ski area.
You then ski down Vail.

Strong map and route finding skills are required for this route.
You can't depend on there being an obvious track to follow,
especially with the wind we have had this winter.
Also we encountered some tracks that had other apparent destinations.

This is the map I used - scroll to see it all UTM grid on NAD27
Disclaimer - I plotted the lift locations by eye from a different & smaller scale map.
Expect up to 100m shift on hand drawn lift locations.
Route line is estimate - not GPS track.

For this trip it was MountainHikerette, John & myself.
John's wife Karen, their daughter and a friend did the first part of the route with us.
We parted company at Shrine Pass where they did a shorter ski to a hut and returned to Vail Pass.
They were able to provide the vehicle shuttle.

There was another party on the route that day.
Our two groups were mixed together until some of them turned back. The faster two in their group then pulled ahead of us.
It was then just the three of us for the rest of the journey.

At the Vail Pass exit there is a pay parking lot to the right where you enter the rest area.
The fee is $6.00. There were no pay envelopes!
Shrine Pass road starts right at this parking lot.

Instead of following Shrine Pass road to the summit of Shrine Pass,
there is a marked trail that parallels the road on the left hand side.
This trail meets up with the road near the summit where there is an outhouse.

You might want to take your skins off for the next downhill stretch.
Watch for another road that turns to the right after about 1.5 miles.
There is a sign that says Lime Creek.
This is where you will have to put your skins back on.

About a ¼ mile up this road you will pass another road that turns off to the right.
That road was marked with a couple "no snowmobile" signs.

About 500' after passing this side road we found a track that headed W/NW up the mountainside.

I suspect this was one of a few tracks heading up the mountain.
Whoever made it headed more directly uphill than we were able to get traction.
We did a lot of switch backing while climbing point 11611.
We skirted point 11611 on the left.

We met up with more of a track as we headed along the broad topped ridge in the trees to point 11710.
We were a little to the left of the high point as we passed 11710.

We broke into an open area as we crossed to point 11696.

When I did Commando Run before, this was where we headed north to Two Elk Pass.

That time we skirted high points on the left as we followed the most efficient line around to Vail Ski Area.
We passed the top of Orient Express

and continued on until we got where we could ski down the front side.

This time however, we skirted point 11696 on the left.
We switch backed through the trees down to the saddle between 11696 & 11608.

There is a clearing at this saddle.
A road goes from this saddle to the west past the south side of point 11608.
This road is not shown on the topo.

We followed this road to where we entered Vail Ski Area at UTM 387678 4380911 NAD27.

As we passed into Vail the top of Pete's Express was just to our right.

The following sign was posted at this point.

We skied blue runs down Blue Sky Basin until we got to the Orient Express Lift.

There was no lift line and more empty chairs than full.
The lift operator didn't seem to be watching for commandos as we boarded.
An express lift ride later we were at the top of Vail.
From the top of Orient Express we headed west until we could ski down the front side.

We started from Vail Pass at around 7:30. We got to Vail at around 1:00.
We got to the base of Vail at around 3:00.

Important Note: I don't know if Vail has an official policy,
or if the staff has a prevalent attitude about people who enter the ski area after doing Commando Run.
If you choose to do this route you assume that risk for yourself.

 Comments or Questions

04/08/2008 03:40
On your first trip report! Normally, I wouldn‘t comment on a ski trip report - I don‘t ski at all, in fact the mere site of skiers scares the crap out of me. They all look like great big cockroaches with those long skinny arm and leg things flipping around - just like that poor dude in the Kafka novel - except they move so fast, like they‘re ready to take flight or something. Giant flying cockroaches! Anyway - nice report just the same. I encourage you to write more. I love trip reports - they can provide a lot of good info to make my own outings safer, and they give me good ideas for stuff that I may want to do. Keep writing them! I never do - but you definitely should!

I hope I don‘t have nightmares.


Nice Tour
04/09/2008 21:05
Nice TR. Thanks for posting

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