Peak(s):  Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Date Posted:  04/19/2008
Date Climbed:   04/13/2008
Author:  iceman
 Mt. Columbia Ski   

Kevin and I left Glenwood Springs around 7:45 AM Saturday morning the 11th of April. Our tentative plan was to ski either the North Cottonwood Creek or the Southeast route up Mt. Columbia. We arrived in Buena Vista around 10:00 and drove up Cottonwood Creek Road as far as we could (which was not very far at all). We decided to go back down to the Three Elks Creek TH and check it out. Long story short we decided to take the Three Elks route.



Started skiing around 11:50 AM. The pace was kind of slow due to the snow sticking to our skins anytime we went into the shade.


Kevin with snow stuck to his skins

We arrived at Harvard Lakes around 2:30 pm. We considered camping here, but decided to try to get some more elevation out of the way before setting camp. We skied until about 5:30 PM and arrived at a nice spot out of the wind at 11,110' elevation. This was the end of the line for the night. Any further and we left the shelter of the trees.


Just past the trees from camp

We dug a level platform for the tent and a cooking area, started melting snow for some Chai while we set up the tent and started unpacking. Had a cup of tea while more snow boiled for Mountain House meals.



Crawled in the tent around 7:30 PM. My son loaded Peter Frampton Comes Alive on my mp3 player, so I listened to that, beginning to end for the first time in many years to start winding down. I had purchased a new Big Agnes Pomer Hoit 0 degree bag and found it to be really roomy, comfortable and warm with the exception of my feet. They froze all night, even when I put on my down booties. Did not sleep very well and woke up at 6:45 AM exhausted.

Woke up around 6:45 AM, had some oatmeal and tea and got ready to roll again. We left camp about 8:15. The snow was much better this morning and throughout the remainder of the ski up. We skinned up through a beautiful bristle cone pine forest to avoid any avalanche danger in the open areas.


Bristle Cone Pines

This route lead us to the East Ridge east of point 13,492 around 10:30 AM .


Point 13,492 (I think)

This ridge involves a few up and overs on 3 sub-summits. We skied to point 13,492 before having to ditch the skis. At the top of the 3rd sub-summit I stopped for a drink, to adjust my pack and take a couple of pictures. After the break, I started toward the summit. I hiked for about 5 minutes and reached for my sunglasses on my hat brim. They were gone. I thought about going on and looking for them on my return from the summit, but the thought of going without sunglasses the rest of the day in the bright sun and snow brought me back to my senses and I turned around and spent the next half hour searching. Kevin was a couple hundred yards ahead of me before I took my break and he had summited by the time I found my glasses. Dis-heartened and exhausted I laid on my pack and waited for Kevin to return.


Kevin on the summit

Kevin returned from the summit around 1:30 PM. We started back down and hoped for some decent skiing on the way back. Our plan was to deviate from the route up slightly to avoid some rocky areas and ski back through the trees. The skiing all the way back was very difficult. The snow was slush and the trees were dense.

We arrived back at camp around 4:15 PM, broke down camp, melted more snow for drinking water and made tracks for the trail head. The skiing did not improve. We arrived back at the truck at around 7:45 PM, sore, tired, hungry and ready to get home. Our route took us over 14 miles of beautiful country and for me about 5,000 feet elevation gain. Kevin gained around 5,300'. I learned how to ski the weekend before Christmas of 2007 and this was my first 14er ski attempt and it was an awesome experience. Very sorry to see the ski season coming to an end. Looking forward to next winter for the first time ever.


Google Earth Route Upload



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Nice report....
04/20/2008 04:13
Thanks for a good post on a lesser-used route. Hope you solve the cold feet problem!


04/20/2008 16:22
Very Impressive that you just learned to ski this year and were able to ski a 14er. Don‘t forget the glop stopper next time so your skins don‘t ball up so bad!


Glop Stopper
04/20/2008 18:40
I am assuming that will keep the snow from sticking to the skis?I‘ve never heard of it. Can you get it at ski shops?


Cold feet
04/21/2008 02:18
Thanks for the fun and helpful report. I‘m looking to get Columbia next weekend and a recent condition update is always invaluable.

I get cold feet too whenever I sleep in snow, no matter the insulation of my bag, socks, whatever. For me, it‘s all about keeping my feet off the ground, away from the snow. If I prop them up on something (boots, pack, extra layers, fallen tree branches, empty water bladders filled with air, etc.) that helps a lot.

It also works well to cut a small piece of a blue-foam sleeping pad ($5 at Wal-Mart) and use it for just your feet. Kind of like a foot-sleeping pad. The same pad also doubles as a great place to sit during lunch breaks.

Hope that helps. Thanks again for the info.


Owner of Bent gate
04/21/2008 02:31
I went out to eat in Carbondale with the owner of The Bent Gate a month or so ago with a mutual friend. The mutual friend happens to be Kevin, pictured in this trip report. Small world. I forget the Bent Gate owners name . Thanks for the tips on keeping my feet warm.


Glop Stopper
04/21/2008 16:27
You can find it at most stores. Works great, pretty much have to have it in springtime.

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