Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Date Posted:  05/18/2008
Date Climbed:   05/17/2008
Author:  Joonya

 Elbert Ski Sat.5/17   

Hi All ,
This is the first trip report I've posted. Some of the people here have excellent internet skills , my report may pale in comparison. I'd like to point out USAKeller's trip report of Elbert and Box Creek. Great Beta - thanks , it helped me get stoked for the long hike.

Mt. Elbert - Sat. 5/17/08. This was my first trip up Elbert. My GF and I left Leadville and began our hike at about 4:45AM. The 4wd road clear and open about 1+ miles up the road. We decided to take advantage of whatever mechanized gain we could and parked almost as close as we could get. It seems we had to boot-pack up the road higher than their trip report indicated - just past the first creek , but before the TH to be able to use the skis/skins. It's melting quickly and won't be long before driving further is possible.
Once the TH was reached we began up through the Aspens. Somewhere in there we went off the established snowshoe track and forged our own path up into Bartlett Gulch. I think for skiers we ascended a more asthetic and possibly more efficient route. Wow - beautifull area with tons of skiing possibilties. We ascended the ridge line to gain the trail/ridge at about 12,400-12,600 ish. We saw plenty of Ptarmigan still wearing their winter white and the Pika are scurrying about and squeaking in protest to our presence.
On the ridge and after some calories and H20 my GF decided that was far enough for her. Hey - she's fresh in town from FL !! This is all new to her and I'm glad she went as far as she did and enjoyed it. A short lap on the corn sufficed while I plodded my way to the summit. The skis stayed on the entire trip. There were some spots where I could've portaged the skis across some thin spots - but with just a couple goofy steps there was no need for boot-packing. Plus , all skis are rock skis - it's just a question of when....
The summit was a little less windy than the ridge. And the wind on the ridge was negligable from a comfort viewpoint. To me , Elbert was a beautifull summit - one of the best 360 views to be had. Nobody else was on the summit and I enjoyed a short break , snapped a few shots , and called my family on the East Coast. Boy were they surprised !! Time was 12:10PM when I stepped into my bindings.
Nice - time to descend. I was still unsure of whether to stay on the ridge/flank or flirt with the Box Creek Cirque. Skiing on the low angled summit cone was still dry. A little sastrugi - small waves that had no real crust and gave way for dry - wind chilled turns. With the snow there being dry I decided I would ski the chutes despite being solo. This is where my decision making process led me astray. The cirque was not getting the chilling wind the upper flank was. it seems there was percolation from the bright sun and it was wet. Not mashed potatoes wet - but wet with whatever new snow had fallen - about 10 inches. From the pics on USAKeller's report I know I entered about the same area Bill M. did and skied it similarly. Ski cut the first chute , traversed to the second - the one I intended to ski , and drop in. A few turns in, the wet slough gathered up and slid to the bottom of the apron. Oh-Oh.
Now here is where I want to point out that I'm overall aware of avy issues and understand that 12:20 is late. But I didn't expect the rapid corning because the summit cone indicated drier snow. Anyway - a bad call on my part I know. So keep the safety flaming to yourselves please.
I'm not going to tangle with it. There was no slabbiness - just wet releases. But pretty heavy and travelled all the way out. So I begin traversing right. Cutting and descending and picking my way across and through the rock bands. I was expecting more and was correct in that. There were 2 more skier triggered releases , neither of which surprised or threatned me. After getting far right and down some the snow dried out and the pitch lessened and I was able to descend without triggering sloughs and make some turns.
The snow on the sides of the chutes was drier and less deep and I probably could've skied the edges. But I didn't want to whack a rock or trigger a fracture release. I think the water had percolated way more than I expected and was gathering and running in the center of the chutes. the centers were noticably wetter. I was a little too late.
Anyway , after that I was ready to re-gain the ridge and enjoy the company of my GF. Traversing right and flanking the edge of the bowl I got to the ridge at exactly where I wanted to. We descended the trail instead of going out the way we came up. We should've gone our way. The snowshoe track through the aspens is horrible on skis. Full on combat skiing. taking the skis off - not an option. But we wanted to keep a track/trail in sight. She had had enough bushwhacking for the day. We battled our way down and were glad to arrive at the TH for an easy walk/ski back to the truck. Arrival time - 2:15 ish at the truck.
Overall , a good day out. It's a long haul but a rewarding one imo. I'll post some pics , but being mostly alone there aren't any action shots. Plus I'm not as good at the photos as many of the posters here.
Have fun and be carefull out there. Don't follow my tracks !!!!


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Good Report
05/18/2008 14:58
Well written report. Based on your report and my experience yesterday on Mt. Bierstadt it seems that the combination of late season snow and warm temps yesterday is starting to make for some bad snow conditions.


current conditions
06/05/2008 20:52
I was planning to climb Elbert two weeks ago but 82 has not opened on time for me to get over there. What are the current conditions? Still skiable? How steep would you say those chutes are? Could you go down the ridge a little bit (lookers left in your photo) and drop in to avoid the wet slides?

Thanks, and good report.

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