Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  05/20/2009
Date Climbed:   05/16/2009
Author:  pioletski
 Democrat, North Couloir variation   

One might argue that this TR should be combined with my Missouri Mt. TR from 5/15. After all, it was the same group on consecutive days. However, we were able to take a much-welcome shower in Buena Vista in between, and in my book that makes it a separate trip. (This might be the most important beta in this TR: there is a laundromat with a coin-op shower in BV, half a block north of the main intersection in town.)

So after leaving Mizzou, cleaning up, visiting the gear shop, going out for beer and pizza... Mike, Chuck and I made camp on Hoosier Pass under a lowering sky. A little freezing rain fell during the night, and visibility was somewhat limited in the morning. We left the Montgomery Reservoir parking area in a fog.

In the Misty Mountains

There is about a 4.5 mile gentle hike to the base of the north face of Democrat. As we hiked, the clouds parted slightly to allow us a glimpse of the summit...

It's there, really...

... and then, once skins were on, a partial view...

Democrat shows its face to Chuck

... and eventually the clouds broke, revealing the spectacular face.

Democrat in all its glory

Reaching the base of the couloir, we put the skis and boards on packs and started climbing.

Mike and Pioletski ready to go

The spectacular narrow section is right at the bottom.

Climbing the choke

The footing was generally good; we didn't use crampons, though we might have liked to in one or two spots of hard snow. The main couloir ("Nordwand") branches halfway up; we chose to ascend the (climber's) left branch to minimize the inevitable scrambling over talus at the top (see pic with route marked at the bottom of this TR). I highly recommend this route. It tops out on the ridge just east of the summit.

Note that the couloir branches halfway up

Upon reaching the top, we had to put Chuck to work filling in a bare spot to ensure a true summit descent:

Chucky gets busy

Meanwhile I gaped at the view. It's a little hard to capture, but this is the view toward the west. The Elks are visible (really) between Massive and Holy Cross; although they barely show up in the picture, we could see Pyramid, the Bells, Snowmass, Capitol and Sopris.

View to West

Bernie was one happy guy...

One proud dog

Having prepared the way Chuck was eager to ride.

Ready to go

Chuck's work was much appreciated:

Crossing Chuck's bridge

In order to ski from the summit, we followed a line similar to benners and Brian on 5/2, but had to swing even further east before dropping in. We then traversed back west...

Traversing into the couloir

... and rejoined our ascent route. This arm of the couloir is narrower than the main one, and perhaps a hair steeper.

Wide open (Chuck)

Letting 'em rattle (Pioletski)

The choke at the bottom is well worth the price of admission:




Bernie, literally high-tailing it

The trek back to the car was surprisingly quick given the soft, sticky snow; we then repaired to the Breck Brewery to relax and toast our adventure. Mike and Chuck: thanks gents, it's a pleasure knowing you and we'll have to do more of this soon.

Here is our route on the face (ascent blue, descent red):


And Chuck provided this Google Earth image of the terrain:


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

hey, i know of these guys
05/21/2009 14:14
from a forum on northern NM backcountry skiing!


nm forum
05/21/2009 14:32
Hey scott, yes our little ol forum in NM, not bad for a desert state

Easy Rider

had a hard time believing
05/22/2009 00:24
that route would be out already. Thanks.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.