Peak(s):  Crestone Peak  -  14,294 feet
Date Posted:  04/04/2011
Modified:  04/18/2011
Date Climbed:   04/02/2011
Author:  Carl
 Crestone Peak - Red Gully ski descent   

Peak: Crestone Peak
Route: Red Gully
Vert: Approx. 6,950
Mileage: Approx. 19
Group: BillMiddlebrook, Marc, John (JohnP), Rob, Eric (Lostsheep), and me.

The Sangres are disappointingly low on snow this year but Bill got this shot of the Crestones from Ellingwood Peak about ten days ago, which was more than enough to motivate me for a ski descent of the Red Gully.

We picked up Eric in the Springs on our way through and the four of us drove to about 9,500ft where we started skinning. Bill headed up earlier in the day and Rob came in late Friday night solo, parking at the lower 2wd trailhead and enjoying the full vert and mileage stated above.

Knocked out the 4 miles and 1,500 vertical to the old upper trailhead in about 2 hours. John skinning up the road.

Bill found access to the creek and set up camp a little below 11,200ft. Me pumping water before calling it a night.

Bill got up early, got a great shot of the Needle at sunrise and started kicking steps up Broken Hand Pass. The rest of us rolled out of camp around 7am and started making upward progress.

Eric headed towards the pass.

Rob negotiating the short moderately steep section.
ImagePhoto by John

Snow ended before the top of the pass.

And unfortunately it didn't start again right on the other side. I ran over towards the Needle a little bit to confirm what we suspected, it's too thin for a ski descent.
ImagePhoto by John

Had to drop about 500 vert to get to the base of the Red Gully. John with the skins back on.

Rather than heading out and around and following the continuous snow we enjoyed a little mixed climbing.

A shot by John looking back at Rob, Bill, Eric, and me.

In our beta shot Bill took it appeared the Red Gully was blocked about a third of the way up. Rather than take the easier route to the left (which we descended) we chose to handle some ice on the right. Took me a little bit to figure out the move.
ImagePhoto by Bill

Marc cruising up the crux.

I felt like the Red Gully took us an inordinate amount of time. This admittedly coming from someone who kicked no steps. Sorry guys. Still getting over a cold I just tried to keep up with the group and reap the benefit of assembling a strong crew. Eric nearing the top around noon.

Marc leading the way on the traverse to the summit.

Looking back at Bill, followed by Eric.

Made the summit at 1pm. Only spent a minute on top but it felt great to be there.

John got this shot of Kit Carson and Challenger.

Marc enjoying the view as we begin the descent.

Bill drops in first.

Followed by Marc. None of us measured the slope but we estimated the terrain to be in the high 40 degrees for the first hundred feet.

Bill got a couple shots of me off the top.

Lower in the Red Gully John lays out a nice tele turn with the sand dunes in the background.

A shot of Bill before the Red narrows.

Eric sticking some jump turns in the choke. I wonder if he’s the youngest to ski Crestone Peak at age 16?

Bill airing out a jump turn.
Photo by John

Me enjoying some turns.

Bill nearing the bottom before traversing skiers left.

A few of the guys making the zig zag out of the bottom.

We regrouped around 12,400ft and prepared for the climb back up to Broken Hand Pass. It was nearly 3pm, the wind was increasing, and none of us were excited about putting the skins back on.
ImagePhoto by John

Skinning towards Broken Hand Pass.

Rob put in a skin track as we made progress towards the pass at 12,850ft. Looking back at John, Eric, and Bill.

Rob and I reached the pass and I hollered through the wind to see whether he still wanted to try to find the couloir I had been looking forward to all day. We turned left at the pass and climbed a short distance towards the Needle. After looking around a bit, we found access to the line we were looking for. Marc making the climb to the entrance.

John scoped the entrance.

While I clicked in.
Photo by John

Skiing Crestone Peak was sweet but this was definitely one of the better lines I've skied in a while.
Photo by John

Snow was surprisingly good. Only issue was about half way down when I had second thoughts as to whether I had dropped into the correct line... the one that didn't end in a massive cliff. Had to pull out my camera and renew my confidence by checking out a picture I took earlier in the day.

Eric making some steep turns where the couloir opened up.

Rob enjoying a little pow.

John opening it up on the apron.

Bill was a few steps behind us on the ascent of Broken Hand Pass and decided to downclimb from the pass and drop in. Here he is opening it up a little lower.

Back at camp at 5pm we enjoyed some beer cooked brats in John's jet boil, packed up, and headed out. We were able to ski most of the road to the new upper trailhead as Bill demonstrates here.

A Sangres ski descent wouldn't be complete though without ending in a brief slog on a dirt road, skis in hand.

Was a pleasure climbing and skiing with a strong group. Looking forward to the next one and excited that the real ski season is just getting started. Here's to a safe spring ski mountaineering season for everyone getting out there.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

04/05/2011 04:39
Way to get after it, gentlemen!

Kudos, Eric!!

One of the finest ski reports this season, Carl. Keep up the great work. Loved it!


04/05/2011 05:15
Excellent climb and a spectacular TR. I'm still doing the snow dance!


04/05/2011 05:50
Adding this one to the list... crossing my fingers for another storm cycle or two to fill in those lines again!


Great Work!
04/05/2011 13:00
Excellent report and photos.


Strong Work
04/05/2011 13:18
That looks like a nice trip you all put together, and a strong crew as well. Brian and I were almost ready to pull the trigger and join you guys but the pull of the San Juans was a little too strong. Glad to see everyone had a safe, sucessfull day out.

On a more depressing note, it appears our suspicions are confirmed; the Needle and Kit Carson will likely be unskiable this season barring a huge spring upslope. Regardless, let's get out soon Carl!


Good times
04/05/2011 13:26
I'm glad I was able to hook up with you guys - had a great time and only felt like the old geezer of the group 6 or 7 times.

Carl, photo #23 definitely captured the moment on the transition from climbing to skiing. Nice job and way to hit it hard.

And cudos to Eric for his drive and maturity out there. Is he really only 16? Congrats on a great ski day.


Well done
04/05/2011 14:17
Nice TR, Carl. Way to get the Peak. That couloir above the Pass looks pretty nice - way better ski line than the Pass itself. I'm psyched for some spring mtneering/skiing as well. Going to head to Shavano/Taby this weekend with Kristine.


04/05/2011 14:39
Way to go Carl and crew!!


Sangre de Cristo
04/05/2011 15:36
Spanish for dry peaks. Kudos to you Carl and Co for getting back there and making the most of your weekend. That couloir from BHP looked pretty sweet and worth the physical price of admission.


nice work
04/05/2011 18:27
I'm proud of you guys for that effort. What's it like traveling in the mountains with a crew of 6, I've only done team of 2 or 3 tops. Mainly because I don't have any friends and no one likes me though.


04/06/2011 05:19
That is awesome, nice work guys!


Where to start?
04/08/2011 04:38
This looks like a truly epic adventure! I am new to the ski mountaineering/backcountry scene and was wondering if you could give me some imput on what are some good 14ers to start with. I climbed 20 14ers last summer and would really love to ski a few before the snow melts. I am confident in my ski skills as I have enjoyed the extremes at Crested Butte the last few seasons. I have some avi-training and good friends with even more. I heard quandery is supposed to be an easy one? Is this true? Is there a good place to find out where trails start in the winter and what to expect? What others are some good fun, safer ones?

Thanks for any input from anyone!


Quandary is a good one to start with...
05/02/2011 14:23
the east ridge is a popular ski descent, and then later in the spring the Cristo Couloir sees a lot of ski traffic. The season is really just getting started as most ranges are still in a winter snowpack, except maybe the Sangres. You can use the trailhead status page on this site to see what trailheads are accessible and search trip reports by filtering only ski descents to get ideas. If you're climbing skills need to catch up to your ski skills, I'd go practice at St. Mary's glacier with an axe and crampons before getting on committing terrain. Enjoy!

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