Mount Elbert

snow Box Creek Couloirs
Difficulty Difficult Class 2 
Snow Steepness: Moderate 
Ski/Board: Advanced, D6 / R3 / III  
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Moderate  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Considerable  
Start10,400 feet
Summit14,438 feet
Total Gain4,150 feet
RT Length10 miles (starting at the end of the 4WD road)
14 miles (starting at the paved TH)
SheriffLake: 719-486-1249
Last UpdatedMay 2023
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This route should only be climbed with consolidated snow, in spring or early summer. Climbing this route in mid-winter could put you in deadly avalanche conditions.


From U.S. 24 south of Leadville, take Colorado 82 west toward Twin Lakes. Drive about 4 miles and turn right onto the 24 road. Drive 1.2 miles up a hill to the main trailhead parking area (paved) on the left. This is the lower trailhead and 2WD vehicles should park here. Continue 50 feet past the lower TH and turn left on Forest Service road 125.1B (4WD). From here it's 1.8 miles to the upper trailhead. Walk or drive up the 4WD road to reach the start of the trail.

Along the 4WD road there are several pull-offs and camping spots. Near 0.5 mile there's usually rough section of road but most 4WD vehicles should be able to get past it. Near 1.6mi, cross a small stream. Continue to a parking area with information kiosk at 1.8mi. This is the trailhead.


1, 2 and 3 provide an overview of the Box Creek couloirs. In winter and early spring, it's unlikely that you will be able to drive up the entire 4WD road to reach the upper South Elbert trailhead. Park where you can and walk to the upper trailhead. Follow Elbert's East Ridge Route (or pick your own line up through aspens) to reach clearings on the east ridge, near 11,600' - 4. Continue to tree line, near 11,800' - 5 and 6. Staying on the ridge crest or following the summer trail if it's melted out, continue to a broad saddle, at 12,400' - 7 and 8. This is the point where you will split from the east ridge route cross over to Box Creek.

Walk to the north side of the ridge and contour left into the Box Creek cirque - 9. Continue over 1/2 a mile and 300' of elevation gain to reach upper Box Creek, below the couloirs. The easiest line, but not always the safest, is to climb directly up the center of the slope - 10 and 11. That's the option that will be described here. Hike to the base of the couloirs and begin your climb - 12. 13 and 14 provide a good look at the terrain with sufficient snow coverage. Between 13,000' and 13,400', this slope averages just under 35 degrees in steepness - 15. Above 13,500', the slope angle approaches 38 degrees - 16 and 17. Near 13,700', the slope angle eases. Angle left to reach a broad snow field near 13,900' - 18. Continue up to the summit - 19 and 20.


This is the best ski route on Elbert, with many lines to choose from: 10


Upper Box Creek gets an early and direct sun-hit. Start early.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20

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Caution: The information contained in this route description 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 route description 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 route description 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.

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