(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
Take Exit 240 at Idaho Springs on Interstate 70. Drive south on Colorado 103 for 13.5 miles to Echo Lake. Pay the entrance fee and drive 9 miles up the Mt. Evans road (Colorado 5) to the Summit Lake parking area.
This is one of the premier snow routes on Mt. Evans. It's a steep snow climb and advanced ski route, so pick a spring day when the route has consolidated snow coverage and don't forget your avalanche gear.
From the Summit Lake trailhead, the summit and North Face are clearly visible to the south - Photo #1. The route ascends through complicated terrain, so take some time to study the face and locate the couloir on the left side of this face - Photo #2. The route ascends this steep couloir to reach a "shelf" that provides access to the summit ridge. In Photo #2, you will notice a yellow, dashed line next to the main couloir, there is a more difficult variation that ascends a steep, narrow chute to reach the upper route, just below the summit ridge. If you plan to use this variation, it is best to view is closely from the trailhead to make sure it has enough snow.
From the trailhead, walk south up to the road to the corner near the east end of Summit Lake. Leave the road and hike southwest to the base of a broad slope. Climb 500' up this slope (Photo #3) to reach a small bowl below the North Face - Photo #4. If you haven't already turned on your beacon and strapped on the crampons, this is a good place to do it. The bowl dips down a bit, so bypass it on the left side and traverse south towards the left side of the North Face - Photo #5. From this area, make sure to study the terrain ahead so you know the exact location of the couloir. After traversing under some rocks on your left, turn left (Photo #5) and begin climbing steeper terrain directly below the entrance to the couloir - Photo #6. Continue above 13,600' as you approach the couloir - Photo #7.
Before you enter couloir, it's decision time: 1) Continue directly into the couloir to climb the standard line of this route or, 2) leave the right side of the couloir and ascend a more difficult variation. The first option has easier climbing and you can see much of the route ahead. The second option is steeper, more difficult, and passes above some cliffs, so it's more dangerous. Photo #8 is another look at the area. If you are unsure and haven't scoped out both lines from below, pick option #1:
|Option #1: ||The main couloir is directly above you - keep climbing up the narrowing terrain into the confines of the couloir - Photo #9 and Photo #10. Above 13,800', the couloir narrows and there are rocks towering over each side. Simply keep climbing towards what appears to be a dead-end above - Photo #11. Near the top of the couloir, the terrain opens up a bit and even becomes a bit steeper - Photo #12. Before reaching the vertical rocks above the couloir, turn right and climb steep snow to reach a "shelf" of rock above. The terrain gets dramatically easier and you may run out of snow in this area. Stay on the shelf and hike to the right a bit and then turn left for the final ascent to the summit ridge. This area is rocky, but not that steep.|
|Option #2: ||From the area seen in Photo #9, climb steeper snow up to the right - Photo #13. Then traverse along some rocks on your left for about 200' - the first half of the yellow, dashed line seen in Photo #8. Extra care must be taken in this area because there are cliffs lurking below. After traversing along the rocks (and there are a couple of spots that may require some careful moves), enter the base of a narrow chute with vertical rock on each side - Photo #14. With good snow, the chute should be easier climbing than the previous traverse. Continue up the chute (Photo #15) to reach rocky, easier terrain (Photo #16) below the summit ridge. This is the area where the two options of this route meet below the ridge.|
Continue up to a broad notch/dip in the summit ridge - Photo #17
. Turn left (east) and scramble the remaining 100+ feet to the summit - Photo #18
This route provides the best opportunity for steep, continuous snow from the summit down to Summit Lake. Return to the notch in the ridge and then scramble down to the right to reach the shelf above the main couloir - Photo #19. It is rare to have continuous snow from the summit down to this point, so you may have to remove the skis. From the top of the steep snow (Photo #20), drop directly into the main couloir - Photo #21. The entry is the steepest portion of the ski and a fall here would be undesirable - Photo #22. Skiing the narrow couloir - Photo #23, Photo #24 and Photo #25. After exiting the couloir, the terrain opens up for some wider turns above the upper bowl - Photo #26, Photo #27 and Photo #28. Photo #29 looks back on the terrain upon reaching the bowl. Continue down your ascent route, or stay left and ski down toward the west end of Summit Lake - Photo #30.
IMPORTANT: This route enters the Mount Evans Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.