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Climbing 14ers in Winter: Getting Started

Next Level Peaks

Again, please read the route descriptions carefully before you head out on your hike. Bring a map and/or gps/phone for navigation and consider using the 14ers.com mobile app so you can reference the route description & photos if needed. It also allows you to follow the route on the app's map.

Mt. Sherman

Mt. Sherman

The road is not plowed to the normal summer starting points. You might be able to drive to the Leavick Mine site, but most likely a mile lower, near 10,900'. The extra mileage makes this hike usually about 8.50 miles roundtrip, depending on where you park.

The winter route on Mt. Sherman is the South Slope route. because it avoids the avalanche danger along the standard route, which is located near the saddle between Sherman and 13er Mt. Sheridan. Follow the road and once you're near the traditional upper, summer trailhead, turn left and follow the South Slope route.

Sherman can be very windy in winter.

Mt. Blue Sky (formerly named Mt. Evans)

Mt. Blue Sky's West Ridge route is the best option for a winter ascent. After leaving the Bierstadt trail and hiking northeast toward 13er Mt. Spalding, you can either take the direct line up the gully left of The Sawtooth (if you feel it is not too snow-loaded) or continue north to ascend Spalding's northwest slopes instead. Don't underestimate this route in winter as it is much longer and more-difficult that hiking just Mt. Bierstadt. The final ridge to Evans is long and it will take you longer to cover that ground in winter than it did in summer.

Guanella Pass is closed in the winter but the road is usually plowed from Georgetown to near the Guanella Pass campground, about 1.5 miles from the traditional trailhead. This adds an extra three miles roundtrip to the hike, making it about 10 miles total. The beginning of the winter route follows the road to reach the standard trailhead. Additionally, starting at the winter trailhead adds about 700 feet of elevation gain.

The trailhead is near 10,900, which adds 700 feet of elevation gain. Hiking through the willows section in winter can be exhausting if the snow is not supportive. Weak snow layers in the willows can be a postholing nightmare. Bring your snowshoes.

Avalanche danger is traditionally low on this route, with the possible exception of the gully.

Humboldt Peak

Humboldt Peak

The East Ridge route is the traditional (and safest) way to hike Humboldt in winter but it's about 13 miles roundtrip. The road is usually plowed to the 2wd trailhead. From there you walk the road until you reach the Rainbow Trail junction. Follow the Rainbow trail a short distance (about .2 miles from the bridge) before taking an unmarked left to ascend the east ridge. This is a long ridge with a lot of elevation gain.

Mt. Belford

The winter route follows the summer route. The first obstacle is the road. County Road 390 is only plowed to the Clear Creek Ranch which adds about seven miles roundtrip to the route, making Belford a 15-mile day. Many do this as a two-day trip. But during early winter and low snow years, you might be able to drive to the summer trailhead if you have a 4x4.

There is minor avalanche concern just below treeline. The slope to the right of the creek drainage can slide over the creek and to the area of the trail.

Mt. Columbia

The Southeast Ridge is the traditional winter route. The 12-14 mile route begins at the Harvard Lakes Trailhead. As always, this route spends most of the time above treeline and can be awful on windy days. Again, road access can be an issue as you'll need to park at the current winter closure, which is usually near the National Forest boundary, at 9,100'.

Mt. Princeton

Princeton is a slog in winter because you have to start at the bottom of the road. The winter route follows the the standard route with a variation up and over 13er Tigger Peak to avoid avalanche danger on Tigger's north side.

There is also some avalanche concern along the road near the switch backs after the radio towers. You can avoid this area by sticking to the ridge between 11,200 and 11,700 feet before rejoining the road.

Mt. Yale

Mt. Yale is one of the few peaks in which you can drive to the normal trailhead in winter. Yale's standard Southwest Slope route from the Denny Creek Trailhead does have avalanche concerns between 11,000 and 12,000 feet as the trail skirts a gulley. This area must be avoided when avalanche danger is increased. The East Ridge route from (ironically) Avalanche Gulch Trailhead is a popular winter route because of a lack of avalanche concerns during normal winter conditions but the route is much more difficult than the standard.

La Plata Peak

La Plata Peak

Highway 82 is plowed to the trailhead.

Though the winter route follows much of the standard, summer route through the forest but changes course due to significant avalanche danger above tree line on the standard route.

Just over a mile into the hike, the winter route moves east away from La Plata Gulch and toward the crest of the northwest ridge. When and where you leave the standard trail depends on the first person to put in the trench. There is no cairn or sign to mark the spot, but the turn off is usually somewhere between 10,500 and 10,800 feet.

Once at treeline you'll encounter a headwall where you'll have to climb a steep loose gully to reach the ridge. The easiest terrain is usually on the left side of the headwall, but pick whatever is most comfortable for you. From there, follow the ridge until it meets the summer route near 12,750 feet.

FOR MORE 14ERS: Check out Colorado 14ers in Winter on SummitPost. Assembled by Jamie Princo (shanahan96), it provides excellent winter informtion for all of the 14ers.