Peak(s):  Mt. Oklahoma  -  13,845 feet
Date Posted:  06/18/2014
Modified:  03/12/2015
Date Climbed:   06/08/2014
Author:  SnowAlien

Route: Ascent via Southeast slopes, Ski Descent to Halfmoon lakes
Distance: 9 miles
Vertical Climbed: 3,700 ft Skied: ~2,000 ft
Time: 8 hours 40 min RT
Partner: Hugh

As I was slogging my way up to ski half-melted Mt. Massive via SW slopes in early June of 2013, I saw this vision of snow-covered mountain in the distance. I got a nagging feeling that I was about to ski the wrong mountain that morning. However, lacking partners and skins (!) I decided to stick to the original plan, but made a mental note that Mt. Oklahoma is a skier peak that stays in late in the season.

Mt. Oklahoma as seen from Mt. Massive on 06.08.13

Fast forward one year later, exactly to the date of Mt. Massive ski. Hugh and I had plans with a few others to ski a peak which required a longer approach. Given a sudden change in the weather forecast in the negative direction - umm, about 12 hours prior - we made a last-minute switch to an "easier" peak - Oklahoma. Getting to the trailhead from our camp near hwy 82 required a little bit of time, so we got to an already familiar parking spot about 0.3 miles short of the upper 4wd trailhead around 5.30 am. The morning was cloudy and foggy so we took out time gearing up. We finally hit the familiar trail around 6 am or so. The first part of the trail follows Mt. Massive - SouthWest slopes route and it goes pretty quick.

Crossing the avy debris field on the standard Mt. Massive route - Oklahoma shows its white face in the distance

There is no other way to put it, but the approach to Mt. Oklahoma sucks, particularly when the trail is obscured by snow. We followed the trail to Halfmoon lakes for a while, but eventually it disappeared under deep snowdrifts. We started veering towards the peak, loosely following the route in the Roach 13ers book. It was so rough and time consuming that at one point I started wondering if the approach was going to cost us the summit. We almost got cliffed out (once) and had to make two rather sketchy creek crossings.

Bushwhack is not the most skier-friendly approach

Finding our way though the cliff bands

Second creek crossing

Eventually, we persevered. My GPS finally showed a mellow ridge which we skinned up, and it took us directly near the bottom of the Oklahoma's headwall.

Finally breaking through the tree line - whew!

Looking back at the tedious approach

One thing I should mention about this mountain - it has options. Lots of them. We spent some time debating which of the dozens (!) couloirs to ascent. We picked one (of many) that had few traces of rockfall and a smooth surface.

the upper basin

Admiring the geometry of tracks from the day before

Skinning up to the couloirs

The morning remained cloudy, so we felt pretty good about the snow conditions, although it was getting late - around 10am or so. We put skis on our packs and started climbing. The couloir is fairly short but steep. It very much reminded me of the Lake Emma chutes on Mt. Democrat.

Did I mention there are options? We were getting excited to ski one of those lines - well, it was before we saw the lines on the other side!

Lines and more ski lines

Topping out

Remaining route to the summit

As we stopped to switch to the skinning mode for the remaining 800 ft to the summit, we got check out more lines on the East face!

Looking down towards the upper Halfmoon lake

North Massive, Massive Green

Our desire to linger some more was suddenly cut short - we noticed a big black cloud over Elbert and heard thunder. Hugh stated that we should keep an eye on the cloud and if it gets any closer, he is turning around. Boy, did we book it to the summit!

Cloud over Elbert

Race to the summit!

Topping out on the summit with the fast moving storm approaching from the West

Happy that the weather held for us - it is almost sunny to the Southeast

We reached the summit around 11.20 am, very thankful that the weather held for us. In addition to the cloud on Elbert, we saw a big weather front fast approaching from the West (which was previously hidden by the summit ridge). We were in the weather donut hole, with sun directly above us and stormy clouds all around. No time to linger! We signed a brand new register, snapped a few pictures, made a transition to ski mode and were off in 10 minutes.

As usual, Hugh takes a concervative approach. We missed Brandon by a day

Summit views - Champion, UN13,736, Deer and K49 with Grizzly A in the background

Twinning peak

Off the summit

The snow conditions were perfect corn, and we made fast work dropping down to the saddle.

Hugh skiing

Looking back at the summit

We did NOT want the repeat of our ascent route and were hoping to catch some sort of a trail from the lower Halfmoon lake. The weather was rapidly moving in, and with that in mind, our intended line gave us a clear shot in getting down to the Upper Halfmoon lake without additional traversing and elevation gain.

Hugh dropping in

Good pitch and perfect corn

Middle of the run

Finishing the run

Out tracks

Skiing to the upper Halfmoon lake

Upper Halfmoon lake basin

Hugh took my camera and got a few shots of me skiing.

Natalie skiing

Skiing dusty snow was less pleasant than the quality white stuff up high, but it was still fun, and we made a quick work down to the lower Halfmoon lake.

Lower lake

There we stopped to regroup, eat lunch and re-assess our route options. Hugh had a map with Halfmoon Lakes trail clearly marked. Following the contour lines, I put the waypoints in my GPS and insisted we follow the route.

Reascending ~50 feet to the start of the "trail"

View of the mountain from Halfmoon lakes

In the beginning, we could not see the "trail" at all, although GPS kept telling me we were on the route. Still, compared to earlier in the day, the going was fairly straightforward, with very minimal bushwack. About 500 feet lower we saw a cairn, then another one. After the creek crossing, we picked up the dry patch of the trail. At first, we were not even sure we could use this "trail" at all - it was 10 feet of dry dirt followed by a thigh deep snowbank. After fiddling with skis and tired of "on-off mode", Hugh decided to posthole, while I walked using skies as a floatation device. Eventually the trail got less and less snow on it and finally became usable. We were making fairly decent time.

Finding a faint trail through snowdrifts

Half-way through the forest, the weather finally caught up to us and it was graupeling and snowing. It was still pretty warm though and precipitation melt as it hit the ground.

Sometimes we were wondering if it was a creek or a trail - or both?

Crossing the avy debris field - and it's snowing - in June

As we were getting closer to the trailhead - the sun almost came out, but it was still snowing...

as the raging Halfmoon creek obviously needed more water!

Oklahoma - what a great ski! If it were not for the initial approach, it easily would have been my favorite ski of the season. So many options to choose from.

The line

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Comments or Questions
Chicago Transplant
06/18/2014 19:43
Ha! I love yours and Brandon's optimism, glad it turned out to be true

Good stuff, Natalie!
06/18/2014 21:11
Way to get after it! That bushwhack was definitely not pleasant, but those turns turned out to be sweeter than southern sweet tea. I like your line down the east face better than ours down the southwest face. Well done to you & Hugh!

Great Job
06/18/2014 21:11
Looks like an awesome day! Glad to see Hugh got some new boots

Could you ski French Mountain next pretty please!
06/19/2014 14:13
Nice trip into the backcountry! Wow, that creek was ragin'!

Saw your tracks up there!
06/21/2014 04:39
I climbed and rode Oklahoma on 6/12. There were three ski tracks up there. I am pretty sure those tracks were yours, your partners, and my friend Joels that skied it between us. It is cool when you ski a peak that has had so little traffic that you know almost all the names on the summit register and there are only a few names on the register (updated from your summit register pic: . Happy turns! Zach

BTW, the link is a bit funky but if you copy and paste in your browser, you should be able to see the updated summit register for Oklahoma.

04/02/2015 19:45
CT - optimism was indeed a bit premature, but I guess we both called it right, albeit early. Hugh did confirm that skiing was one of the best he had all spring. Oh, and thanks for helping me identify Twinning peak

Brandon - bummer we missed each other on this one. We were oggling your line on the way up, but ended up dropping on the east side as the weather was moving in.

Matt - it's a pretty good ski line, check it out. Believe it or not, Hugh still hasn't gotten new boots, although he demoed Maestrale on the previous trip and really liked them. I think he is shopping around for deals.

Boudreaux - unfortunatelly, I jumped the gun early and hiked Frasco group some time ago. I should probably ski them, just not likely this year.

04/02/2015 19:45
Hi Zach, it's pretty cool that several of us got an idea to ski OK - how funny! Joel too. Thanks for sharing the register pic.OK register

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