Peak(s):  Mt. Silverheels  -  13,822 feet
Mt. Buckskin  -  13,865 feet
Clinton Peak  -  13,857 feet
Bartlett Mountain  -  13,400 feet
Date Posted:  06/17/2019
Date Climbed:   06/12/2019
Author:  SnowAlien
 Another Day, Another Cent   

As I was packing for a 3 day/2 night trip for Snowmass/Hagerman, potential partners decided to cancel. I had taken an extra day off work, the weather forecast looked great with solid freezes and almost no wind. With that little notice, I decided to look at the nearby peaks that I have been meaning to ski for years. A group skied Silverheels a week ago and I was betting the snow was still there.

Mt Silverheels

North gully

June 10th, 2019
Trailhead: Hoosier pass
8 miles, 3,400 ft gain, 5.5 hours

I was hoping for an earlier start, but wasn't able to get to Hoosier pass until after 8 am, but with a north-facing line and a great freeze I wasn't too worried. I finally got moving around 8.50 am. I booted up for a while before it occurred to me to start skinning. I hiked Silverheels once before in huge winds one October 7 years ago, which was quite a miserable experience. Today, the mountain was on its best behavior - almost no wind and bluebird weather. After a week of rest after the Bells, I was feeling pretty good and making a decent progress. Once I made to the first ridge, I decided to ski down to the base of the first gully, which saved me the distance, but was at the expense of some vertical. At the base I transitioned back to the skin mode and motored up the slope and the ridge to the summit. The angle was quite gentle. The summit was the only windy place on the mountain when I arrived just before noon.

First good look at Silverheels
Skiing to the base of the gully
Skin to the ridge
Silverheels summit ~12pm

The snow still looked to be in great shape, and after some consideration I dropped in the closest gully off the summit, although I knew it would cost me a couple hundred feet of vertical to regain the ridge (but when, if ever am I going to ski Silverheels again?). The gully was perfect corn and an enjoyable and carefree skiing. Once at the logical end of the run, I traversed hard left and looked for a way to gain the saddle. After about 200 ft of booting, I was back on the ridge near the power lines. I thought about dropping down and skinning back up the ridge, but decided to bite the bullet and just hike and carry skis for a mile. Once on the crest of the ridge, I clicked back into skis and skied all the way back to the highway.

Long gully off the summit
Perfect corn was my reward for a late start :)
Gully (center) from the ridge reclimb
On the hike out

Mt Buckskin

NW couloir

June 11th, 2019
Trailhead: switchback below Fremont pass
8 miles, 3,000 ft gain, 6.5 hours

I was curious about this aspect of Mt. Buckskin for a long time. Years ago I read the entry by Centennial skiers and was very intrigued. At the time it was far above my pay grade, so I just made a mental note. Last spring, Brandon and I had a very enjoyable ski of Tweto's Crack couloir and I just kept looking towards Buckskin's complex face seeing if anything was there. But last year was dry and nothing looked obvious, except the face being steep and rocky. This season, most of the lines are in and I saw a report from maybe a month a two ago that Buckskin was thin, but in. Without any recent reports, I decided to make it an exploratory outing. As a plan B, I contemplated skiing the NE face of Buckskin towards Kite lake, which I knew was in fat this season.

Brandon on Tweto in late May 2018 with Buckskin in the background
Buckskin from Tweto on 06.10.19 Source: Instagram

Today was supposed to be a little colder and windier than yesterday. Again, I mustered a pretty casual 8.25 am start, but with a deep overnight freeze the basin was still frozen on the approach.

Buckskin ahead

On the approach, nothing looked really promising, so I decided to trust Gaia, which was pointing me to the far end of the basin. Feeling a bit sluggish today and in no rush, I found myself at the bottom of the gully by 11 am. After stashing the skins, I started climbing the broad snow gully sticking to the right side. What immediately jumped at me is the amount of wet avy debris and the degree of rockfall. With that in mind, I decided to stick to the snow as much as possible.

Ascent route
Left branch doesn't seem to go

About half-way up there was a fork, with the left branch leading more direct line to the summit. But I convinced myself it didn't go, besides, climbing that narrow chute would have exposed me to more rockfall. Being solo, I decided to play more conservatively and took the right branch to the ridge, topping out around 13,600 ft. On the way up I noticed the signs of massive rockfall, which again reminded me to avoid this peak on a really warm day.

This rock slide happened on some prior warm day
Tweto (L) and Arkansas (R) from the ridge

Once on the ridge, the character of the snow changed, and it was much softer on the southern aspect. Again, I was glad this day wasn't any warmer as it would make the upward progress more difficult. After some contouring and traversing, I arrived on the Buckskin summit a quarter to 1 pm. After transitioning to the ski mode, I decided to ski to the false summit and take a look.

Crows on Buckskin summit with Democrat in the background
Looking back from "false" summit.

Views from the false summit were arguably better than from the actual summit. Next time I am just going to tag the false summit and claim it, parallax can be damned. Now for the ski descent options. The gully directly off the summit was dry, so down the ridge I went. About 10 feet below the summit, I was able to put skis on and started skiing down the steep ridge. The next entrance I tried was also dry, so I kept going down the ridge. However, the 3rd entrance, near 13,800 ft looked promising.

Found the only dry gully in Colorado this spring!
Skiing down the ridge
2nd dry entrance
3rd entrance from the top was a white gully

On the 3rd try I was atop a snow covered gully which piqued my interest. It was just one gully over from the one I came up and I could also see a faint bootback. It looked so promising that I decided to check it out. The snow was still pretty frozen, even well past 1 pm. Skiing that gully was exhilarating. I couldn't tell with 100% certainty that it went all the way, but it was steep, rocky and aesthetic.

Down the rabbit hole on still frozen snow
Looking up with the old bootpack visible
About half way down

Further down the face the gully started to look narrow, and I convinced myself there could be a cliff at the bottom. I was right at the fork and decided to go and investigate if I could escape into my ascent gully. Sure enough, after a few feet of horizontal rock stepping, I was atop of a narrow chute and could see a clear path to the wide gully to my left. The ease of this escape route was hard to resist. Turns out, it was the same variation Centennial Skiers took in '13.

Top of the "escape" chute
Lower part of the face

My other reason for going left was to take advantage of nice snow which had probably corned up by now. But alas, even at this late time of the day (almost 2pm), the snow was still firm.

Complex NW face of Buckskin

The apron finally delivered corn turns ~2pm. I was very impressed with the route, and could see myself skiing it again another time. What left was a 3 mile pole-push back to the car, where I arrived by 3pm.

Polling and pushing back to the car

Bartlett and Clinton

North face couloir

June 12th, 2019
Trailhead: Clinton reservoir
9 miles, 3,500 ft gain, 8.5 hours

Ok, day 3. On that day, I was planning to do Emerald-Missouri linkup, but somehow the Buckskin day took longer than expected and didn't exactly feel like a "rest" day. After running the Emerald numbers, I wasn't feeling up for a 5-6k day. So, what do I have around here that doesn't involve a lot of vertical? That would be Bartlett, which I spotted last spring from Drift. With a SE facing line, I got motivated for an earlier start. I started hiking on the summer trail by 6am, but pretty soon ran into snow drifts which were still frozen at this early hour.

The initial plan was just Bartlett, and maybe Drift afterwards if I am feeling up to it, but once I saw Clinton's North face, I knew I'd want to ski that.


Despite the bluebird forecast, some small clouds came in and were obscuring the summits, so I dropped the speed (which I later regretted). My plan was to skin all the way to the summit of Bartlett and then ski the gentle face down to the saddle with Clinton.

Bartlett ahead
Summit plateau
Summit marker - Gaia showed elevation of 13,281 ft

I scrambled up the rocky outcropping to what may be the current "summit", although I couldn't really see the point of this exercise. The rock quality is extremely poor and borderline dangerous. Gaia showed 3 readings near 13,400 ft. Despite exercising extreme caution I still managed to trundle a big rock. With all the summit shenanigans, I was about 30 minutes behind schedule. Thankfully, the ski down towards Clinton couldn't be more straightforward and was over in a minute. I skied down to about 12,800 ft, and then skinned and eventually booted up the long ridge. The ridge involved a fair amount of postholing, especially near the rocks, and had some large cornices, so took me a bit longer than expected. I got to the 2nd summit of the day just after 12pm.

Ridge towards Clinton
Looking back at the tracks
Corniced ridge
Democrat looks incredibly fat this spring
Corn turns off the top

Does it even go? (note an old bootpack)
Looking back up
Down at the bottom snow got more slushy, but still manageable
Down by 1pm. Great line!

Snow was still a little firm near the top, but after couple hundred feet transitioned to perfect corn. The chute narrowed, so I stopped to check the Gaia and make sure I was in the correct one. A bit further down I could see an old bootpack. The chute was fairly steep and narrow and the snow was still holding up great. Once at the bottom, I had about 3 miles of skate skiing and polling to get back to the trailhead where I arrived by 2.30 pm. Centennials are so much more fun on skis!

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

Comments or Questions
Love it, love it, love it.
06/17/2019 17:46
Not much more to say than that!

High Crimes and Misdemeanors
06/18/2019 08:58
Pickin' 'em off!
Skied the N face of Clinton in May. Due to the questionable legality of access to that side of the peak, and its name, we referred to the two couloirs on the N face as "High Crimes and Misdemeanors." High Crimes would be the steeper/ skiers right line. Very aesthetic lines.

High Crimes
06/18/2019 14:01
Love the name. I could tell at least 3 couloir lines that go, and I loved the look of all 3. What a great looking face indeed. I could also tell there's quite a bit of a skier traffic (and a booter), but couldn't find any info for whatever reason.🎠Good call on skiing it in May, although it wasn't half bad in June. Like Drift, probably stays in for awhile

climax security
06/27/2019 09:23
now they gonna get you!

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