Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,068 feet
Date Posted:  05/03/2010
Date Climbed:   05/02/2010
Author:  SchralpTheGnar
 Humboldt - Southeast Flank Solo Ski   

Other than a ski back in 2001 of The Kirk Couloir on Challenger I haven't done any skiing down in the Sangre De Cristos. Back in 2000 we climbed Ellingwood Ledges on Crestone Needle and I had forgotten since then just how spectacular that region is. Setting my sights to this region and with no partners available a solo trip up Humboldt would be the cure for what ails the soul. Leaving town around 5pm, I made the drive down 115, through Florence and up to Westcliffe. High clouds and a low sun on the western horizon bathed the region in a myriad of colors: orange, red, gray, and a surreal blue. If the trip ended right now I would be satisfied, this might be my favorite area in all of Colorado.

After getting a few winks in my car at the lower trailhead I was up at 4:15am. The moon, just over half full, peaked in and out of the clouds and cast the high desert in enough light as to warrant the headlamp unnecessary. The first 5 miles up the road went smoothly and around 7am I saw some tracks heading north into the trees. Surely this must be the bushwhack up to the southeast flank. So I took it, and up I went, following what appeared to be the tracks of a hiker and a skier heading down the mountain. The snow is the trees was great, quite supportive of my idea of climbing on it.

When I got to treeline the footprints kept going to the ridge, but I thought I could save some time by doing a rising traverse to this saddle. This was a mistake, the snow was totally frozen or deep powder and through in some talus for good measure. The only thing that saved me were my Black Diamond Crampons. After eating yet another Clif bar and feeling nauseous, I was totally wiped out by the time I reached the saddle. A few more steps and I made it to the summit at 11:15.

The views of the Crestones from the summit are second to none, the Ellingwood Ledges route looked unbelievable, honestly I have no idea how I made it up that. By now the clouds that had been lingering all day engulfed the mountain and it started to snow. I was able to contrive a summit ski descent from the summit register back down the east ridge and then down stepping with my skis on through some rocks and snow to the start of the Southeast flank. The snow on the route was a mix of powder, wind slab and ice. With visibility down to next to nothing I followed the right hand edge of the flank using the rocks to keep my bearings. My legs were feeling it by now and I made it back down to the south colony road quite a bit west from where I left the road. The cold temps kept the snow on the road solid and I enjoyed a nice cruise in full on winter conditions back to the car at 2:15pm, only having to walk the last 1/2 mile.

For some reason this was one of the harder days I had in the mountains and I was wiped out by the time I made it back to the car. It was probably because I didn't eat enough, but that one Clif bar really turned my stomach. All in all, it was 13 miles, 5,300 vertical feet and 10 hours of fun in the Sangres. I can't wait to get back for me.

Comments or Questions
Nice job!
05/03/2010 16:23
Any thoughts on the stablity of the snow in the couloir and the narrow section as you enter the trees (on descent)? I‘ve been waiting to head back down there and ski that route but the recent snow and wind-loading has been a concern.
Any pics? Thanks!

Way to schralp it!
05/03/2010 19:23
We saw some gnar up there a few weeks ago too. Nice solo effort.

no pics
05/03/2010 19:54
Unfortunately I forgot the camera at home. As for the stability of the snow it was frozen solid all day so I only dug a few times, but it is definitely not fully consolidated yet, especially above 12,000 feet. There was a combination of wind slab, ice and powder in the main couloir.

Down lower in the trees around the area, I‘m not sure what narrow section in the trees you‘re talking about but the snow in the trees where I was also frozen solid so it was very stable for me, but it‘d be hard to say how it would react with any warming. There was some dirt not too far below the new snow.

While the skiing wasn‘t that great it was nice having fully supportive snow all day. I‘d give the conditions overall a 7/10 for my day, whatever the heck that is worth.

That‘s a tough route to time because the vertical is so big on it, at least the road shouldn‘t cause you too many problems even if it does warm up. I would think in spring conditions you could get great conditions from 14-12k, deal with mank from 12-11k, then cruise the road out. Probably be a week or two before that thing consolidates depending on the weather.

05/04/2010 00:34
By ”narrow” section I just meant the lower section of the couloir where it begins to narrow slightly.
If the wind would die down, I‘m hoping to get the same line using the sled.
Thanks again

I liked your report . . .
05/04/2010 02:56
Hey -- please let us know about the trailhead -- did you start at the Rainbow Trail. Is that where you parked??

Any info would be appreciated.

Your last sentence was the best of the trip report!

starting point
05/04/2010 18:32
I started at the lower trailhead, at 8,880 feet, the road was snow free for the first 1/2 mile, about 1 mile before the start of the National Forest. It said that parking is not allowed along that part of the road because it is private property. I think it‘s about 2 miles to the rainbow trail from the lower TH. With a frozen road the hike went quickly, I think I did the 5 miles 2,000 feet in a 2.5 hours without even trying.

As for using a sled, there seemed like a few dirt sections in between where you could tow a sled up to and where it was fully snowpacked. But I‘ve never ridden a sled before so I don‘t know if that‘s a big problem or not. There were lots of snowmobile tracks so it‘s obviously heavily used so you can probably safely ignore any opinions I have about using a snow mobile.

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