Overview***Update 1-26-13*** Scott has graciously allowed me to assist him on this page. There is a chance things may not make sense as some additions or changes may be incomplete depending on where they are left at the end of a day or work week. Please be patient and frequently check back with us on a regular basis as we'd like to help you be as educated as possible as you navigate Colorado's alpine terrain. Also, we now have firsthand accounts to every Colorado 14er and look forward to passing along those findings to you, the climbing community.
This is a collection of winter notes and route suggestions for the Colorado 14ers. I hope you find this information useful. It took a lot of work and is a work in progress, but it is coming along and will eventually be complete.
This list was created entirely from direct knowledge either first hand by myself or friends who have climbed or attempted these peaks. It should be useful, but any additions and corrections are encouraged from anyone else on Summitpost with first hand experience.
See also the attached albums (more to come). Some photos in a few of them were taken just outside the winter season, but should be useful for those attempting the peaks in winter.
Where to Start?This is the common question among people venturing into Winter Fourteeners for the first time. These peaks are among the easiest, shortest, and most likely to provide you with a positive first experience.
East Ridge- This may be the most popular winter 14er route in Colorado. This route can be completed without crossing avalanche slopes if proper precautions are taken at treeline. The north/northeast facing slopes above the common exit from the trees(summer trail area) have slid from time to time. Avoid them by going far left and gaining the ridge down low. In January 2008, there was a packed snowshoe trail to treeline. This is a common occurrence with Quandary's popularity, but go prepared to break your own trail. You can drive within 0.1 miles of the summer TH.
Harder, Technical Routes:
West Ridge- 3rd class in the summer, but a demanding, technical challenge during winter. Venturing off the ridge proper onto the South Face may put you into avalanche terrain depending on conditions. Rope and a rack are advised. The winter closure can add up to 2.1 miles depending on recent wind scouring of the road.
Inwood Arête- A mild technical route(5.4- 3P) in the summer, but a potentially dangerous, challenging adventure during the winter months. Expect to deal with technical terrain and possibly loaded avalanche slopes getting to and leaving the 5th class sections of the climb. Rope, rack, and avalanche gear/avy knowledge strongly recommended. Pulling this off during the winter months is a major accomplishment! Expect to add 2.1 miles onto this hike in winter.
East Slopes- Fourmile Creek is a popular hike during the winter months. The typical winter winds typically make for a less than demanding snowshoe. The steeper slopes leading to the Sherman-Sheridan saddle can slide. This wasn't the case in December 2006, but this is prone to constant changes. Sherman's East Ridge over the unranked bicentennial, White Ridge, will provide safe passage. The road is plowed to Leavick, but snowdrifts can add extra mileage onto your hike.
West Slopes- This is a slightly more arduous way to hike Sherman in the winter as the Iowa Gulch Road is less likely to have a trench in place. Sherman's West Face is the major avalanche hazard on this route, give it a wide berth if you're concerned and you shouldn't have issues. The slopes leading to the saddle with Sheridan are normally wind scoured. The road is plowed to the ASARCO mine, add 4.8 miles onto your hike.
|Mount Lincoln||With careful route selection, usually low avalanche danger from Bross, Cameron, or from Quartzville.The Quartzville side may be closed due to private mining claims, so check 14ers.com or other sites for the current situation.|
|Mount Bross||The standard routes usually have low avalanche danger. The summit of the mountain is currently closed due to private land issues, but you can legally get within a few feet of the summit from the Kite Lake side.|
|Mount Democrat||The standard route usually has low avalanche danger due to wind scour, but make sure to stay on route.|
|Mount Bierstadt||Bierstadt used to be the most popular winter 14er, but the road is no longer plowed all the way to the trailhead. Usually the standard route has low avalanche danger.|
|Pikes Peak||Both the Crags and Barr Trail are popular in winter. Either route usually has low avalanche danger, but under rare conditions things might be different.|
|Grays Peak||The standard route has some avalanche danger and requires an extra 6 miles round trip and 1460 feet altitude gain in winter. Chihuahua Gulch is said to be a reasonable winter route.|
|Torreys Peak||The standard route has some avalanche danger and requires an extra 6 miles round trip and 1460 feet altitude gain in winter. Loveland Pass is a popular winter route with low avalanche danger, but be aware of dangerous cornices at times. A fall off a cornice could trigger and avalanche. Chihuahua Gulch is said to be a reasonable winter route.|
|Mount Evans||The route from Guanella Pass is said to be fairly safe, but very tedious. The road is no longer plowed all the way to the pass.|
|Mount Elbert||The East Ridge is the safest route during a normal winter. There is no avalanche danger on this route. The Northeast Ridge route is not commonly used as the summer TH is 4 miles past the winter road closure.|
|Mount Massive||The East Ridge route from the Fish Hatchery(15 miles/5000' vertical) is the most popular route in the winter. A trail is commonly broken to the Colorado Trail by recreational skiers and snowshoers.|
|Mount Harvard||From any route, Harvard is a long climb without a snowmobile. The standard summer route requires an extra 16.4 miles round trip. Frenchman Creek is said to be the best winter route and is 17 miles round trip. This route can have moderate avalanche danger at times.|
|Blanca Peak||The standard summer route requires an extra 3.6 miles round trip in winter. Avalanche danger is considered moderate on the route.|
|La Plata Peak||The North Ridge Direct is the safest route and usually has little to no avalanche danger. Under unusual conditions one slope could slide. Trailhead is open year round.|
|Uncompahgre Peak||Winter road closure is at Nellie Creek. A fairly low avalanche danger route can be found close to the summer route, but this is a long climb in winter.|
|Crestone Peak||The South Face Route is doable, but avalanche conditions vary considerably from year to year. From an avalanche perspective, the north facing climb up to Broken Hand Pass is the most dangerous part of the climb, with some possible danger in the gullies near the summit. An approach from Cottonwood Creek may be the best route in winter. The Northwest Couloir Route can also have significant avalanche danger and can be difficult and icy as well. During drought years, these peaks may have so little snow that they can be climbed mostly on rock, at least on south facing slopes. These peaks are in the rainshadow of the San Juans and are therefore susceptible to drought. In heavy snow years, the avalache danger can be very high to extreme.|
|Mount Antero||In winter, the road is open to the Cascade Campground. Add 4 miles round trip. The standard route often has avalanche danger. Use spurs to avoid some of the danger.|
|Castle Peak||The Northeast ridge itself is a fairly safe winter route once you get on it, but the approach to the ridge is often not safe and has very high avalanche danger. Montezuma Basin has no avalanche free routes and the approach will be the most dangerous part. The road is open to Ashcroft and requires an extra 5.0 miles round trip in winter. The North Couloir is probably the easiest winter route, but only during extremely stable time periods is this a safe route. The route would be extremely dangerous in prime avalanche conditions.|
|Longs Peak||The North Face Cables Route is said by many to be the best route in winter. Sometimes there isn't too much avalanche danger, but even if not extreme winds and icy conditions are the biggest obstacle. At times however, the avalanche danger can be considerable. If there is avalanche danger, a small slide could carry you over the east face. Longs may be one of the windiest 14ers and is a serious mountain in the winter. The south route from Sandbeach Lake is said to be a good winter route as well. The West Face has also been recommended as possibly the best winter route up Longs. If the weather moves in it's fairly easy to get back down to timberline with a glissade (if stable) but remember The Trough gully ends in a cliff, so you have to move one gully to the north near the bottom.|
|Mount Wilson||Mount Wilson is an avalanche prone and very serious climb in winter. There seem to be no really "safe" routes up this one in winter and the climb is long from any route.|
|Mount Shavano||The eastern routes are the best ones for winter assaults. In the dead of winter, it may be faster to reach Blanks Gulch from the Angel of Shavano CG and the Colorado Trail. The East Slopes route usually has very low avalanche danger. The Angel of Shavano usually has fairly low danger, but under certain conditions could slide.|
|Mount Belford||The standard summer route crosses an avalanche area right after reaching Missouri Basin. The rest of the route usually has low avalanche danger.|
|Crestone Needle||The standard route is doable, but avalanche conditions vary considerably from year to year. From an avalanche perspective, the north facing climb up to Broken Hand Pass is the most dangerous part of the climb. The South Couloir can have high danger. During drought years, these peaks may have so little snow that they can be climbed mostly on rock. These peaks are in the rainshadow of the San Juans and are therefore susceptible to drought. In heavy snow years, the avalache danger can be very high to extreme.|
|Mount Princeton||The standard route is a fairly safe winter climb, but stay directly on the ridgetop rather than the road between the radio towers and Tigger Peak. This is quite tedious, especially if you are breaking trail, but this route avoids the avalanche chutes. Also be aware that reaching the Chalet on Mount Princeton requires crossing a big avalanche chute. Unless avalanche danger is low, bringing a tent (if overnighting) is recommended. In winter, add 4.4 miles round trip.|
|Mount Yale||The road to the Denny Creek trailhead is often open year round, but not always. The standard summer route is considered reasonable in winter. Usually avalanche danger is fairly low to moderate, but after storms and at other times, there can be higher avalanche danger if you don't stick to the ribs.The East Ridge from the Avalanche Gulch Trailhead is the safest route on the mountain, and usually has no avalanche danger if you stay on route, but the ridge is rather long and tedious.|
|Kit Carson Peak||The safest route is said to be from South Colony, but this is a longer route. Add 3.0 miles round trip from the 2wd trailhead in winter.|
|El Diente||El Diente can be an avalanche prone climb and is a very serious climb in winter. There seem to be no really "safe" routes up this one in winter and the climb is long from any route. Kilpacker Basin is said to be the best winter route, but is still a very serious climb.|
|Maroon Peak||A serious climb in winter on an avalanche prone mountain. Most use the standard summer route, but the route has high avalanche danger.|
|Tabeguache Peak||Probably best climbed from Shavano (see Shavano), though the Southwest Ridge/Jennings Creek Route is said to be reasonable.|
|Mount Oxford||Over Belford, the standard summer route crosses an avalanche area right after reaching Missouri Basin. The rest of the route usually has low avalanche danger. The East Ridge over Waverly Mountain is said to be the best route in winter up Oxford and usually has low avalanche danger.|
|Mount Sneffels||Sneffels is not too difficult of a climb in winter, but the standard route is very avalanche prone and can be dangerous. Road closures vary from year to year, but add at least 4.0 miles round trip in winter.|
|Capitol Peak||Capitol is a serious climb in winter and has high avalanche danger. The traverse from the Daly Saddle to K2 is extremely avalanche prone and the ridge beyond that is often heavily corniced. Via Capitol Lake, you must add 7.2 miles round trip. I believe the route from West Snowmass Creek is the most practical since you avoid much of the Daly Saddle-K2 traverse and you can get a more direct shot at K2 first thing in the morning and before the sun hits. This is also a very serious route and you must add 2 milesround trip in winter.|
|Snowmass Mountain||Snowmass is a serious winter climb. It isn't that difficult, but is considered dangerous. The slopes above Snowmass Lakes are considered to be an avalanche trap. In winter, add 2.0 miles round trip. The Lead King Basin Route is said to be possibly the safer route because the prevailing winds tend to strip that side rather than load it, but the approach is still long and still crosses many avalanche paths.|
|Mount Eolus||A serious winter climb, especially since the train doesn't run in the winter, adding another 10 miles round trip. Eolus is also an avalanche prone mountain. In winter, one of the least climbed 14ers.|
|Windom Peak||A serious winter climb, especially since the train doesn't run in the winter, adding another 10 miles round trip. Windom is also an avalanche prone mountain. In winter, it is one of the least climbed 14ers.|
|Challenger Point||The Willow Creek Route is said to be a reasonable route with moderate avalanche conditions.|
|Mount Columbia||From any route, Columbia is a long climb without a snowmobile. Though reasonably safe if rock ribs are used to avoid avalanche danger, the standard summer route requires an extra 16.4 miles round trip. Three Elk Creek Route is said to be the best winter route and is 17 miles round trip. This route can have moderate avalanche danger at times.The Southeast Ridge is said to be a reasonable route.|
|Missouri Mountain||The standard summer route is avalanche prone. The best winter route is the West Ridge from Lake Fork and Clohesy Lake. You can avoid avalanche danger if you search for a route through the trees and then exposed ribs.The crux of the route is an exposed step near the summit and might require a safety rope depending on snow/ice conditions.|
|Humboldt Peak||The East Ridge is said to be the best route. Usually the standard route is fairly safe as well. Stay on route and avalanche slopes can be avoided. In winter, add 3.0 miles round trip to the 2wd summer trailhead.|
|Conundrum Peak||The South Ridge itself is a fairly safe winter route once you get on it, but the approach to the ridge is often not safe and has very high avalanche danger. Montezuma Basin has no avalanche free routes and the approach will be the most dangerous part. The road is open to Ashcroft and requires an extra 5.0 miles round trip in winter. Conundrum Creek also has routes, but the approach is also very avalanche prone.|
|Sunlight Peak||A serious winter climb, especially since the train doesn't run in the winter, adding another 10 miles round trip. Sunlight is also an avalanche prone mountain. In winter, this is one of the least climbed 14ers.|
|Handies Peak||Grizzly Gulch is said to be the best route due to road closures and is said to have moderate to low avalanche danger.|
|Culebra Peak||The standard route is supposed to have low avalanche danger, but the fee for climbing the peak is doubled to $200 per person.|
|Ellingwood Point||The standard summer route requires an extra 3.6 miles round trip in winter. Avalanche danger is considered moderate on the route.|
|Mount Lindsey||You can drive to the Singing River Ranch in winter and from there it’s a fairly long climb. The route is said to have moderate to low avalanche danger as long as you stick close to the ridge on the later part of the route. The ridge can have some tricky scrambling in winter.|
|Little Bear Peak||In winter, the standard summer route-the West Ridge has no rockfall, but can have avalanche danger. When conditions are stable, the route isn't supposed to be that much harder in winter than in summer, but have a good avalanche forecast.The Southwest Ridge is typically the safest route on the mountain during winter because the avalanche danger is usually lower.|
|Redcloud Peak||The best way up the peak without access to a snowmobile is probably from Sunshine Peak (see Sunshine Peak). Without a snowmobile, you must add 10.4 miles round trip to the standard summer route.|
|North Maroon Peak||North Maroon is a serious winter climb and an avalanche prone mountain. In winter, most climbers use the standard summer route, but the route can be very dangerousin winter unless everything is very stable.|
|Pyramid Peak||Opinions on avalanche danger seem to vary greatly on Pyramid for some reason. In any case this is a very serious winter climb.|
|Wilson Peak||Wilson Peak is not an extremely difficult winter climb, but can be very avalanche prone and is a very long climb in winter. The Silver Pick Basin currently has access issues so other routes are suggested.|
|Wetterhorn Peak||Wetterhorn is a serious winter climb. The route up Wetterhorn has moderate avalanche danger and without a snowmobile you must add 22.4 miles round trip to the standard route! You can also approach the peak from the Uncompahgre Peak area.|
|San Luis Peak||The best winter route is said to be from West Willow Creek, but to deviate from the standard summer route by using the tedious ridge from peak 13285 along the Continental Divide (best approached from the south?). The ridge is a pain and is much longer, but avoids the avalanche danger. If conditions are stable, a more direct route is better and you can avoid the ridge. In winter, add up to 15.2 miles round trip. San Luis may be easy in summer, but is a long committing (but easy in a technical sense) climb in winter with lots of trail breaking, unless the road happens to be open all the way to the mine (which does happen in some years).|
|Mount of the Holy Cross||Holy Cross is a technically easy mountain in winter and fairly safe, but the climb physically hard and demanding because of the road closures. The crux of the standard route is getting down from Halfmoon Pass to Cross Creek and then back up again. Other than the area between Halfmoon Pass and Cross Creek, there isn't much avalanche danger, but since there is little traffic in winter, expect to break trail the entire way. Going up Cross Creek from that trailhead is another alternative.|
|Huron Peak||Supposedly the standard summer route is best, but it is a long way from the winter road closure. In the last part of winter, you can often drive farther. If you climb the ribs/spurs on the Southwest Face, avalanche danger is usually avoidable, but you must routefind to avoid the danger.|
|Sunshine Peak||The East Ridge from Mill Creek is supposed to be one of the safest winter 14er routes in the San Juans, but is also said to be quite tedious and not as interesting as some other climbs. Avalanche danger is low and the road is plowed to the trailhead.|
Help RequestedThanks to all whom have helped with this page. Anyone who has done the climbs (or different routes) in invited to contribute and to help with info.
Winter photos and albums are also encouraged. I will add some on the mountains that have enough winter photos for an album, but many do not. Please contribute winter photos.
Other Related InfoOvernight Temperatures in the Central Rockies
Pikes Peak Weather Statistics
14ers Weather Links
Colorado Avalanche Information Center