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Colorado 14ers in Winter

 
Colorado 14ers in Winter

Page Type: List

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Object Title: Colorado 14ers in Winter

 

Page By: Scott, shanahan96

Created/Edited: Sep 16, 2007 / Feb 10, 2014

Object ID: 337648

Hits: 69835 

Page Score: 96.63%  - 61 Votes 

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Overview

Welcome to the Colorado Winter Fourteeners 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.


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.

Final false summit
Climbing Sherman 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.

PEAKWINTER ROUTE(S)/NOTES
Quandary Peak

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.

Mount Sherman

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

West Ridge- Lincoln's standard, summer route also stands as a fine, single day endeavor. There are multiple options to reach this frequently windy finishing stretch. If one desires to stand on top of Cameron en route, hiking to the Democrat-Cameron saddle is a fine choice. The snowfield beneath this saddle can be a substantial avalanche path. We found safe passage in the rocks to its immediate right in January 2008. From there, the route is commonly wind-scoured and free of snow.

Northeast Shoulder- This more uncommon way to climb Lincoln is a feasible, winter route. Getting to the upper section of ridge be may tricky. One must need to negotiate the Lincoln Ice Falls, northeast facing cliffs, and private property to the east of the massif. The Lincoln Amphitheatre, while frequently wind scoured, is a major avalanche path when loaded.

Winter TH's- Lincoln, Bross and Democrat:

Paris Mill- The Kite Lake Road is plowed until the Paris Mill, 2.5 miles short of Kite Lake, in the winter.

Montgomery Reservoir- The road is plowed to the reservoir in winter. Occasionally, there are snowdrifts blocking the road right after a storm.

Mount Bross

West Slopes- Bross' most obvious ridge route, as viewed from Kite Lake, is typically a screefest as the winds routinely remove all the snow above treeline from the Mosquito Range's highest massif. The "S" Gully on the ridge's north side has been known to be a safe route on occasion as it is extremely wind hammered. You'll have to judge the validity of this statement on the spot as conditions are consistently changing.

Northwest Ridge- Running the ridge from Cameron is 100% safe if one sticks to the crest of the ridge. It is an excellent way to connect Bross with a climb of Lincoln and Cameron.

Mount Democrat

The most interesting peak of the Decalibron group holds a few, intriguing surprises.

East Ridge- This route is thought to be straight forward, but that is not the entire truth. Be careful of the snowfield as mentioned in the Lincoln section. Also, the most exposed sections on the ridge are very icy. Crampons are advised. The Southeast Ridge bypasses both of these obstacles, and might be a safer route to gain Democrat's summit.

Mount Bierstadt

West Slopes-This was Colorado's most popular winter fourteener route in the days when the road was plowed all the way to Guanella Pass. Bierstadt's western slopes route are another Colorado windblown route. Avalanche danger is low, but not completely non-existent. Areas close to the north face, on the far, left side of the slopes may be a starting area for avalanches under certain conditions.

TH's:

Guanella Pass Road- Plowing on the north(Georgetown) side stops 1.5 miles short of the pass at the Naylor Lake turnoff.

Pikes Peak

Northwest Slopes(Crags Route)- Potentially a very windy route which lingers above 13,000' from the Devil's Playground TH to the summit and back. There is one gully just above treeline which could slide, but it's typically snow-free and would need a serious storm to pose a threat. The road is plowed to Rocky Mountain Camp, 1.9 miles short of the trailhead. It is common to drive all the way to the TH following older tire tracks.

Barr Trail- A long route at 25.8 miles and 7800' vertical. Barr Camp is available as an overnight camp.

**The summit building is open on days which the train is running**

Grays Peak

North Slopes- A deceptive, potentially dangerous route to the unaware as two major avalanche paths guard Upper Stevens Gulch. The first is the main, northeast facing gully coming off Kelso Mountain before reaching Stevens Gulch TH. From down low, this path looks far enough away to not pose a threat. I personally saw this slope run big in November 2010, covering the road in debris. The second is the southeastern slopes of Kelso Mountain. Stray from the summer trail well before reaching Kelso to avoid this hazard. The upper mountain is typical Grays, lots of scree or an easy ridge to the summit. Expect to add up to 6.0 miles and 1450' vertical to this climb depending on road conditions.

Southwest Ridge- Said to be another straightforward route. Giving the Northwest Slopes of Cooper and Ruby Mountains a wide breath may prove to be a good idea. The winter closure is at the Montezuma-Peru Creek junction.

Torreys Peak

South Slopes- Frequently combined with Grays, and is a simple finish from its neighbor's summit. Getting there, see Grays' North Slopes beta, can be tricky during certain timeframes. Reclimbing Grays on the descent may be necessary depending on snow conditions. Expect to add up to 6.0 miles and 1450' vertical depending on the winter road closure.

West Ridge- This route, from easily accessible Loveland Pass, is increasing in popularity and might be the safest path to Torreys summit in winter because of wind scoured terrain. Don't be fooled by the low amount of snow, many sizeable cornices decorate the north through east aspects on the approach. A car shuttle from the I-70 TH back to Loveland Pass is common amongst groups on this route.

Chihuahua Gulch- Said to be another reasonable winter route.

Mount Evans

West Ridge- A seemingly tedious route, but it holds a bit more character than expected. Avalanche danger is low, possibly non-existent depending on the day. There are steep gullies one can use to exit the Scott Gomer Drainage that could slide when properly loaded, but there are mellower options to avoid said routes. The upper West Ridge is a long, boulder weaving and hopping affair. The winter road closure is 1.5 miles short of Guanella Pass on the north side.

Mount Evans Road- This long route, 20+ miles/3700' vertical, is expedited by many sections of clear road. Off-road shortcuts might be prudent to save time and avoid avalanche paths.

Single Days

PEAKWINTER ROUTE(S)/NOTES
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Tabeguache Peak Probably best climbed from Shavano (see Shavano), though the Southwest Ridge/Jennings Creek Route is said to be reasonable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

The Fourteeners

PEAKWINTER ROUTE(S)/NOTES
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 miles roundtrip 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 dangerous in 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 route find to avoid the danger.

Help Requested

Thanks to all whom have helped with this page. Anyone who has done the climbs (or different routes) are 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.

View of the Challenging South Ridge
South Ridge of Castle (early spring)

Other Related Info

Overnight Temperatures in the Central Rockies

Pikes Peak Weather Statistics

14ers Weather Links

Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Disclaimer

This is not a how-to page on winter climbing. It's mearly a collection of winter notes meant to aid in planning winter ascents of the Colorado 14ers. Several climbers have been killed on these peaks. Technical and avalanche skills must be practiced before hand and proper equipment must be taken.

Fresh avalanche paths
Fresh avalanches as viewed from La Plata Peak.

Images