Rollins pass (Eldora to Fraser or Winter Park ski traverse)

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Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Feb 7, 2015
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Created On: Feb 11, 2015
Last Edited On: Mar 25, 2016

Updated route description:

Ski traverse from Eldora ski resort to Rollins pass toWinter Park (Fraser).  I have now mappedout a distance of 16 miles, 3150’ gain and 3710’ loss of elevation. It tookmore than 12 hours.

This passage is a locals' favorite and finds use by thosetraining for the Crested Butte to Aspen race (which is at least 2x thedistance, so traverse over and back again for the full effect).

The safest route (minimal avalanche danger) is to follow:the Jenny Creek trail starting from the Nordic center at Eldora ski resort (istarted at 5:45 am at 9,315'); to Guinn mountain (arrived at the Arestua hut at11,000’ at 8:30am);  to the high roadabove the old railroad (the steepest section at the start of the ascent of Hellhill is 25 degrees - considered borderline for avalanche risk - the snow is howeverusually swept thin by the wind); then the auto route over Rollins pass(typically wind scoured, expect to pack your skis for ~1 mile, do not followthe older lower road/former railroad route, i arrived at Rollins pass at 11:30at 11,809'); to the Middle Fork of Ranch creek (i arrived at 1:30pm, the droppoint is often packed by snowmobile traffic leading one way down the valley,the steepest section of the Middle Fork valley is 27 degrees which may bebypassed by taking an established switchback); to the Denver Water Board road(arrived at 4 pm); to the trails at Idlewild to Fraser (arrived at 5:45 pm at8,986' - follow the often tracked Burnout loop to the South Fork trail for quickesttravel).

One variation is to traverse and ski down the Middle Forkvalley but go left along the Denver Water Board road, then bushwack to ski downinto town from above (using the land from the former ski resort). This involvessome ascent along the well travelled by snowmobiles Water board road.

Descending Buck creek at the Riflesight Notch and Trestle (ratherthan the Middle Fork valley) is a faster route down, that leads across fromWinter park ski resort. Or follow the longer but safer snowmobile packed CoronaPass road, which should go quickly on Nordic skis.

The King lake valley might also be used to access Rollinspass (is a fast descent on skis, if you are headed back this way). Heart lakeand Rogers pass might be used to traverse to Winter park by the Jim creekvalley (much greater risk of avalanche).

Trip report for Sat 2016/3/19:

We found it snowing driving up Coal Creek canyon intoEldora. Eldora reported 3'' of snow for Sat 3/19, with 12'' from Thurs 3/17-Fri 3/18.  The wind forecast wasincreased the morning of Sat 3/19 (with the jetstream lingering longer in COthan predicted in previous days). Looking back, the morning of weather forecastfor James peak (windchill of 0°F) was true to the trip.

Because of the recent snow in 2016, we did find nearlycontinuous snow coverage through the entire route (which is unusual on the highroad near Rollins pass). I appreciated having my AT skis (greater flotation)with the big dump of fresh snow. In my opinion, however, this traverse is wellsuited to Nordic skis (with wax) or Tele skis (also bring wax), as it is easyto bypass the short steep downhill section (27 degree incline) in the MiddleFork valley - just take the switchback. There is typically enough one-waysnowmobile traffic down the Middle Fork valley to pave a path to follow throughthe snow. I would expect you can probably save at least an hour of time throughthe trip by picking Nordic or Tele skis. 

It's a good idea to make sure you have the stuff to coverall exposed skin on this trip, including balaclava, buff, and ski googles (makesure it fits your helmet and covers your face). That is no bullshit suggestioneither  - i got frostbite (blisters) wherethe wind got through to my belly because my jacket rides too high when i put mycamera under my jacket to keep the batteries going. In particular the ~3.5 milesection between Guinn mountain and the drop into Middle Fork of Ranch creekusually features strong wind. Typically the ~1 mile stretch of high road aboveRollins pass is wind scoured. Indian peaks is notorious for wind!

We drove up to leave Emily's car at the Trailhead inn inWinter Park. That way we could stay at the hotel Saturday night and drive backSun morning directly from the hotel. Randi's Pub is right across the road from Trailheadinn, for food. A better spot to stay would have been the Vasquez Creek inn,because the road from the trail from the old Idlewild ski resort comes outright across from there.

We left home in Arvada at 5 am to get started from Eldora at6:25. We reached Jenny creek (after the downhill) at 7:35; the tree tunnel (JC10)at 8:11; the ruins of the miner's cabin (JC12) at 8:57; and the Årestua hut at9:47. We took a break to rest and also attend to the cabin, leaving Årestua at11:04. We reached Rollins pass at 1:57 and the drop point to Middle Fork ofRanch creek at 3:06. We took a break to warm up(BREAK)  and left the drop point at 3:46, reaching theDenver Water Board road (MFRC12) at 5:04; Friendship drive in Winter Park at7:08; and unpacking at the Trailhead Inn hotel at 7:48. The Daylight Savingstime change started the previous weekend.

My pack was 29.5 lbs starting at Eldora, including 3 litersof water.

Link to photos:

Trip report for Sat 2015/2/07:

The snow was well tracked and packed from Eldora to Guinnmt. There are signs for the Jenny Creek trail, plus it seems like the Arestuahut gets a lot of use now. Follow the ridge from Guinn mt to Hell hill. It istypically wind scoured there - so the snow is wind slab, but pretty thin(relatively safe Avy danger). Be advised that the slope above Yankee Doodlelake has some historical nasty (and fatal) slides, if you are thinking to sneakin some turns. The road to Rollins pass was mostly wind blown, but may havesnow packed from snowmobile use. West of the Divide was a thin snowmobilepacked path until the hill just above Middle Fork. The area at the drop-offinto Middle Fork was well packed form snowmobiles (Avy safe). (Rented)snowmobiles are discouraged from using the Middle Fork valley, so i foundplenty of unpacked powder. It gets steep (equivalent to black runs at a resort)in short sections, so i was glad to have the powder to slow my Nordic skis. Theuntracked snow below the Water Board road seemed like walking through 2 feet ofwet cement on my skis. Sinking in with every step, it wore the Glop Stopper waxoff of my skins. There is sort of a path from the Middle Fork valley to the Idlewildtrails along the forest boundary.

My pack was 30.5 lbs at the start of the trip. 5 Gu's usedduring trip.

A little weird to get back on real food (from a diet ofsports gels and candy bars all day to keep going) back in Fraser. It gave methe hiccups!


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Rollins pass (Eldora to Fraser or Winter Park ski traverse)

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