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

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

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 39.93567°N / 105.6822°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Feb 7, 2015
Activities Activities: Skiing
Seasons Season: Winter


ROUTE 1: Eldora ski resort to Fraser


Updated route description:

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

This passage is a locals' favorite and finds use by those training for the Crested Butte to Aspen race (which is at least 2x the distance, 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 (i started at 5:45 am at 9,315'); to Guinn mountain (arrived at the Arestua hut at11,000’ at 8:30am);  to the high road above the old railroad (the steepest section at the start of the ascent of Hell hill is 25 degrees - considered borderline for avalanche risk - the snow is however usually 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 follow the older lower road/former railroad route, i arrived at Rollins pass at 11:30 at 11,809'); to the Middle Fork of Ranch creek (i arrived at 1:30pm, the drop point 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 be bypassed 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 at 8,986' - follow the often tracked Burnout loop to the South Fork trail for quickest travel).

One variation is to traverse and ski down the Middle Fork valley but go left along the Denver Water Board road, then bushwack to ski down into town from above (using the land from the former ski resort). This involves some ascent along the well traveled by snowmobiles Water board road.

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

The King lake valley might also be used to access Rollins pass (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 creek valley (much greater risk of avalanche).



Trip report for Sat 2016/3/19:

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

Because of the recent snow in 2016, we did find nearly continuous 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 well suited to Nordic skis (with wax) or Tele skis (also bring wax), as it is easy to bypass the short steep downhill section (27 degree incline) in the MiddleFork valley - just take the switchback. There is typically enough one-way snowmobile traffic down the Middle Fork valley to pave a path to follow through the snow. I would expect you can probably save at least an hour of time through the 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 (make sure it fits your helmet and covers your face). That is no bullshit suggestion either  - i got frostbite (blisters) where the wind got through to my belly because my jacket rides too high when i put my camera under my jacket to keep the batteries going. In particular the ~3.5 mile section between Guinn mountain and the drop into Middle Fork of Ranch creek usually features strong wind. Typically the ~1 mile stretch of high road above Rollins 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 back Sun morning directly from the hotel. Randi's Pub is right across the road from Trailhead inn, 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 at 6:25. 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 at 11:04. We reached Rollins pass at 1:57 and the drop point to Middle Fork of Ranch creek at 3:06. We took a break to warm up(BREAK)  and left the drop point at 3:46, reaching the Denver 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 Savings time change started the previous weekend.

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

Link to photos:




Trip report for Sat 2015/2/07:

The snow was well tracked and packed from Eldora to Guinn mt. There are signs for the Jenny Creek trail, plus it seems like the Arestua hut gets a lot of use now. Follow the ridge from Guinn mt to Hell hill. It is typically wind scoured there - so the snow is wind slab, but pretty thin(relatively safe Avy danger). Be advised that the slope above Yankee Doodle lake has some historical nasty (and fatal) slides, if you are thinking to sneak in some turns. The road to Rollins pass was mostly wind blown, but may haves now packed from snowmobile use. West of the Divide was a thin snowmobile packed path until the hill just above Middle Fork. The area at the drop-off into Middle Fork was well packed form snowmobiles (Avy safe). (Rented)snowmobiles are discouraged from using the Middle Fork valley, so i found plenty 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. The untracked snow below the Water Board road seemed like walking through 2 feet of wet cement on my skis. Sinking in with every step, it wore the Glop Stopper wax off of my skins. There is sort of a path from the Middle Fork valley to the Idle wildtrails along the forest boundary.

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

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


ROUTE 2: Winter park to Hessie trailhead
Trip report for Sat 2019/3/16:
Andrew, Josh and me skied from Winter park to Eldora on Saturday 2019/3/16. 
To help with our trip, we dropped a car at Eldora Friday night on our way to stay Winter Park. The ''bomb cyclone'' blizzard was on Wednesday 3/13, with 16'' from that reported at Winter park ski and 14'' Eldora ski. Fearing getting Andrew's Subaru stuck, we ended up parking at Eldora ski resort rather than Hessie trailhead (like we wanted). I would strongly advise to use Hessie as the start/end point for trips along this route. If it turns out you are still traveling after hours, the snowcats at the ski resort will not be looking for you; furthermore they use wire cables and winches to groom the steepest runs - you would not want to ski into that!!!
We were surprised to find the network of maintained snowmobile trails, which got us to Riflesight Notch quicker and with less effort than we expected. The trails roughly follow the Buck creek drainage, which i had waypointed out, visiting in a previous autumn. 
We found much of the new snow was blown away at Rollins pass. That area is known to be windy. On checking in to our hotel, we heard the story of a couple that had traversed Rollins pass from the east a couple weeks earlier, where the fellow had a frostbite blister 1/4 of his face, after loaning his balaclava to his fiance. I do always make a point about having no exposed skin (i mean that literally) when passing through windy Rollins pass.
We descended half-way below a ridge just south above King lake, rather than skiing directly down to King lake from Corona pass. The snow on the direct descent would not be a good ski (wind slab); it's unclear how stable it might have been. 
We went across east from King lake, below Bob and Betty lakes and circled around east to descend into the King lake valley. The west end of the valley is steep and does not look safe to transfer in/out of the valley.
The snow in the valley was softened by the sun and sticking directly to our skis. It made for slow going, having to repeatedly stop and scrape off our skis. I put on my ski skins, with some Glop Stopper wax and did not have problems. No other persons had come up the valley since the Wednesday snow storm. It probably would have saved at least an hour to descend a broken trail (not sticky) vs. bushwacking an erratic path in the shade. We were expecting a slow ascent on the west, but instead found this really slow descent east of the Divide. I get the sense that King lake valley is not as popular as Jasper lake valley, which usually has at least a handful of strong visitors every weekend. Keep an eye for the old wooden trestles south above King lake valley, that were part of the rail-road then car-road on Rollins pass. 
We ascended to Lost lake to gain Bryan mountain ski ski down Eldora to our car. Again, i would recommend to bring a 4WD truck to park at Hessie trailhead instead of finishing at the ski resort. The road to Hessie at the west of Eldora township is not gated in winter, but the road is subject to weather.   
Times: We got up at 5 am to arrive at the trailhead at 6am, then departed the truck in Winter park (N39.88983 W105.75204 at 9380') at 6:26 am to reach the trestle at Riflesight Noptch (N39.89936 W105.70835) at 9:37 am to reach the picnic area (N39.91171 W105.69806 at 11455') at 11:14 am to reach Corona pass (N39.93767 W105.68723 at 11692') at 1:11 pm to reach the King lake valley (descended to N39.94238 W105.67914 at 10898') at 2:09 to pass the upper trestle (N39.94568 W105.66622 at 10529) at 2:59 to pass the lower trestle (N39.94585 W105.66378 at 10473) at 3:15 to reach Lost lake (N39.95123 W105.61723 at 9792') at 5:39 to reach the gas pipeline (N39.94149 W105.61951 at 10741) at 6:46 to reach Eldora ski resort (gate at N39.94173 W105.60952 at 10619') at 7:09 to depart from the overnight lot (N39.93812 W105.57690 at 9357') at 7:49.
My pack started at 19.2 lbs, including 2 nalgene bottles.
Other routes:
The Ranch creek valley (Ranch creek itself, not North, Middle, or South forks) is not recommended because the land at the base of the valley is privately owned, blocking access to Denver Water Board road. 
It looks like it may be possible to descend to the Trestle bridge, descend to South Fork Ranch creek like at N 39.89516 W 105.72313 (or N 39.89651 W 105.73040 to N 39.89888 W 105.72968), following the creek to N 39.91258 W 105.74235 following the trail there to Denver Water Board road to end up at N39.90901 W105.76417 at 9,401' (a spacious parking area through winter, where you will not get towed overnight).


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