Mt. Bierstadt Ski Descent

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Date: May 8, 2009
Partners: Carl Dowdy, Sam Anderson
Route: Ascent West Ridge, ski West Face
Numbers: 3,360‘ climbed, 3,360‘ skied, 10.5 miles, 5 hours

I managed to finagle a half day at work on Friday for the purpose of hitting up an afternoon Bierstadt ski with Sam and Carl. I was eager to get back at this one after carrying skis to 13,900‘ in March and being aced by too little snow cover.

I left at 11:00am and met Carl at the T-Rex lot 25 minutes after a short stop at Good Times for a Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger duo (5 bucks for 2 right now). Carl and I hightailed it up to Guanella Pass where we were hoping to beat the work crews on their afternoon construction closure, turns out we had to wait for 30 minutes but it was time well spent on gearing up. Sam met us at the upper closure and we were skinning up the road at 1:30pm.

Waiting out the construction delay in style. Photo by Amanda the Worker.

Bierstadt’s West Face looking as good as I’ve ever seen it.  Photo by Carl.

I won‘t go into too much detail about the skin to the top, pretty self-explanatory, although I will mention how effortlessly the willows went despite our fear that it would be a posthole nightmare of epic proportions. At a stream crossing Sam ended up soaking his boots which caused him some major annoyances later in the day. We skinned up windboard all the way to the summit, no booting at all, I was not expecting this route to have such great cover.

Carl skinning with Grays and Torreys behind him.

With great weather, we topped out on the West Ridge and hopped onto the summit 3.5 hours after we left the car. Carl and I lounged around, dug a seat in the snow, and ate a plump bacon burger. Sam showed up a few minutes later and we all got ready for the descent.

Dug in on the summit, ready to enjoy a Good Times burger.

Skis and the register.

We had a fun ski down the narrow summit ridge after Carl stopped to take a look at the east side of the peak.

Looking back up at the caked summit ridge.  Photo by Carl.

The ski off the ridge was pretty simple, there was a few foot wide cornice making a nice ramp down the ridge towards a snowfield that plopped us out on the West Face, the snow cover was excellent, no rock skiing required from the summit to the car. Our only complaint was the hardness of the snow, we were hoping for softer turns, but we‘re skiing a 14er here…

Skiing the upper West Face. Photo by Carl.

Carl making sastrugi turns down the middle of the face.

After a satisfyingly quick descent, we found a fun exit off the ridge; a short, steep gully that necessitated a few jump turns.

Next came the creek crossing, we all resorted to getting some speed and jumping the thing, of course it collapsed on Sam as he was the last to go.

Sam’s second boot soak of the afternoon.  Photo by Carl.

After skinning out of the willows, we were able to ski the road back to the car and cap off a very productive Friday indeed. I think Bierstadt is going to become known by ski mountaineers as “the one that you can get after work”.

A parting shot.

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