Partner: Matt Kamper
Route: Southeast Face to East Ridge, summit ski descent of Southeast Gully
Stats: ~12 miles RT, ~5460` climbed and skied, 10 hours
Humboldt is a peak that can be difficult to find in condition if you’re looking to ski it from the top; it just doesn’t hold snow in the right places very often for very long. After a few late winter storms and some dependable beta, Matt and I were confident in our chances that the summit would provide a descent.
I motored to Westcliffe and met up with Matt early Thursday morning, we were geared up and skinning from the bottom of the South Colony Road around 6am. A single snowmobile track bore by a friend of ours the day before made the first few miles go quickly. Past the “new” South Colony TH the snowmobile track ended and we were setting in a trench. This new TH is a lot lower than the old one, I have a feeling quite a few hikers are going to be disappointed this summer. Around 10,800′ we cut left into the woods and began a climbing traverse towards the Southeast Gully.
Above treeline the winds picked up and lit a fire under our asses to get moving. We popped out above the trees a bit east of our target gully so some traversing was needed to get back on route.
Here we kept a close eye on the snow, as we were exposed to large slopes with large runouts below. For 3 days prior this area had received intense solar radiation coupled with low overnight temperatures, “spring comes early to the Sangres” as Dawson says. On the whole we were very happy with what we found on this southeast aspect; a bomber solid mid-pack with a few inches of sun crust on top. Our confidence in the snow pack was well established by the time we finished traversing and began climbing the South Face in earnest.
The climb up this face was tedious and time consuming. We took turns setting the boot pack and made slow progress towards the East Ridge. The size of this slope is quite the mind game if you ask me, the summit initially looks so close until you realize you still have 2,500′ to ascend. After LONG time toiling in the wind and post holing through sun crust we crested the East Ridge and had a short ridge walk to the top ahead of us.
Matt and I strolled onto the summit 20 minutes after gaining the ridge, the view of the Crestones had me speechless for a moment.
Though the view were incredible, we didn’t waste much time gearing up and pushing off as the sun was likely baking things lower down.
Back to that summit descent stuff for a second; we got lucky and found a strip of snow that wrapped around the south side of the summit ridge and connected to the top of the Southeast Gully.
Looking down the route brought a smile to my face. A wide snow gully extended down from our position uninterrupted for over 3,000′ vertical. It’s a simple but rewarding line, I think I made more than a hundred turns before we reached treeline. This thing is longer than the Tuning Fork on Torreys and is similar in steepness to the Cristo on Quandary. Hitting this baby during spring corn season would be absolutely amazing.
Lower down the snow was becoming saturated QUICKLY, I was happy we didn’t ski much later in the day. Skiing through the trees went relatively painlessly, though we were faced with a cliff at the bottom that required some interesting skiing to get around. Forty five minutes of road skiing came next, then it was off to dinner in Westcliffe. All in all a ski well worth it, make sure to check out this gully if you ever get a chance!
Thanks for reading.