Mt. Parnassus North Face Ski

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The north face of Mt. Parnassus seen from Ruby Gulch. We skied the large bowl that empties into the narrow gully down the center of the face. Click photos to enlarge.

With weekend weather windows continuing to close down and push any thought of skiing bigger lines further and further into May, we decided to check out the north faces of Englemann Peak and Mt. Parnassus from Woods Creek on back to back weekends. When the weather sucks, go ski some low-hanging fruit and hope for the best. That was our mantra, and we wound up getting two decent days of skiing out of it while managing to avoid getting struck by lightning.

Parnassus seen from the west flank of Englemann the weekend prior. We decided to put it on the short list.

Another shot from the weekend prior – high on Englemann’s northwest ridge just before we were engulfed in clouds and never saw the sun again. We wound up skiing the north face in whiteout conditions, which ended in character building fashion as we had to schwack our way out of the woods and cross the creek to get back to Highway 40.

Back to our day on Parnassus. We started off from the large, permanent “Danger Avalanche” sign at the bottom of Ruby Creek and skinned up the road and through the woods until the north face of Parnassus eventually came into view. There’s really not much to say about the approach. Just skin until you break tree line and head for the big a** peak.

Thankfully the snow was supportive through here.

Being just a stone’s throw from I-70, access to Parnassus’s south side couldn’t be easier, which is how most people hike the peak in summer. The north face offers up the goods for skiers and is best accessed from the Woods Creek area near Jones Pass. Parnassus is named after a mountain in Greece which bears the same name. The Greek Parnassus was the sacred peak of Dionysus, the the god of grapes, wine, and parties (info from Front Range Skimo).

Above tree line we chose the most direct path to the peak’s summit ridge, which entailed around 2,000 ft of steep skinning/booting.

Marc and Carl seeing how far they can push it on their skins (both of them wiped out eventually).

Looking west from Parnassus’s summit ridge – Hagar, The Citadel, and Pettingell Peaks.

On the summit we had clearer views and less wind than the weekend prior on Englemann. Progress. After briefly speaking with some guys who had come up from Watrous Gulch, we clicked in and headed over to the north face drop in. In case anyone’s interested we skied route 2 which Rob details over on Front Range Skimo. He calls the route the “North Face Drainpipe” in reference to the large bowl funneling into the narrow gully at the bottom of the face.

Parnassus summit. It misses being a Bicentennial by 6 feet. You do the subtraction.

Off the top we found variable wind board. About what we expected.


Bloomy with a nice view of Englemann and it’s connecting ridge to Bard in back.

At some point out on the face the snow turned to wet corn, which was actually quite enjoyable to ski when it didn’t grab the bottom of your skis like velcro.

Rick skiing warm corn into the top of the drainpipe.

Heading down the drainpipe.

The snow transitioned into mush down on the apron. It had most likely rained down lower the previous night and never froze. A straight line across the basin had us back into the trees and then eventually the road, which we were able to ski down in a matter of a few minutes to within a hundred yards of the parking lot.

Richard doing his best lightning rod impression.

Apres ski back at the cars. 

After decided we were done standing around in the rain, we packed it up and headed into town for some Smokin’ Yards and then a Modus at Casa de Barella. All in all conditions could have been better, but the drainpipe is a cool route and as per usual, it was fun to see everyone.

Hoping for some clear weekend weather as we head into June. I won’t hold my breath.

2 thoughts on “Mt. Parnassus North Face Ski

  1. Zambo

    I can taste the salt! Hang in there Benners, you’ll get a few good weekend weather windows yet! But I certainly agree – most of these spring storms have conveniently decided to roll in Friday morning and not leave until Monday mid-day. Frustrating. Way to get he most out of what you’ve got to.

    1. Ben Post author

      Haha. There’s definitely a little salt, I’ll admit it! In all seriousness, every spring is different I guess and this one just hasn’t catered to the weekend warrior as much as past springs have. We’re all still out having fun and getting exercise in Colorado, USA at the end of the day, so really, I have no right to complain about much of anything 🙂


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