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Winter Ascent of Mount Sopris

By Ann Driggers

"I love the upward ways

To the sun tipped crest of the mountains

High over the billowy world;

Where the wind sings hymns of praise,

And the snow breaks into fountains,

And life is a flag unfurled." ~ Harriet Monroe

Photo of me by Scott on Sopris' north east ridge:

I have climbed Mount Sopris, the majestic mountain lording over the Roaring Fork Valley, almost more times than I count. However every time I have stood atop its lofty summit, just shy of 13,000 feet, it has always been in the spring, summer or fall. Due to snowbound approach roads, a winter ascent is somewhat more of a significant effort requiring a 16 mile round trip with 5,000 feet of climbing. The winter route of choice follows the north-east ridge which is virtually free of avalanche danger but is long and rolling. Any which way you look at it, it's a decent day out and, coupled with the short days and more rowdy weather of winter, its not as easily accomplished as in other seasons. However I have always harbored a desire to climb my favorite mountain in every season of the year. With winter technically ending March 19 and a spring like weather forecast the weekend prior my ski partner Scott and I found ourselves skinning into the inky blackness of the morning twilight hours and towards Mount Sopris. After an hour we emerged from the forest and into a meadow just as the eastern horizon started to lighten and our goal was laid out before us.

The route we were to take followed the ridge on the left, over the subsidary summit and then on to the eastern (left) summit of Sopris' twins - apparently of identical height.

Coyote track through the meadow as the sun rose:

 

Sunrise is such a special time, emerging from dark into light is so energizing, powering us onwards and upwards.

Once above treeline the views became even more spectacular. Here Scott skins along the ridge approaching the subsiduary summit.

It took us just under six hours to reach the true summit and once there I was pretty stoked! The entire Elk Range was laid out before us, with 14er Capitol Peak dominant on the horizon.

We elected to return along the ridge, forgoing our normal descent route of Thomas Lakes Bowl. The hike back was spectacular and the skiing was really pretty good.

Photo of me by Scott:

Check that one off the list! It was so good that it will likely be a repeat next winter!

COMMENTS

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WOW! That is cool.

Thank you Richie! It most certainly was. I hope to go back again in a few weeks when I don’t have to travel the extra 4 miles from the winter trailhead. We should have a nice consolidated spring snowpack by then and we can ski some bigger lines. :)




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