| San Luis...Skiing the Standard Route
Trailhead...West Willow Creek / Equity Mine (11,100')
Route...Standard Route from West Willow Creek
Mileage...13 - 14 miles
Elevation Gain...about 4800'
Quick plug...if you need a nice, cheap place to stay in Lake City, check out Raven's Rest Hostel. The owners are awesome (Lucky and Amy Jo), the place is clean, and the beds are cheap ($25 per night). I've stayed there 3 nights this winter and I've had the place to myself each time.
I was pretty worked after climbing Handies and thought hard about just going home and throwing in the towel on the 2012/2013 winter season. I'm glad I changed my mind. This would be one of my most fun trips of the winter.
After discussing the pros & cons of snowshoeing vs skiing 14ers in winter with Lucky, I decided to give the skis a shot.
I didn't have a hard time finding the roads to the Equity Mine thanks to Steve Gladbach's great description in his Dec. 2007 trip report. You can drive all the way to the mine at 11,100'. You definitely need 4wd to get there though. Mostly because of the condition of the road when it gets warm. The mud and slush were tough to negotiate on the steeper grades.
The skies were a little cloudy when I started, but it would clear up nicely. It was obvious right away that they got more snow down here than in Lake City. There were no signs of IMan's snowshoe track or APSnow's ski track. I started on a road, but moved down into West Willow Creek shortly after starting out. The creek cuts a perfect trail through the willows. I recognized the peak in the distance from previous trip reports and knew that I needed to aim just right of it.
My first view of San Luis from the pass. The bad thoughts came out strong at this point...damn that's far...there's a lot of snow down there...my feet hurt...I have to come all the way back this way.
Here's the route I chose. The stardard high summer route would not be much fun with skis. This option gave me a chance to make a few turns and stay away from the steep slopes to the right.
My first ski descent of the day took me here. My new favorite picture. I love the little trees. They are just so damn cute.
I took my time in finding the safest route up that slope. Here is a view looking back at my route from San Luis Pass.
Next up is another down and up traverse in the valley beneath San Luis...there isn't as much elevation loss in this one.
When I got to San Luis' SW ridge I was feeling good, but then I realized I still had 1400' to go. That ridge is looooong.
Skier's version of dry tooling
Final section of ridge to San Luis' summit
Cold but happy...it was finally time to put on the skis and open it up a little.
Skis and Organ Peak
Skiing the ridge was fun and it wasn't too difficult to avoid the rocks. The next section below Pt. 13,155' was mostly a high traverse, but I was able to get a few turns in.
Some more turns after skinning back up to the first pass.
Following my tracks back to San Luis pass.
The hardest climbing of the day was the 10-15 feet below this cornice on San Luis Pass.
I had to carry my skis and kick some steps up it.
Once I got to the pass, it was all (mostly) downhill. Time to de-skin for the last time.
It did get a little old taking the skins on and off all day...but this time was fun.
The skiing back down the pass was by far the best of the day...4 - 8 inches of powder, no wind, rolling hills. I've been a resort skier my whole life and I've done the backcountry thing on a few 14ers. This was the first time I really understood the appeal of skiing the 14ers. Uh oh Dani...Mike's got a new goal. : )
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