Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  05/19/2015
Date Climbed:   05/18/2015
Author:  pioletski
Additional Members:   telerina13
 Not Quite a Democrat   

Places you can't always ski...

LOU DAWSON, the grandmaster of Colorado ski mountaineering, took a much more patient approach to his 14er ski project than most of us Johnnie-come-latelys. As a result his guidebook is replete with highly aesthetic ski routes that seem to materialize out of the mist, like the mythical Brigadoon, once every hundred years. The west side of Mt Democrat is one. Even in Dawson's guidebook, the photograph in the route description shows it with no snow, and although i have looked at it any number of times I have never seen it in skiable condition.

Until now, that is. Somehow, in spite of a dry winter, our mountains have ended up even more thoroughly plastered with snow than in the record-breaking winter of 2011. And the ephemeral ski route on Democrat's west face looks like this:

West face of Democrat, seen from Tweto

That photo was taken on a clearer day than when Gerlinde and I skied it. In fact our only view of the summit was from the trailhead:

Our only glimpse of the summit

We expected a storm to roll in by around noon but decided we would give it a shot. We skinned up the valley, swapped skis for crampons and ascended the apron under a half-clear sky:

Climbing the apron...

View across the gulch:

Across the valley to Arkansas

Onto the face proper:

... and the face

Around this time the intermittent clouds and fog decided to become more serious:

Visibility? What visibility?

Pressed for time and visibility, we put our skis back on perhaps 200 feet below the summit. We had been ascending a shallow couloir that tops out at the summit (rather than the one described by Dawson, which ends up on the ridge just north of the summit). Our chosen ski route was the deeper couloir to the south of our ascent route, so we started down and then traversed over the dividing rib.

What we came here to do

This route can be entered directly from the summit. It is a spectacular ski run, culminating in a narrow choke at the second lowest rock band. (It disappears behind the wall to looker's right where Gerlinde is standing in this photo.)

Sun returns as Gerlinde exits the couloir

If you haven't yet made plans for the 4th of July, my guess is that this line will still be skiable. Now, I wonder what the north side of Antero looks like...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Comments or Questions

nice work dude!
05/19/2015 10:53
Glad to see someone have a chance to ski that route, we attempted that in what looked like "in" conditions about 8 years ago and post holed up to our waste at the base, only making it up to about 12,800 or so before turning around. I’m really happy for you to have done it, so cool, this spring is whacky cool.


Nice one
05/19/2015 14:02
Congrats on a great route. I did this one a bunch of years ago, but I had to ski down a ridge from the summit and then billygoat around and across to get back into the couloir. Glad to see someone get it in better style. Can’t beat the parking situation for this one!

   Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.