Peak(s):  "Mountain Boy Pk"  -  13,198 feet
Date Posted:  05/14/2008
Date Climbed:   05/11/2008
Author:  Chicago Transplant
 Spring Skiing near Independence Pass   

"Mountain Boy Peak" - 13,198'
2700' vertical, 4 1/2 miles RT
Via Graham Gulch Trailhead (13,500')

Partners (on foot only): Shanahan96 (Jamie), jamienellis, Sanjuaneer (Aaron)

Route: East Ridge ascent, Northeast Bowl descent (ski)

After a very filling day on Aetna and Taylor, followed by some filling pizza and salad at Amica's, we headed to Buena Vista to camp at Elephant Rock. This is a great little area for rock climbing in the summer, but I guess it was too early for the climbers as there was only one other tent set up here this time. Our plan for Sunday was to head up something "short and sweet" that would offer me a ski descent and my partners the opportunity to practice glacier travel for their upcoming climb of Rainier. "Mountain Boy Peak" seemed to fit the bill perfectly with ease of access, a nice direct ridge ascent and a spectacular moderate bowl to ski.

We woke up, broke down camp, and followed each other back to US 24. Along the way we saw plenty of deer out for their morning breakfast. If you want to see deer drive around north of BV at 6am! The animal encounters would continue along CO 82 as a dog in Twin Lakes decided to try and kill itself, luckily we saw him and all were able to slow down but he was intent on harassing our cars. Then a little further up the road the Bighorn started crossing. As we got near LaPlata's trailhead our peak started to appear and I was happy to see the snow covered bowl. We parked at some sort of water monitoring station at the end of a tunnel and began to gear up.

The first part of the route follows an abandoned road that is now the Graham Gulch trail. This made for easier route finding as it is a nice wide path through the trees, it also makes it easier to ski out later! We crossed the first creek and continued on our way. According to the map, we were to cross a second creek and gain the ridge in the trees but so far we were paralleling that creek instead.


There was some initial doubt as to whether we were on route but reviewing our maps and surrounding terrain put us all at ease and we gained the ridge through open trees. Views of PT 12542 to our north again confirmed we were on route.


We gained the ridge and continued on until treeline. Here my partners roped up to practice their glacier travel rhythm and I skinned on ahead, not wanting to miss the window for good snow conditions. There was a cornice break on the north side of the bowl from a day or two earlier that had caused a slough slide. This had me itching to get up there and check conditions before things got too warm. The early ridge was easy enough to skin, although parts of it were a little steep and had me almost sliding backwards.


I got onto a more mellow section of ridge and began doing some simple snow condition checks. A small cornice was along my route, so I cut off a large chunk of it with my poles and let it release down the face. No slide, not even any slough really, just a trail in the snow of its descent. I also got out on a section of the face and did some hard bounces on the snow, no sloughing here either. This had me feeling good that this slope would stay stable. The ridge paralleled the pending ski descent, giving a good indication as to the pitch I would be skiing.


Now, as a disclaimer, I did not dig a pit and all this was quite unscientific. I knew that the cornice impact and my hard bouncing were good to simulate the type of disruption my turns would cause, and feeling comfortable that I could ski this face clean and quickly, I felt that the slopes would hold steady for me and my abilities when I skied it in a short while.

I continued on towards the summit where the ridge was well defined. Another steep step just below the summit proved too much for me to skin and I boot packed the final summit knoll.


Here is a view looking back down the ridge from near the summit.


I took a quick snack break and some photos. The views were great, the Elks were in full view and many of the more rugged central Sawatch peaks like Grizzly and the Williams group were looking good.

Castle and Cathedral:


I found Independence Pass below, hard to make out buried in snow. There is no chance this road will be open for Memorial Day this year, in fact CDOT has already said that their target is May 30th. Check it out for yourselves:


It was now time to ski. I first skied back down the ridge to avoid the summit cornice, then cut towards where the small cornices were that I was knocking at earlier. I whacked at them again, then skied over it and did a ski cut directly below. Nothing moved, so I took about a dozen turns down this initial part of the face.


This was probably in the mid 30's for pitch. It is so hard to tell though, I was judging from the way the slopes felt compared to some of the runs I know the pitch on and it felt similar to those. It felt similar in steepness to Lover's Leap at Vail for reference. The snow was fantastic, the old snow was still firm and well bonded and the new snow from late last week was melded together into a nice layer of mashed potatoes on top. My skis glided through smoothly and very little slough came from my turns.

I now cut across to the next pseudo-gully on the face to avoid ending up in the rocks below. Here the terrain steepened a little and a few of my turns generated some slough, but nothing to cause worry. I would say the slopes here got closer to 40 degrees. Here is a view looking down the steepest part of my descent, notice how there is almost no slough from my previous turn.


In a matter of seconds I was down below the steep stuff and ran a straight line out deep into the mellow basin to admire my turns.


From here the terrain was really mellow, like an easy blue at the resorts, and I made my way down into the tree lined basin and back to our ascent area. Here I sat for a while to enjoy my lunch while my partners continued their work on the ridge. I skied out to the car to relax for a while and wait for their return. The road was getting slushy in places and the skiing was awkward, but it moved fast. Maybe an hour later the Jamies arrived, having turned around on the ridge content to practice glacier rescue on Jamie's backpack while Aaron went on solo to summit. It was a great day, and the timing on my ski descent was nearly perfect, perhaps a little earlier and the lowest slopes would have been better, but the steeper upper terrain was safe (in my opinion) and that is what counts.

Admiring my "stamp" from near CO 82 on the way out


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Comments or Questions
good news!
05/14/2008 21:02
the pack was rescued. safe and sound, no harm done.

oh yeah, nice ski too. man snowshoeing out wasn‘t the most enjoyable thing that afternoon. it‘s about time we got rid of the snow on approaches! oh well, it‘ll come soon enough.

guess we‘ll have to go back and finish that bugger off sometime(maybe from the pass?). ho hum.....



Nice turns!
05/15/2008 00:33
Nice ski, Mike. Now that I know what/where Mountain Boy Peak is, I might have to give that bowl a go! I know what you mean about animals in the road. We almost hit a massive elk driving to Elbert! Nice trip report.

Chicago Transplant

05/15/2008 13:06
Prakesh- Sorry about your shoulder. I have a lot of maps, I guess that is where I keep finding these nameless peaks!
Jamie- Glad the pack was rescued safely, good luck in the Cascades! Snowshoeing is not fun, switch to skis
Caroline- Its a fun open bowl, definitely a lot of great ski lines to be had!

Chicago Transplant

Road Conditions
05/19/2008 21:33

The road from 82 to the monitoring station is clear and you can park at the monitoring station. The first part of the approach is a road, about 1 car width and fairly flat, so its a fairly easy skin up/ski out. The first picture in the TR is along the creek after we left the road, and is about as ”tight” as the trees ever get.


Thanks for posting
11/30/2010 17:28
Chicago Transplant,
Your TR has convinced me that I need to consider this one for a warm up on my way down to the San Juan's next week. I am curious where and how your ski out was below tree line, I am also curious about the snow coverage along side the service road that runs from 82 to the east portal monitoring station? Thanks for the beta.
Be Well,


02/05/2011 00:22
Ski looks sweet. Wish I‘d have gone but I aggravated a shoulder injury climbing out of scores of treewells on Shavano. How do you guys find these nameless peaks ;)?

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