(Last Updated On: May 10, 2015)
The Sangre De Cristo range is, by many standards, Colorado’s most dramatic and impressive range. Don’t get me wrong, the vast sea of mountains that comprise the San Juans speak to a lifetime of exploring. And my adopted hometown Elk mountains aren’t half bad either. But backcountry skiing in the Sangre de Cristos, jutting up over 6,000′ from either the Wet Mountain valley to the east or the San Luis valley to the west, are as close to the Tetons as you’re going to find in Colorado. Like the Tetons, the Sangres are sharp, jagged, narrow, and tough to get into. Unlike the Tetons, deep snowpacks are the exception rather than the norm.
As dry as 2015 has been in most of the West and most of Colorado, the Sangre De Cristo range actually is fairing pretty well. Fourteener routes that aren’t always in, like the South couloir on Crestone Needle and the North couloir on Crestone Peak are currently stuffed with snow. Knowing that, Brittany and I headed south along with Pete Sowar to ski a line we’d noticed while skiing Crestone Peak as part of our project.
We made our way up dry ground following the Cottonwood Creek trail, which was only recently re-opened to the public. Like many trails accessing the Sangres, Cottonwoood creek throws obstacles at you even below treeline, like these slabs:
After some tough going, we finally found ourselves in the upper basin, where a candy store full of ski possibilities awaited us. Pico Aslaido was but one of those options:
In the end, however, it was this line on Unnamed 13,020′ that had caught our eye back in 2007.
Our friend Sky Sjue had skied it a few years ago, and named it Juice Box. Perhaps it has another name, but we’ll stick with his name until we hear otherwise. We decided to climb around the line, and we tried hard not to stop every five feet to take another picture of the Crestones.
Near the top, we had a short fun climb to gain the summit:
We might come back for this diagonal line some day, though it’s in an even more inaccessible valley of the Sangres.
Looking down the Juice Box. Looks good doesn’t it?
Frank “Nascar” Konsella. Why Nascar?- because it looks like I can only make left turns:
Back to Pete (It was a beautiful day, we got lots of photos):
Frank. The peak in front of the Crestones is Crestolita. It has some nice ski possibilities as well.
It got even better at the bottom:
Pete. The rocks down here are so colorful.
Pete, in front of Pico Aslaido. Wish the line behind him went higher.:
At the bottom of the line, we still had a long way to go. We worked the north facing part of the valley as best we could, so we wouldn’t have to walk as far as we had on the way up. Even that was interesting.
As we descended the valley, the view of the Crestones changed dramatically:
It’s a long way down to the trailhead when you’re skiing in the Sangres. Thankfully, the vegetation lets you know when you’re close to the car:
Like I said, nothing comes easy in the Sangres. but when the getting’s good, they are oh so worth it. Despite the long day, we rallied the following day for another great ski descent, in one of the most impressive cirques any of us had been in a long time. Until then…
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