TR: Mount Champion Ski (3 July 2015)

(Last Updated On: July 22, 2015)

On July 2nd, Natalia and I stood on top of Mount Oklahoma and scanned the skyline around us. Some peaks were devoid of snow, while others held nice pockets of white stuff. These ones struck our fancy:

Mount Champion, 13736, and Deer Mountain.
Mount Champion, 13736, and Deer Mountain.

We’d originally had plans to ski the north face of Democrat, but upon seeing this, we decided to try for the northeast sides of Mount Champion and/or the adjacent 13,736′ instead.

We started at dawn with a rather freezing cold river crossing right off the bat. Although paths were not on our maps, we found trails to follow for a ways until this cabin.
Miner's cabin near Mount Champion.

After the cabin, willow hell ensued.
Willow hell with skis

We’d been making such good time until then. But, this particularly long section of soggy willows, along with trying to figure out how to cross the very deep and fast moving creek kind of sucked the life out of us. Or at least me, anyway.

Our shoes were soaked, as well as the rest of us including our ski boots after brushing up against willows wet with dew. Dark clouds and rain squals threatened us. I almost gave up and turned around.

“We’ll go another 30 minutes and see what the weather is doing then,” I said. “I couldn’t be more wet anyway.”

Hiking toward Mount Champion

Grizzly still sure looked good!
Grizzly seen from Champion.

But, as we ascended, our spirits lifted, along with the clouds. And the sun began to show its lovely rays. Mountain Boy from afar.
Mountain Boy seen from Champion.

Twining still also looked pretty good for July 🙂
Twining Peak seen from Champion.

The entire southern side of Mount Champion is marked on the map as being a large mining claim, of which remnants are scattered all around.
Champion Mine ruins.

The “aerial tramway” ran from the Champion Mine on the south flanks of the mountain to the Champion Mill in the valley to the east.
Aerial Tramway on Champion Mine and Mill.

The Champion Mine produced a lot of precious ore, including gold and silver. These ruins are largely from the 1890’s. More parts of the aerial tramway.
Aerial tramway on Champion.

Brittany with the Champion aerial tramway.

Alas, it was time to leave the mine and keep climbing toward the summit.
Brittany Konsella climbing Mount Champion.

We passed a couple of massive cornices along the way.
Cornice on Champion.

Almost to the summit!
Summit of Champion.

Again, some familiar names on the register.
Mount Champion summit register.

Natalia soaking in summit views.
Natalia Moran on summit of Champion.

Wildflowers speckled the summit.
Wildflowers on the summit of Champion.

We originally intended to continue on the ridge to ski the NE side of 13,736′. But, the willows sucked some time and a lot of energy. And, after getting a better look at 13,736′ we determined we’d get more ski vert off of Mount Champion. So, we descended Champion.

Natalia.
Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Me.
Brittany Konsella backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

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Our ski line.
Mount Champion ski line.

Still skiing! Natalie.
Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

Natalia Moran backcountry skiing on Mount Champion.

We skied nearly 1500′ vert to the valley, near the Champion Mill.
Champion Mill.

Champion Mill.

Another view of Mount Champion.
Mount Champion ski line.

Snow was melting and being replaced by beautiful wildflowers.
Wildflowers near Champion Mill.

We followed the Champion mining road up to the saddle and back over to Lackawanna Gulch and descended from there. We found a little better route through willow hell. But, we still had some willow-bashing to do.
Brittany Konsella willow bashing.

When we reached the beautiful old growth forest, the rain came back. And we were thankful we did not take the extra time to ski 13,736′.
Forest near Lackawanna Gulch.

We had the stream crossing left to brave as well.
Natalia Moran crossing stream.

And then the skis turned blue once again, so we could enjoy one last view of Mount Champion.
Mount Champion from Independence Pass road.

And that’s it folks. I am officially ending my 2014-15 ski season with this descent on Mount Champion. Perhaps if my friend Kim Ross were still in Colorado, I’d try to help her bang out some summer ski lines so she could continue her turns-all-year streak, which currently stands at 188 months. But, alas, she is far away in Oregon.

Although I’m enjoying sniffing the flowers, hiking without a heavy backpack and skis, and flying through descents on my bike, I’m eagerly waiting for when the snow flies again 🙂 But, it’s nearly August at this point. And the first issue of POWDER magazine will be arriving in our mailbox soon, always signifying the start of yet another ski season!

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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Summary
Mount Champion Ski
Article Name
Mount Champion Ski
Description
Mount Champion is a great descent for backcountry skiers, and a fun place to visit mining ruins too!
Author

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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