Grizzly Peak (Sawatch Range, CO; 13,988')

At 13,988', Grizzly Peak (the one in the Sawatch Range, that is, there are many more mountains bearing the same name) is the highest of Colorado's Thirteeners. The shortest access is via Grizzly Lake, which is be reached via a good trail from Grizzly Reservoir, which in turn is reached via the often pretty marginal Lincoln Gulch Road from Highway 82. If snow conditions are good, the couloir that leads from the lake to the summit is both a good snow climb and a great ski descent.

Topo Map

Routes: NE Couloir (Grade I, Class 3, moderately steep snow)

References: Garratt and Martin, Colorado's High Thirteeners , Cordillera Press 1992

Grizzly Peak (far background) in June from just north of Independence Pass

Date: June 22, 2004

Party: DB solo (Thomas Vojta to Grizzly Lake, Monique Belitz to the creek crossing)

Route: NE Couloir (about half of it), ski descent

Equipment: AT skis (DB)

Time: 5 hrs roundtrip from Grizzly Reservoir

Trip report:

I had only an afternoon, so I decided to get up as high on Grizzly Peak as I could and ski at least part of the couloir, to justify having carried my skis all the way from Oregon. Upon reaching the basin below Grizzly Lake I opted to switch from sneakers to ski boots and directly go up a snow field rather than following the trail. What a mistake! I postholed the entire way, which cost me quite some time. From the lake upward the postholing continued, and I occasionally escaped onto scree, which was not ideal in ski boots either. Finally the snow improved, and I went up the couloir at a reasonable pace. I had set my turnaround time to 5:45pm (three hours from the trailhead), and I faithfully stopped at the time, at an elevation of about 13,300', and put on my skis. The skiing was better than I expected, and I chose to go right (East) of the lake, chasing some marginally connected snow fields, and producing some scratches in the bases of my skis. At about 12,000' the snow fields definitely ran out. While taking off my skis I managed to cut myself quite severely in the right thumb. I bled surprisingly severely for about an hour, and got blood all over my gear. Thomas, who had joined me again at that point, offered some paper tissues, but they got soaked through in no time. Still, an hour later we were back at the car, where Monique was waiting for us. Except for the crappy snow it was a nice trip, and skiing the entire couloir must be superb!

Photo Gallery:

Click the pictures to see a larger image.

The couloir from around 12,000' The couloir from a point near Grizzly Lake The base of the couloir The couloir at around 13,200'