Peak(s):  Tijeras Peak  -  13,604 feet
Mt. Adams A  -  13,931 feet
Electric Peak  -  13,598 feet
Date Posted:  06/13/2016
Date Climbed:   05/29/2016
Author:  moneymike
 Spring Skiing in the Sangres Part 2   

Tijeras Peak. May 29, 2016

Round Trip Distance: 10.6 miles
Round Trip Time: 8 hrs
Time to Summit: 4 hrs 43 min
Minimum Elevation: 10,415'
Maximum Elevation: 13,604'
Elevation Gain: 4,393'
Ski Quality:
Approach/Egress Quality:
Notes: Music Pass is easy for high clearance 4wd, but I wouldn't recommend driving past 2wd parking with low clearance 4wd.

Coming within a few hundred feet of the summit of Tijeras, on our way to Pico Aislado earlier this season, I got the opportunity to closely examine Tijeras' north face. I knew I'd have to come back. I was so sure that I'd have to come back to ski this peak, I titled the trip report Spring Skiing in the Sangres Part 1 (

Usually the Sangres reach their prime skiing time by late April or early May. This year, the Sangres had more snow than I'd ever seen and the snow pack above 13k' was peaking by late May. Not only were the peaks covered in snow, the low elevations had melted out enough that I was able to drive to over 10,000'!

In spite of the patchy snow, I was able to make good time up and over Music Pass and to the cliff bands at the base of Tijeras (for a more detailed description of the approach, click on the link above to view Part 1).

Breaking tree line, heading towards cliffs

Looking down valley towards Music Pass

Approaching the cliff break couloir

Tijeras' N face, viewed from top of cliff break

Close up of the N face

Above the cliffs, I could see that the North face line I intended to ski (the obvious couloir descending from the summit, down the center) was getting a late sunhit and would be slow to heat up. Not wanting to ski icy snow, I tried to slow my pace a bit. Climbing the couloir was straight forward cramponing. At the top of the couloir, I followed a short snowy ridge that led to the summit

Four hours and forty three minutes after I began the hike, I topped out on the summit. I only hung out on the summit for a half hour before loosing patience and dropping in. The snow hadn't softened from the sun, but it was powdery enough to not need it.

I always love a peak that lets me do a couple warm-up turns off the summit on a moderately angled slope before it gets steep and narrow. Thanks Tijeras! A few turns down from the summit, the slope steepens to an estimated 50 degrees. The fall line could send you through rocks, so falling here would not be a great idea.

The top of the line viewed from the summit. Music Pass in distance

Camera malfunction is f'ing up my pics!






Below the crux, the slope angle quickly decreases, and the lower third of the couloir was probably in the mid thirty degree range. Out of the couloir, I had a low angle ski to the top of the cliff break couloir. As rocky as it appears in the photos, I was able to find a line that kept me on snow the entire way. However, this face tends to get wind ravaged all year, and didn't appear to be continuous when I was up here for Pico Aislado.

If you decide to make a ski descent of this peak and find that this face doesn't have enough snow to get you back to the cliffs, you might want to consider skiing a band of snow that goes from the base of the peak's N face couloir to the north ridge. A small up climb might be necessary to get on the ridge, but you should be able to ski continuously from the ridge to the top of the cliffs.

Descending the cliff break couloir

Looking back at Tijeras from Music Pass

Mt. Adams. June 3, 2016.

Time to Lake: 3 hrs
Time to Summit: 7 hrs
Round Trip Time: 11.5 hrs
Round Trip Distance: 13.8 miles
Minimum Elevation: 8,874'
Maximum Elevation: 13,931'
Elevation Gain: 5,140' (according to GPS)
Ski Quality:
Approach/Egress Quality:

My first peak ski descent of the season was on November 2 ( I climbed and skied PT 13,546, which is just north of Challenger peak. From the top of PT 13,546, I got this view of Mt. Adams' west face and immediately added it to my spring ski wish list.

Adams' west face seen from PT 13,546 Nov 2 2015

After skiing the east face of Twin Peaks A on June 2, I drove north to the Willow Lakes trail head, which accesses Kit Carson and Challenger peaks. Early the next morning, I headed up the trail. Instead of taking a right turn across the creek, you simply just keep heading straight. This is the south Crestone Creek trail.

I cruised up the trail by headlamp, feeling good and moving fast. Well, I was feeling good until I remembered about Spice Guy, the nocturnal creepy dude that hangs out in this area only to scare backcountry skiers ( Suddenly I wasn't feeling quite so confident (Thanks lodgling). However, I convinced myself that Spice Guy hangs out only on the Willow Lake trail, and definitely not on the South Crestone Creek trail. Feeling better, I cruised on.

I made it to South Crestone Lake in three hours and then went around it on the right side. Post holing around the lake ate up a bit of time, but by the time I got around the lake and onto firm skinable snow, Adams' west face came into view and it became clear I was actually going too fast. It looked like it would take hours for the sun to hit its steep west face and soften the icy corn. Not wanting to ski ice, I slowed the pace.

By 8 a.m., I arrived at the base of the west face. After a thirty minute break, I began cramponing up the face. I decided to do my sloth impression on the way up in hopes of making the climb last more than 2 hours. I felt like I would want to wait until at least 11 a.m. before dropping in. Unfortunately, kicking steps at a sloths pace meant that I didn't have to rest. I was still moving too fast. Fortunately, I did encounter some bad cramponing conditions that forced me to move as slowly as I wanted.

The plan was to head straight up the gully (seen in the previous image) that leads to just below and left of the summit. The day I climbed it, the gully was entirely snow covered to the ridge to the left of the summit. It should be an easy climb to the ridge, I thought, but I wasn't sure what to expect once I hit the ridge.

Just as I had hoped, I made it to the top of the west face within two hours. Once I topped out on the ridge, I was pleasantly surprised to see an easy snow slope that ascended fifteen feet, or so, to the summit.

Kit Carson and Challenger seen from the summit

PT 13546 seen from the summit

After thirty minutes of chilling on the summit, and taking some pics, I clicked into my skis on the highest patch of snow, touched the highest rock on the summit with my ski pole, and began the descent.

Looking up towards the summit ridge


Me with Adams' west face in the background

A beautiful and well timed descent it was! I was at the bottom in just a few minutes.

On the hike out, as I was nearing the trail head, I came across a man who seemed to be completely oblivious of my presence as I approached. He was staring at the ground, and I'm not entirely sure, but possibly talking to it as well. "Oh my god, it's Spice Guy," I thought. As I approached, I thought about announcing my presence so that I would not startle Spice Guy. I wasn't quite sure what to say, but fortunately I cracked a log that I was using to cross the river. The sound was enough to make him aware of my presence. I said hi, and passed by without incidence. Spice Guy, if that actually was him, wasn't too scary in the day time. Although, I can imagine if I had come across him talking to the ground in the night, I'd have to just turn around and go home.

Electric Peak. June 7, 2016.

Time to Summit: 5 hrs 10 min
Round Trip Time: 8 hrs 40 min
Round Trip Distance: 15.54 miles
Minimum Elevation: 8,694'
Maximum Elevation: 13,598'
Elevation Gain: 5,081'

This was a very straight forward approach and ski, so I'll keep the description brief.

Electric Peak seen from the San Luis Valley

Getting there: If you are approaching from the North, take HWY 285 south to the HWY 17 exit that takes you to the Great Sand Dunes. Take an immediate left onto GG road, east. Before you reach Valley View Hot Springs, take a right onto 65. In 1.5 miles, take a left onto county road 66FF. A short drive up the road is the well signed trail head.

The trail initially takes you south along the hillside before dropping into Major Creek. Although long on miles and big on vert, I found this to be a very pleasant, knee-friendly trail. Within two and a half hours, I covered the 5.77 miles to the meadow at 11,260' beneath the saddle between Lakes peak and Electric peak. From here, you get a great view of the ski line, dropping down the upper portions of Major Creek.

I ascended the snow free ridge to the south of Major Creek. This ridge takes you to the ridge that connects Lakes and Electric. From there, it's an easy stroll up the ridge to the summit of Electric. The entire route was easy class 2.

Hiking the ridge near tree line

Looking towards the summit from near the top of the Major Creek gully

I summited five hours and ten minutes from the start of the hike. I was able to click into my skis on the summit and except for one small bare patch seen in the image above, I was able to ski continuously from the summit, to the top of the Major Creek gully, and down to the meadow below tree line.

On the summit

Descending the top part of the Major Creek gully


Major Creek gully

The snow in the gully was estimated to be in the mid thirty degree range. However, there are many avy start zones that are much higher in angle and funnel into the gully. Caution must be taken in the winter time, and times of higher avy danger. I'll also note that the summit of Electric Peak tends to get wind ravaged from all angles. It may take a warm spring storm to produce a skiable line from the summit.

Electric Peak may not be the most exciting ski in the Sangres, but its gently sloping trail and outstanding views makes it a great wilderness experience.

Thanks for reading.

Enjoying the brews and views. Twin Peaks A

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Year of the Sangres
06/15/2016 09:19
Such a good year there, way to get after it. And 3 hours to Cottonwood lake? You're fast. And that's somehow despite what I can only describe as horrible taste in beer

My beer gives me magical powers
06/16/2016 18:50
That's why I'm so fast. Year of the Sangres indeed.

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