Skiing the East Couloir on Mt Daly in the Elk Range of Colorado
Destination: East Couloir, Mt. Daly, Elk Range, Colorado
Elevation Gain/Loss: +/- 4900 ft.
Distance: 6 miles
USGS Quads: Capitol Peak, Highland Peak
I first laid eyes on Mt. Daly when skiing at Snowmass. Sitting at 13,300 feet and nestled deep in the Elk Range of Colorado, it is the most prominent peak you can see while making controlled turns at Snowmass. It has a nice East facing couloir that is just begging to be skied. So we decided to go for it.
Mt. Daly is Colorado’s 339th highest peak. It’s summit elevation is 13300 ft or 4053 m. It’s really far away from anything. The long approach through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area makes it a destination that isn’t skied regularly, which is surprising when there is a 2000 foot couloir and magical views of Capitol Peak and the rest of the practically untouched Elk Range.
To ski Mt. Daly, we had a group of 5. Anton, Casey, Ari, Santi, and myself. We followed Snowmass Creek up until we encountered the Snowmass Falls Ranch (as seen on the Capitol Peak USGS Quad). We quickly got a Subaru stuck on the still snowy road and decided to set off from there. A nice hiking trail meanders through the forest until a mandatory creek crossing of Snowmass Creek. We followed the creek for a ways and then worked the more westerly fork of Snowmass Creek, aptly named West Snowmass Creek. Shortly after the creek crossing, we put on ski boots and skins.
West Snowmass Creek continues upwards until Mt. Daly is clearly your destination. We worked our way up to the base of the apron of the couloir. There is a fantastic grove of trees there that made for an ideal camping spot. We quickly ate food, prepped for tomorrow’s alpine start, and made for an early night.
Around 3 am, we strapped on the skins and started moving toward the summit. At the beginning of the couloir we transitioned to crampons, ice axes, and whippets. After a long bootpack, we reached the ridge and quickly made it to the summit. Of course, as always when you make it to a summit, you take ice axe photos. It seemed that there was endless ski terrain in every direction. This is a zone that needs to be explored more.
Once everyone made the summit, I clicked into my tele skis (yes, I still tele’d back then) and got ready to ski. We leapfrogged the 2,000 foot couloir back to camp. We timed it perfectly – a bit firm at top and nice nice corn snow for the bottom two-thirds. At camp, we repacked our gear and began the long slog out.
We skied as far we could and then transitioned back to approach shoes. The creek crossing always seems a bit easier on the way home. When we got back, the Subaru was still stuck, but we piled in our other vehicle and headed for a victory meal at the Woody Creek Tavern.
I would definitely go back to Mt. Daly, but next time I would try to link it up with additional skis and more nights in the Elk Range. Or try to ski it in a super early alpine, one day push.
Enjoy this photo gallery of skiing Mt. Daly (most of these photos are mine, but some are from the group – sorry I don’t know who took those shots, but they ended up on my computer):
Here are some additional photos from skiing the East Couloir on Colorado’s Mt Daly:
The East Couloir of Mt.Daly was skied April 28-29, 2009.