It’s hard to forget the craziness in the world this time last year. Twelve months ago we were in lockdown. We were thankful that here in Colorado we were still permitted to go outside during that period. We could hike and ski locally, so long as we weren’t with other households, or defying the accepted distancing guidance we’ve now lived with for a year.
Lucky for Christy and me, we’re not only a two-person household, but we’re also each others backcountry ski partners. That meant the two of us could get out on our skis and get some fresh air and exercise in the backcountry together, without breaking any rules. On a number of occasions we did.
Of course we couldn’t venture too far. So when we needed an objective we took a look at our list of local peaks we hadn’t yet skied and we picked one– on this particular day, March 22, 2020, the chosen objective was Christiana Peak.
Christiana Peak is easily overlooked due to its proximity to nearby Capitol Peak, one of the more serious 14ers in the state. And its relatively lower elevation keeps it off the radar of a lot of skiers. It’s not even marked on a lot of maps. But it’s a familiar peak for anyone who plays around in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, and it has some cool ski lines. So we decided it was worth checking out.
The easiest way to access Christiana Peak is via the Capitol Creek Trailhead and Ditch Trail, the same one used to reach Capitol Lake and the 14er itself. The snow closure is nearly a mile down the road from the summer trailhead, so plan for a little extra distance added to the day. Once you get to the Ditch Trail, follow the route as you would in summer. After you ascend through the section of steep switchbacks and cross Capitol Creek, about 5.5 miles in, leave the familiar route and begin to head west.
Push your own trail into the adjacent basin. After some more switchbacking, you’ll break out of the woods and the big east face of Christiana Peak will come into view.
Assess the snow and skinning conditions and make your way up to the summit, either via the mountain’s east face or the southeast ridge. As you ascend you’ll catch some really spectacular views of the North Face of Capitol Peak.
From there, the hard part is behind you. Take in the views, switch to ski mode, and enjoy the long run down back down to the valley.
The summit is around 8 miles from the winter snow closure, so it’s a long way out. By the time we made it back to the car, we were totally beat. Definitely plan for a full day, especially if you’re going to be breaking a lot of trail. And don’t forget to have some snacks and drinks or beer at the car!