Posted by: Will Black
Weston is excited to be working with backcountry guidebook author, Fritz Sperry, and showcasing an excerpt from his new book, Making Turns In Colorado’s Front Range Volume 2, but before we get to specifics on Mt. Trelease remember that the backcountry needs to be respected.
Avalanches kill an average of 42 people each year in North America. Hundreds more are injured. Avalanches can happen to anyone who can get onto or underneath steep snow-covered slopes. Many avalanche victims don’t know they are in avalanche danger and are unprepared to deal with an avalanche should one occur. This doesn't have to happen – the danger signs are usually obvious to those who know what to look for. Make sure to take proper precautions to stay safe in the backcountry. Always carry a probe, shovel, and beacon. Check current avalanche conditions and be sure to take a course on avalanche safety.
This unassuming hump should not be underestimated. For winter glissé, there are multiple options for fun here. As things get more stable, usually later in the season, one can get an early taste for steeper lines with easy access. There are plenty of options for getting into the air here as well. The only downside can be the access road and having to walk uphill at the end of the day. With a negligible rise above its saddle with its higher neighbor “Golden Bear,” this named peak doesn’t attain an official rank. According to the decision card from the USGS, the peak was named in 1933 in honor of Dr. William Trelease, an American born in 1857 who shared in the botanical labors of Gray and Engelmann, for whom peaks in this vicinity have also been named.
Slope Angle Shading (Avalanches can occur on any slope, but most commonly on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees):
For avalanche information and current conditions please visit the CAIC here.
ROUTE 1: SOUTH BOWL & TREES - Intermediate/Advanced (Season - Winter)
This is one of my go-to routes for quick powder laps during the winter. Access is super easy and you can ski it even when Loveland Pass is closed, which seems to be fairly often. The angle of the slope rarely causes concern for avalanches unless you would be foolish enough to ski the upper bowl. Every year the upper slides huge and should be given a wide berth. Just stay below treeline and you should be fine; it would take a 100-year avalanche event to get past treeline, but remain vigilant as low danger doesn’t mean no danger. There are a few mini bowls above the lower woods that can and do slide occasionally. These are marked on the topo photo.
From the lot closest to the exit ramp for Interstate 70, skin up the shallow gully just east of the lot. It gets pretty steep just as it heads into the trees, but mellows out after a hundred feet or so. Work your way through the trees in a northeasterly direction. This is a very popular line so there is usually a skin track; if not, choose the line of least resistance that starts at the top of the shallow gully and follows it. This is a summer trail and you can tell by the depression in the terrain. Switchback up to where the trees begin to thin and head for where the slope eases as you approach treeline. Try not to set the skin track right up the meadow—that’s for skiing, people. The trees on climber’s right of the meadow are a great place for setting your switchbacks.
To the east of the meadow are some fun sets of cliffs to jump off. The exit below these jumps isn’t very much fun, so head back to the zone you ascended through the woods to skier’s right of your exit. Also below the cliffs, but not in the landings, are a couple of small slide zones; be on your game here. Good lines extend from the meadow to skier’s right. It’s a straightforward exit from these options. The road cut can wreck a pair of skis with ease; use care at the bottom getting through the final pitch to the parking lot.
ROUTE 2: NORTH FACE - Expert (Season - Spring)
Gentle Mount Trelease harbors some steep lines; you have to check out the north side. The North Face of Trelease offers about 700’ of quality steep skiing. Once you’re back there, hit it a few times, or you could combine it with Hagar or Snoopy.
From the Dry Gulch lot, follow the South Bowl ascent up from the parking lot, right at the westbound Loveland Pass exit from Interstate 70. This route is steep at first, then it mellows as it enters denser trees. There is a trail here. Follow it on a northeasterly course and then upward to treeline. Here is where you need your spring stability as you ascend the South Bowl. The line of least resistance is to climber’s right of the bowl. Follow the ridge over and past the false summit and on to the actual summit.
West of the summit, the North Face offers wild to wilder slopes. The first line is a fairly steep chute. Farther west the entrance gets extreme. Some of the shots don’t go through cleanly, so you will either have to shut down your entry speed or prepare for some airtime. An ascent of Citadel or Hagar prior to coming up to this line is a good idea as you will be in a terrain trap. Be aware of the snow above you and use safe travel protocols from here. There have been fatalities in this area.
ROUTE 3: NORTH GULLIES & TREES - Intermediate (Season - Winter)
The South Trees of Trelease can get a bit crowded with their super easy access. This option is a bit farther and sees a little less traffic. There are multiple lines as well, so multiple groups can get their fill. This zone has seen a fatality, so be careful when the winds are cross-loading the steeper shots to the west of the main zone. The lines to the east of the main zone also get fairly scoured; watch out for slabs on facets here.
I usually hit this route earlier in the season when you can drive the frontage road the short distance to the closure gate. From the gate, head up the road past the fenced storage zone for Loveland Ski Area about 0.4 mile from the closure gate. Head up-valley to the base of the zone pictured. If there isn’t a skin track, follow a line that zigs and zags up through the trees between the first two gullies. Save the gullies for skiing and spend less time in harm’s way; these gullies are treeless due to slides. In considerable and high danger, this is not a good place to ski.
Pick your line and have at it. The main line in the center is really fun with low 30 degrees slopes and a few rollovers that are steeper and should cause concern if the danger is high. Traverse to skier’s right to link another short section back to the skin track. The lines to the skier’s left of the central gully start out tight and then open to steeper shots that are tight enough to remain somewhat protected from slab development.
These lines are shorter and you’ve put in a bit of effort to get there, so be sure to put in a few laps. For the exit, follow your approach and be sure that you waxed for the correct temperature; the out goes a lot faster if you can glide.