Hopi 12,780'

Hopi from the northwest.  Photo: Rob Writz

Hopi is one of the most impressive ski mountaineering peaks on the Front Range. The peak has twin summits at 12,780’ and a sub-peak 12,707’ that form the north side of the mountain above Crater Lake. The basin below the peak holds the Hopi Glacier and a bowl with numerous ski lines. The Hopi Glacier is a permanent snowfield that shrinks through the summer, and in fall all that remains is a double fall line and awkward strip of black ice tucked below the Hopi cliffs. During the spring, the Hopi Glacier is where it’s at for ski mountaineering, and skiers can descend all the way to Crater Lake. Hopi has significant exploration potential and the couloirs to the west of the Hopi Glacier that split the twin summits look like awesome, and technical lines. The Hopi-Achonee portion of the West Rim receives sunlight earlier than Peck Glacier on Iroquois and Fair Glacier on Mount George.


Shared Approach to Hopi Glacier and Northeast Gully

There are several ways to access the ski mountaineering routes in the cirques surrounding Lone Eagle. The approach that we describe here is to start at the Monarch Lake Trailhead southeast of Lake Granby in Grand County. This approach is straightforward and beautiful.. You should plan on spending several days in this area: one day to hike in, several days to ski from a basecamp, and one day to hike out. No matter how long you stay in this area you will leave wishing you had planned for several more days because it is that good.

Most Front Range skiers explore the Lone Eagle area after Memorial Day. The Cascade Creek Trail is often dry to just beyond the junction of the Crater Lake Trail (approximately 10,080’). You will want to bring hiking boots for the majority of the approach, skins for the valleys below the cirque, and crampons for the glaciers and snowfields.

From the Monarch Lake Trailhead follow the Cascade Creek Trail east across the north side of Monarch Lake. The trail continues eastward 3.1 miles to the intersection with the Buchanan Pass Trail. Hike on the Cascade Creek Trail to the southeast 2.7 miles to the junction with the Pawnee Pass Trail and Crater Lake Trail. Cross Pawnee Creek and go south on the Crater Lake Trail, and within a half mile look for a camping spot to the east (left) in lower angle and sometimes dry terrain. There is often snow at Crater Lake, and this positions north and east of Mirror Lake are good for a basecamp. From this area it is about a quarter mile southwest to Mirror Lake and then a quick jaunt to Crater Lake. 

At Mirror Lake head southwest through the trees to Crater Lake, it’s just around the corner! Go around the lake on the north (right) side and then climb up the headwall towards Hopi and Point 12,707’. Trend southwest and keep the Achonee Tower and its lower rock slabs just to your right so you can avoid the cliffs above the lake. Continue climber’s left into the basin below Hopi to approximately 11,400’ and the routes are above you.  In June the approach from Crater Lake to Hopi should be covered in snow

Route 1 - Hopi Glacier

  • Rating: V* D8 
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: Northeast
  • Vertical: 2,250’
  • Approach Elevations: 8,340’ – 12,547’
  • Approach Distance: From Crater Lake: 1.2 miles, From Monarch Lake TH: 7.7 Miles

Hopi Glacier is the permanent snowfield that sits between point 12,707’ and the twin summits of Hopi. It is one of the best ski mountaineering routes on the Front Range. The setting is beautiful, the snow climbing is fun, and you can open up to big ski turns in this basin. In June this basin is filled with snow due to copious leeward loading during the winter. The majority of this route is not too steep, but the top is ringed with very large cornices. These cornices transform in June to be less overhanging, but they can make the climbing exit and the skiing entrance quite spicy. There can be a near-vertical section above the glacier and below the ridge. Remember, you don’t have to climb the cornice if you don’t want to. There is a vast amount of skiing to be had in the basin below Hopi and Achonee.

From the basin at 11,400’ look up and climb. The cornice is usually bypassed at the low point between Hopi and 12,707’. This cornice and cliff covered snow wall could be vertical in the middle and at the top. Later in the summer, this ski playground begins to turn to hard snow and tightly hugs the cliffs below the twin summits of Hopi. The upper exit of the glacier melts out to rock and is a Class 3 scramble to the ridge. 

Route 2 - Northeast Gully

  • Rating: V* D11 
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: Northeast
  • Vertical: 2,170’
  • Approach Elevations:8,340’ – 12,467’
  • Approach Distance: From Crater Lake: 1.2 miles, From Monarch Lake TH: 7.7 Miles

The terrain between the Hopi and Mount Achonee is steep, complex, and contains numerous cliffs. There is often a massive overhanging cornice running the length of this headwall. There is a break in the cornice action on the north side of Point 12,707’ that is referred to as Mount Achonee’s “Northeast Gully”. Mountaineers use this to access the ridge between Achonee and Hopi. The upper portion of this route is steep, exposed, and a fabulous ski mountaineering experience! This can be combined with a ski on Hopi Glacier to round off your morning in the cirque.

At the basin at 11,400’ the route is above you and to the right of 12,707’. Aim for the point between a south buttress of Mount Achonee and Point 12,707’. The slabs and cliffs of the Achonee Tower are to your right, and the summit of Achonee is on top of a sheer cliff above this. The couloir is a wide chute that points directly to the low point climber’s right of 12,707’ (but not the lowest point between 12,707’ and Achonee), and then turns left. Cornices pose a risk the entire time you are climbing. To get to the ridge you will have to climb a smaller version of the cornice to gain the ridge.

*These are Grade II routes from a high camp in the Lone Eagle Cirque.


Monarch Lake Trailhead (8,340’)

Monarch Lake Trailhead is on the west side of the Continental Divide east of Grand Lake and the town of Granby. From the town of Granby, drive north on Highway 34 to Lake Granby’s Rainbow Bay and turn east on County Road 6 towards Arapaho Bay. Follow this about 10 miles east to the Monarch Lake Trailhead.

This trailhead is in the Arapaho National Recreation Area. There is a $5 per day vehicle fee and you can learn more about it at the ANRA website. Additionally, a wilderness permit is required for camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest website has more information on this. The Sulfur Ranger District headquarters in Granby is a good central location for information on the recreation area and the wilderness area.


Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website