Heartbeat Peak 12,251'

Heartbeat Peak from the east.  Photo: Rob Writz

Heartbeat Peak is point 12,251’ on the Continental Divide north of James Peak and south of Sprint Peak. The west side of Heartbeat Peak is similar to many peaks along this stretch of the divide: mellow, windswept, and not as attractive to the spring ski mountaineer. Thanks to the glacial activity, the north, east, and south sides of Heartbeat Peak hold several interesting routes ranging from moderate to steep. The approach to Heart Lake via the South Boulder Creek trail is not steep, but 4.2 miles long. Make the most out of the trip and explore several lines on Heartbeat and the bowls around Heart Lake. Your legs will burn on the trail on the ski back to the trailhead.  


Shared Approach for Heartbeat Bowls and Heart Lake Face

Follow the South Boulder Creek Trail southwest into the James Peak Wilderness. After about 1.2 miles you reach the signed junction with the Forest Lakes Trail. Continue straight through this clearing and after about a half mile you reach the junction with the Crater Lakes Trail. Continue on the South Boulder Creek Trail through the forest to where it goes west and uphill to Heart Lake. The trail may be lost in the snow here, so take a switch backing line to about 11,200’ feet. You may encounter a small lake to your right and then Rogers Pass Lake to your left at about 4 miles. From here head northwest through krumholz and above tree line to Heart Lake. The ski to Heart Lake is about 4.2 miles.

Route 1 - Heartbeat Bowls

  • Rating: II D5
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: Northeast, East, South
  • Vertical: 900'
  • Approach Elevations: 9,211' - 12,251'
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal TH: 5.5 miles

The Heartbeat Bowls are the lines dropping north, east, and southeast from the summit of Heartbeat Peak. The bowls have similar angles, but the northeast facing line is a tad bit steeper and the skier's left ridge quickly converts into a cornice. There are a lot of potential lines here so save some energy on the approach and do several laps! If you chose to ski directly down the bowl to the South Boulder Creek trail be prepared for a nearly 2,000 foot descent (if fully snow covered) to the trail. Stay on the skiers left side of this bowl to stay in clearings and reduce skiing in the tight dark timber.

Heartbeat Peak is not the south facing peak directly above the west side of the lake. The south facing peak above the lake is the Heart Lake Face (2). There is a rocky divide on the north side of the lake that separates you from the peak and the Heartbeat Bowls. From Heart Lake go to the north side of the lake and scramble over the ridge to be below the bowls. There is a blunt east ridge to the summit. An alternative approach is to continue on the line of the trail from Heart Lake to the Rogers Pass on the Continental Divide. This switch backing trail may be exposed from high winds, but if there is snow only do this with consolidated spring snow. From the Divide you can hike or ski just over a half mile north to the summit of Heartbeat Peak.

Route 2 - Heart Lake Face

  • Rating: II D8
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: Southeast
  • Vertical: 750'
  • Approach Elevations: 9,211' - 12,040'
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal TH: 4.7 miles

The Heart Lake Face is directly above the west side of Heart Lake. It is a southern point of Heartbeat Peak at 12,040', and it stares right at you from the lake. It is steeper and shorter than the Heartbeat Bowls, but can have a mellow entrance on the skier's left. This can be a good combination with a ski descent of Heartbeat Peak.

From the lake head directly to the face and climb it or the eastern shoulder. Another option to climbing the peak directly is to continue on the line of the trail to Rogers Pass as described in Route 1 Heartbeat Bowls. The ridge across the Continental Divide will take you to the peak.


East Portal Trailhead (9,210')

The East Portal Trailhead is one of the primary entry points into the James Peak Wilderness. To find this trailhead, drive west on Rollins Pass Road (Road 16) from Rollinsville on Highway 119 south of Nederland and north of Blackhawk. Take this road west to the dead-end at the large and obvious trailhead where the train tracks disappear into the Moffat Tunnel. This is a very popular trailhead in the summer and the winter, and it provides access to several trails off of South Boulder Creek. Be prepared to put your boots on in the car because the wind at this parking lot is legendary. The South Boulder Creek Trail is the main vein to access Forest Lakes Trail, Crater Lakes Trail, and Heart Lake. Look for this trail on the north and west side of the railroad tracks. It will lead you around and west of the tunnel. Please don’t cross the railroad tracks or go near the tunnel. You might trigger the annoying warning speakers that bark at you in various languages and suck the life out of everyone’s wilderness experience. [39.903, -105.6442]


Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website