Radiobeacon Peak 12,072'

Radiobeacon Peak from the East.  Photo: Rob Writz

Beacon Peak, aka Radiobeacon Peak, is a popular spring and summer skiing destination for Boulder ski mountaineers. As spring progresses and transitions into summer, the mountain becomes more and more accessible. The east-facing cirque above Forest Lakes holds numerous steep test piece ski descents, and the East Ridge is a classic that could be considered for backcountry skiing in the early spring. The north-facing routes on Radiobeacon are skiable into the summer, and at that point there is quick access from the Forest Lakes and Rollins Pass Trailheads.

+ ROUTES

Shared Approach from East Portal

From the East Portal Trailhead at Moffat Tunnel ski or hike 1.2 miles south on the South Boulder Creek Trail to the signed intersection with the Forest Lakes. Take the Forest Lakes Trail north and northwest. The trail has blue markers on the trees to signal the direction of the trail. The Forest Lake trail climbs 1.9 miles to Lower Forest Lake. It is 0.55 miles from Lower Forest Lake to Upper Forest Lake. [39.9224, -105.6727] At Upper Forest Lake, follow the approach described below.

Shared Approach from Forest Lake Trailhead

Hike down from the trailhead 0.3 miles to Upper Forest Lake. [39.9224, -105.6727]Go around the lake to the southwest corner and then climb 0.3 miles to a small tarn at 10,986’. From here you can climb the various couloirs that descend into this bowl. The routes described below terminate in or near this tarn’s bowl.

Routes

1 - East Face and North Chutes

  • Rating: II D5
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: East, North
  • Vertical: 1,225’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,210’ – 12.072’
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal: 4.2 miles, From Forest Lake TH: 1.2 miles
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.9178, -105.6828

The East Face is the classic route on the mountain. A climb and ski of this fine line has become a spring ritual for local mountaineers. The East Face is accessible south of Upper Forest Lakes. It is becoming more popular to combine the East Face with the North Chutes south of the lake. These chutes provide access to the East Face at about mid-height of the route, and the chutes consistently hold snow into the summer. The pitch of the chutes is mid-30 degrees and the East Face is in the mid-20 degrees.

2 – North Face

  • Rating: II D10 R3
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: North
  • Vertical: 1,085’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,210’ – 12.072’
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal: 4.2 miles, From Forest Lake TH: 1 mile
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.9178, -105.6828

The North Face is comprised of several couloir entrances that join to lead into a steep choke point above the tarn. The first entrance is to follow the start of the East Face and then curve skier’s right into the North Face. This allows you to avoid a cornice entrance, but you enter convex terrain above the North Face’s cliff making navigation a challenge. The second option, aka “Summit Couloir”, is a steep entrance skier’s left of the summit. Cornices make this entrance complicated, but the route proceeds directly down the fall line of the North Face to the cliff band. This cliff band has two entry points into the lower couloir. The skier’s left entrance can have rock complications and a runnel.

3 – Northeast Couloir

  • Rating: II D15 R3
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: Northeast
  • Vertical: 1,085’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,210’ – 12.072’
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal: 4.2 miles, From Forest Lake TH: 1 mile
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.9187, -105.6828

The Northeast Couloir is a steep and complicated route that hides between cliff bands on Radiobeacon. The couloir is a quick walk from the summit, and it is the second couloir entrance north of the summit. When the couloir is filled with spring snow it bifurcates at a rock face about one third of the way down. At this point the route transitions from an East exposure to a North exposure. There can be a dogleg turn later in the summer here. This exposed route can be outstanding if it is timed right, and like the other routes it can have a complicated entrance due to cornices.

4 - Forest Lake Couloir

  • Rating: II D18 R3
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: East
  • Vertical: 915’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,210’ – 11,900’
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal: 4.2 miles, From Forest Lake TH: 1 mile
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.9205, -105.6829

The Forest Lake Couloir is one of the most sought after steep skiing test pieces on the Front Range. The access in the summer is quick, and skiers and snowboarders in this chute are on display for everyone else in the cirque. The entrance is near 60 degrees and the descent is consistently near 55 degrees. A runnel forms in the early summer in the chute.

5 – Double Fall Line Couloir

  • Rating: II D14
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: Southeast
  • Vertical: 890’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,210’ – 11,877’
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal: 4.2 miles, From Forest Lake TH: 1 mile
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.9235, -105.6813

This couloir drops steeply from the Continental Divide and increases in steepness and intensity. The chute has a double fall line and also reaches a bottleneck before opening up to a steep snow apron.

6 – Forest Lake Bowl South

  • Rating: II D11
  • Season: Spring, Summer
  • Exposure: East, Southeast
  • Vertical: 850’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,210’ – 11,840’
  • Approach Distance: From East Portal: 4.2 miles, From Forest Lake TH: 1 mile
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.9246, -105.6806

This is one of the Forest Lake Bowls. This slope is looker’s right of the tarn at 10,986’. Climb up the slope leading northwest from the tarn to the base of this bowl. There are numerous cornices at the top and these can become steep, nearly vertical, entrances in the summer.

+ TRAILHEAD

Forest Lake Trailhead (11,040’)

The Forest Lake Trailhead is accessible in the summer. This high trailhead is located on the Rollins Pass Road west of Rollinsville in Gilpin County. To reach Rollins Pass Road, go 7.6 miles west of Rollinsville on Tolland/Rollins Pass Road. [39.9051, -105.6311,] From here, get ready to absorb miles of bumps, and drive 11 miles to Forest Lake Trailhead. A low clearance 2WD passenger vehicle will be challenged on this road. By mid-June there may be snowdrifts blocking the final stretch of the road between Yankee Doodle Lake and Jenny Lake. [39.9238, -105.6686]

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]

Rollins Pass (11,685’)

About 2 miles south of Winter Park on Highway 40 Corona Pass Road/149 climbs 12.6 miles to Rollins Pass aka Corona Pass. The road is bumpy, but a lower clearance vehicle can make it to the pass. [39.9348, -105.6821]

The approach from Rollins Pass to Radiobeacon is to head south on the ridge about 1.4 miles to the summit and the ski routes. The approach is quick, but you do not have the advantage of climbing the routes first. Steep and cornice-laden entrances guard the majority of the ski descents on this peak. The safer approach is from Forest Lakes or Moffat Tunnel.

+ MAPS & PICTURES

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