Vasquez Peak 12,947'

Vasquez Peak from the south.  Photo: Rob Writz

Vasquez Peak is the namesake mountain of the Vasquez Peak Wilderness. The summit of this mountain is a strategic vantage point and provides a 360-degree view of many mountains and ranges. To the south is a great view of Hassell Peak, the north sides of Mount Machebeuf, Bard Peak, and Engelmann Peak.  To the east are the west sides of the mountains of the James Peak Wilderness, and to the west are the fantastic peaks of the Byers Peak Wilderness. Below you are the majority of the terrain in the Jones Pass area. This is a good peak to climb to in the spring to survey conditions.

The mountain is quite windswept, and does not have the deeply carved cirques that define the eastern side of many Front Range mountains. Because of this the ski mountaineering conditions are a bit scrappy, but in the spring you can find near-continuous lines from the summit into the East Bowl and the Southwest Gully. 

+ ROUTES

Shared Approach to 10,725’

Start at the west end of the winter Jones Pass trailhead at the obvious Forest Service signs. Ski or hike a hundred yards up the road, and there is a sign showing Jones Pass to the right and Butler Gulch to the left. Go right and follow the Jones Pass Road. The road climbs eight tenths of a mile to a clearing below Point 12,118 that is to your left. [39.7793, -105.8638] You can look up to the Southwest Gully of Vasquez Peak from here.

1 – Southwest Gully

  • Rating: I D2
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: Southwest
  • Vertical: 1,700’
  • Approach Elevations: 10,465’ – 12,947’
  • Approach Distance: From Jones Pass TH: 2.2 Miles
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.7936, -105.8539

The Southwest Gully is a mellow ascent and descent that starts (or ends) at the saddle between Vasquez Peak and Point 12,900’. There is frequently a strip of snow extending from the gully to just below the summit, but it is easier to access this on the descent than on the ascent. The gully itself is a broad slope that quickly drops into the forest of the “Vasquez Trees”. This glade is one of our favorite mid-winter tree shots.

From the clearing described in the shared approach you should be able to look up and see the Vasquez Trees, the Southwest Gully, and the summit of Vasquez Peak. These are all to the north. There are many ways to climb the trees to the base of the gully, and they are initially steep. An indirect option is to climb the windswept terrain looker’s right of the trees to a bench at about 11,750’ and then traverse north to the upper reaches of the gully. This parallels the Mt. Nystrom / Continental Divide summer trail. Climb up the gully to the saddle between Vasquez Peak and 12,900’ and then it is a quick jaunt north to the summit.

2 – East Bowl

  • Rating: II D4
  • Season: Spring
  • Exposure: East
  • Vertical: 1,500’
  • Approach Elevations: 10,465’ – 12,947’
  • Approach Distance: From Jones Pass TH: 2.4 Miles
  • Top of Route Waypoint: 39.7961, -105.855

The East Bowl is commonly skied from just below the summit talus pile. There is a steep ridge that initially splits the bowl and this can have some exciting turns on it. You will need to pick your way down through a few windswept areas and then you end up in the flatter basin below Vasquez Peak and the north side of 12,900’. The 12,900’ sub-peak to the south is on the edge of the East Bowl and you can ski from this point into the bowl as well.

The quickest way to access the East Bowl is to climb the Southwest Gully to the summit. This means you will be climbing back up a good portion of the mountain, and skiing down the Southwest Gully to the Jones Pass Road. When you are done skiing the East Bowl, look up the valley and pick out the path of least resistance that climbs southwest and then west to the saddle between 12,900’ and Vasquez Peak. This is gentle terrain and, if covered in snow, you can skin most of it. The upper portion may be windswept and have a steep wall of snow to boot up to the saddle. It is about 0.75 miles from tree line back to the saddle. You could find descent options from 12,900’ and Vasquez Pass back to the Jones Pass Trailhead, but we recommend skiing the Southwest Gully instead. The terrain below the south side of 12,900’ is mostly dry and it would be a painful hike down this way.

+ TRAILHEAD

Jones Pass (10,465’)

This is the same trailhead that is used for winter backcountry skiing on Jones Pass and Butler Gulch. If you are coming from Interstate 70, leave the highway at Exit 232 for Winter Park and Highway 40. Drive slowly through the town of Empire as the town strictly enforces the 35 mph speed limit. From the Interstate 70 exit, drive 7.2 miles to the first major switchback on Berthoud Pass. Turn left on Henderson Mine Road to Jones Pass. Drive to the Henderson Mine complex and to your right is a small road leading 800 feet to the trailhead. [39.7712, -105.8548]

+ 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