How to get there:
The best access is from Mitchell Lake trail head. This
is located in the Lake Brainard area, well marked with signs.
To get there take Colorado 72 north 20 km from Nederland to the small
community called Ward. The Lake Brainard road goes west from Ward for
about 8 km to Lake Brainard. The Mitchell trailhead is about one kilometer
from Brainard Lake.
Note: There is a charge of about 5 dollars to drive passed Red Rock
on the Lake Brainard Road. Moreover, the road closes with the snow in the fall
(October?), and remains closed until late June. However, already in early
May (this trip) the road is dry and free of snow all the way to Brainard
Lake. It is a somewhat strange policy, first build a big paved road
into the wilderness and then keep it closed even when mother nature has
melted all the snow. In any case, this added about 10 kilometer of
(boring) road walk to the trip. (Earlier in winter there are good cross
country ski-trails that avoid the road, but by May the skiing is not
really an option any more.) Route description:
Follow the trail from the trailhead to Mitchell Lake.
We then found a nice, natural open
"mini"-valley from the south-west side of the lake to higher ground
in the valley that heads west towards Mount Toll. We generally stayed
south (north of Little Pawnee) and skied a natural route climbing all
the way to the very distinct basin south-east of Toll. (That is we passed
Blue Lake substantially higher on the south side.)
From here one can easily climb the saddle between Mount Toll and Pawnee Peak,
however, we proceeded straight up (on foot) moderate snow all the way to the
summit. (This is the snow just left (south) of
the rocky ridgeline that separates
the north-east side of the mountain from its south-east side.)
The snow slope becomes less steep as you approach the summit.
With the snow we had we could easily have skied all the way to
the summit, however with our packs and cross country skis the skiing
down would not really have added any value to the trip. Comments:
I did this very nice spring ski climb with my son
Pål Jørgen, age 12.
We did not pay much attention and skied to the Long Lake trailhead.
From there we traversed across to Mitchell Lake, it is not clear that
this was any better than returning, but skiing in dense forest is
always fun (early on the trip). We started at Red Rock at 0730, reached
the summit after 6 hours at 1330, spent a very memorable 30 minutes
at the nice dry rocks forming the summit. No wind, all blue sky and
the warmest temperature yet this year. Lunch and hot drinks as well
as our standard water, pictures etc. The view of Apache and Navajo is
very nice, so also across to the (slightly higher) Mount Audubon.
This is the Continental Divide and you feel it! Three hours brought
us back to the car at 1700.
Spring skiing in wet, but quite OK
snow (as long as it supports my skis I am generally happy).
The trip had not been possible without skis, so the 4 km carry (each
way to Brainard Lake) was important. We saw nobody not even tracks,
add that Boulder had clouds most of the day, we are fortunate that
know what mountains can offer on what else would have been a "below
Mount Toll, our approach contoured left here,
followed the base of the snow under the rock face,
up on the left of the rock formation that can be
seen in front of Mount Toll, to the base of the
very distinct snow slope.