Marble Area Section 2, North and East of Town
A vast area of ski alpinism terrain is available north and east of the town of Marble. The most stupendous alps in this area are Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mountain, two of Colorado's famous 14,000 foot "fourteeners." Glisse routes on the fourteeners are detailed in guidebooks such as Dawson's Guides to Colorado's Fourteeners, with the best satellite peaks and routes detailed below. (Please see section one of this chapter for directions to the town of Marble.)
Roads and Trailheads
USGS Maps Marble, Chair Mountain, Marcellina Mountain USFS Map: Gunnison National Forest
All the trailheads below leave from the town of Marble; see section one introduction above for directions to Marble.
Lost Trail Creek Trailhead
Drive easterly through the town of Marble, past Beaver Lake, and park (in winter) at the snow plow turnaround on the Schofield Pass Road (8,080 feet). A series of signs may lead you through town to this point, but then again, signs have a way of disappearing. In spring you may be able to continue up Daniels Hill (4x4 recommended). Stay left at the top of Daniels Hill, and continue about ½ mile along Lost Trail Creek to parking where the road gets rougher or is closed by snow (about 9,000 feet). The road gets narrower and somewhat tougher to drive, eventually leading to trailhead signs at North Fork Creek (9,080 feet) and on to Leadking Basin via a windy 4-wheel-drive road that doesn't melt out until late spring. (This is a popular summer bicycle and jeep route which connects to the Leadking Basin Trailhead and Schofield Pass Road mentioned below.)
Old Ski Area Trailhead
Back in 1971 an access road was built for a nascent ski area on the southwest slopes of Mount Daly, southeast from Mabrl. One of the proposed ski lifts was built and actually ran for a period during one winter, but the ski area never happened. Instead, a housing development has taken shape on property accessed by the original road. In recent years this road has been plowed, and ends at a gate in a terrific location near the base of the old ski runs (8,800 feet). Be aware that private property may be an issue in this area, but backcountry users most certainly have historical easement through the old ski area and on the original Mount Daly trail which ran from the old Bair Ranch up around the south slopes of Mount Daly. Also note that the "official" access trail in this area is known as the Carbonate Creek Trail, and has been re-routed to avoid private land, via a route that's somewhat useless during snow seasons.
You reach the Old Ski Area road via a somewhat convoluted route through the town of Marble. Start at the Marble firehouse and note your odometer reading, then continue easterly on the streets of Marble, taking several turns that eventually lead to Beaver Lake. Follow signs for Beaver Lake and Schofield Pass. You'll know you're on the correct route when you drive by Beaver Lake. A short distance past Beaver Lake, at 1.3 miles from the firehouse, you'll see the unsigned start of the Old Ski Area road turning to the left. Historically there has been no sign here, but as the area becomes more developed the road will probably be signed; what it will officially be called is unknown at this writing (it's called "Marble Village Drive" on the county government maps). Drive the Old Ski Area road up around switchbacks to a gate at 8,800 feet. Parking is obvious. In wet conditions this road can be muddy and slick, though it will doubtless be improved as more homes are built in the area accessed by the road.
Leadking Basin Trailhead and Schofield Pass Road
Follow signs through Marble to the Schofield Pass Road; continue 5.6 miles to Crystal, a small group of cabins and summer homes (low-geared 4x4 vehicle required). Many people park in an aspen grove just past Crystal (9,000 feet), because the road gets much rougher past there. If you're on foot or choose the extreme wheelin' option, continue ½ mile up steep rough road to an intersection. Leave the Schofield Pass Road here by heading left on the Leadking Basin Road, which leads 1 ½ miles to the trailhead on the west side of Leadking Basin (9,700 feet). Winter closure is at Marble. The road opens to Crystal sometime in late May or early June, while the road into Leadking Basin melts out in June.
Route 3.2.1 Mount Daly
Climb rating: Harder skins, moderate boot Ski rating: Advanced, S4- Recommended seasons: Late winter, spring Starting elevation: 8,800 feet Summit elevation: 12,610 feet Elevation gain: 3,810 feet Round trip distance: 9 miles Day trip? Yes Map: Marble North Photo: [in collection]
To avoid confusion, note there are two mountains named Mt. Daly in the Elk range. The Mt. Daly covered in this chapter, near Marble, is one of the best glisse mountains in the Elks. The other Daly is next to Capitol Peak (see route 6.1.3) and is also a fine destination.
You have two trailhead options for climbing and skiing Mount Daly: In the old days, skiers would drive through Marble to the Lost Trail Creek Trailhead (see section introduction), then take a brushy and devious route to the summit via the east ridge and southern ribs. If you're after adventure, that route is an option, but since the Old Ski Area Trailhead is now accessible via a plowed road (see section introduction), starting from that point results in a better day of skiing.
From the Old Ski Area Trailhead, continue up the road to the defunct ski area. Climb the old ski runs, then continue to timberline on Mount Daly. Follow a prominent ridge up the southwest face to the summit. Pick your descent route according to avalanche conditions and snow surface. A good tour of Daly can be made by dropping from the summit east into Buckskin Basin, then following various drainages to Lost Trail Creek Trailhead, where you stashed a car with just such an option in mind.
All of the good skiing above timberline on Mt. Daly is in avalanche terrain; it should only be skied during the most stable times. Buckskin Basin is threatened by a south-facing mountainside that can thaw out and avalanche quite early on a spring morning.
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Route 3.2.2 Arkansas Mountain
Climb rating: Easy skins Ski rating: S3 Recommended seasons: All with snowcover Starting elevation: 9,000 feet (varies with season and plowing) Summit elevation: 11,853 feet Elevation gain: 2,853 feet Round trip distance: Approximately 6 miles Day trip? Yes Map: Marble North Photo: [none]
This is one of the easiest summits to reach in the rugged peaks north and east of Marble. The approach uses an easily followed road, of which the lower portions can be used as a tour during times of higher avalanche danger. Start at the Lost Trail Creek Trailhead (see section introduction). Climb the obvious cut of the road as it parallels Lost Trail Creek to 10,200 feet. Here a series of switchbacks climb possible avalanche slopes. Depending on snow conditions and your skill level, it's possible to avoid this section by climbing through forests to the south, then intersecting the road again at about 10,600 feet. From there, continue up the road through timber to a large saddle and divide at 10,800 feet. This saddle is a worthy goal for novice alpinists. Experts can continue by climbing Arkansas Mountain via the peak's southerly ridge. BackcountrySkiingCO recommends skiing your your ascent route, or get creative and make a loop by dropping north to the North Fork of Lost Trail Creek, then heading down that drainage to the trailhead. Expert skiers and boarders may find interesting descents off all sides of Arkansas Mountain.
Route 3.2.3 Siberia Peak from Leadking Basin
Climb rating: Harder skins, Advanced snow Ski rating: Advanced to Extreme, S4 to S4+ Recommended seasons: Spring Starting elevation: 9,700 feet Summit elevation: 13,420 feet Elevation gain: 3,720 feet Round trip distance: 8 miles Day trip? Yes, or overnight Map: Marble North Photo: [in collection]
Okay, it's not a fourteener. But lofty "thirteener" Siberia Peak is by some counts the 307th highest peak in Colorado, and a fine ski descent! Combine with fourteener Snowmass Mountain for the last word in daily doubles (see Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners).
Start from the Leadking Basin Trailhead (section introduction). Climb the well-used pack trail 1 ¾ miles to Geneva Lake, then continue up the trail a short distance to 11,000 feet, where the trail loops back to the southeast. Leave the trail at this point and climb N up the drainage to 11,300 feet. Continue climbing and detour to the right to avoid a small gorge. Intersect the drainage at the top of the gorge (11,600 feet), and follow the drainage (with small variations) to Siberia Lake (11,860 feet). Siberia Peak is now to your left (W). Climb the peak via the east face couloirs or southeast ridge. The face is probably the most classic descent route. Remember that this eastern exposure gets a relatively early sunhit.
Route 3.2.4 Treasure Mountain Couloirs
Climb rating: Advanced skin and boot Ski rating: Advanced to Extreme, S5- Recommended seasons: Spring Starting elevation: 8,750 feet Summit elevation: 13,528 feet Elevation gain: 4,728 feet Round trip distance: 4 miles Day trip? Possibly, depends on road access Map: Marble East Photo: [in collection]
A variety of excellent steep ski gullies drop to the northeast off the summit ridge of Treasure Mountain. The run from the exact summit, down next to the Chimneys, is blocked by a major cliff band. The next drainage to the north is more forgiving though the upper section is a forbidding headwall, and the one north of that is the most feasible of the three. As with most steep ski descents, it is best to climb up via your descent route. The area is reached thus: Hike or drive (depending on the snow) about three miles up the Schofield Pass Road out of Marble (see section introduction); the elevation of the road here is about 8,750 feet. Leave the road and climb the pronounced avalanche chute that leads up to Treasure Mountain's summit ridge. The last portion is fairly steep and should be approached with caution as you may encounter cliff bands. Carry a rope. These are long climbs, especially if you have to walk much of the road from Marble. It could be wise to camp at the base of the routes in order to make the necessary early morning start to avoid avalanches from thawing snow. This route is only safe in spring compacted conditions.