Mt. Cumulus Ski Descent

Route Stats:
Mountains: Mt. Cumulus (12,725’)
Route: Started at the Colorado River TH (9040’) and used the Colorado River trail to the Red Mountain trail and followed this to the Grand Ditch. Continued up talus slope parallel to Opposition Creek, bushwhacked up to a high plateau and took a snow covered rib up to the summit. SKi E. facing gully down to Opposition creek and followed the creek for the descent.
Crew: Heather, Prakash
Distance / Elevation Gain ~12 miles and ~4000’ vert gained (approx)

We left the CO river TH at 7AM, walking North to the Red Mountain Trail junction. Immediately after the junction and bridge over the CO river we needed to cross overflow from the river which was flooding a meadow creating a swamp. This soaked our boots thoroughly which felt great! The red mountain trail is fantastic and pristine. It clearly sees very little traffic as evidenced by solid swathes of deadfall across it. Carrying skis through the deadfall made for some exciting crawling, climbing and maneuvering. There were a couple log bridges across the fast-flowing opposition creek which were semi broken and took a bit of tight-rope walking to get across. An hour and a half into the hike we stopped for a snack…

Breakfast Stop

We hiked on through intensifying deadfall. The trail was great though and did not waste time gaining elevation… neither too fast or too slow. We were soon at the Grand Ditch Road and were surprised that the Grand Ditch seemed to be flowing uphill. I learned that the ditch was an old attempt to keep water from CA during the days of strife over water rights. Water (or the lack thereof) seems to cause similar problems the world over.

Hiking along the ditch

Once on the Grand Ditch Road we first saw Red Mountain and a part of the ridge to Nimbus. The landscape reminded me of my grandparents’ farmhouse back home with Coconut trees and paddy fields on one side of the irrigation ditch and cashew groves on the other side of it. We frequently walked down the ditch road when we were kids on our way to whatever adventures we were up to. We kept on up the Grand Ditch road and soon crossed Mosquito Creek.

Mosquito Creek

The bridge across Opposition Creek followed soon after. We crossed it and hiked up the trail and found that it ended at the base of an enormous pile of Boulders approaching the scale of the Boulder field on Longs.

Base of the Boulder Field
Frickin’ VW Bug Sized Boulders

There is a trail off to the left but we missed it in our awe of the Boulders. We found the right trail on our way back. Finding the trail in Summer will save you at least 1.5 hours of boulder hopping and bushwhacking through thick brush. Heather demonstrates the correct technique in this situation.


Fighting through the brush was a lot of fun with the skis. The trees appeared to want to protect Mt. Cumulus’ summer coat from my skis. It took us 2.5 hours to get from the base of the Boulder field to the base of this final rib up to the summit. This would’ve only taken 1 hour if we’d found the trail.

The Ridge up to Summit

The last stretch took about an hour and we were on the summit a little before 2PM.

Heather on Cumulus
Prakash on Cumulus

A storm was brewing beyond Nimbus and we decided to leave that for another day. This place was so gorgeous that we decided we would definitely need an excuse to come back.

Cumulonimbus clouds on top of Nimbus?

Heather began the descent at around 2:15 and I followed shortly afterwards after a few more summit pans. I passed her a little below the summit as she was preparing to glissade.

Preparing to Ski off Cumulus

The ski line looked fantastic. The snow was drained of its water and compacted solid. Either no one had skied on it in the recent past or the rain had done a good job of washing off their tracks. I found and tried to ski the steepest sections which probably approached 35 degrees max.

Looking down into the drainage
It’s a hard job but someone has to do it!

It took me about 20 minutes to ski from the summit to the bottom of the gully in this next pic. Heather followed my ski tracks on glissade.

Looking up at the ski route

I headed straight for the trees to the point where I saw Opposition Creek take shape. It was being fed by a lake of snowmelt coming from the surrounding high peaks and ridges. I made a beeline for the head of the creek where I’d arranged to meet Heather. Here I stashed away my gear, put on my hiking shoes and waited for her so we could begin hiking back together. We followed the creek for a while parallel to our ascent route and soon arrived at the base of the Boulder field. Next time it would be wise to head left at the base of this Boulder field and find the trail that heads alongside Opposition Creek. Here is a shot of how the trail begins (to the left of and around the boulder behind the fallen tree).

Back down below the boulder field

We followed the trail back down fighting the deadfall again. The overflowing CO river had picked up force and I walked across it barefoot and continued in the same manner all the way back to the waiting Jeep. It was good on the feet to not be enclosed in shoes… they stank real bad anyways and did not earn room within the Jeep… they hung out on the bike rack for the rest of the ride home…

WallE waits faithfully

This pic was taken from a viewpoint on trailridge road and shows the ski / glissade route down off the summit of Mt. Cumulus…

Descent Route off Cumulus

Topo marks the ascent route in blue and descent (including ski) in red…

Topo Ascent in Blue, Descent in Red

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