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Bootpack and ski to Palmyra Peak in Telluride, Colorado

Written by Fiona

March 08 2020

Hubby G can never resist a challenge and Palmyra Peak offered the perfect goal at Telluride. The summit is located at 4008m and it is the highest point in the resort located in Colorado. 

The walk from the top of the Prospect Express lift takes around 1.5 hours or more and then there is a tricky off-piste descent. You need to take into account the effects of altitude if you are not used to being at this height.

There is a time limit on when you are allowed to bootpack to the summit. The ski patrol ensure everyone has passed through the “expert only” gates to the peak by 1pm.

This is G’s report of skiing Palmyra Peak in Telluride.

Bootpack to Palmyra Peak

I have been in the habit of attempting the most notoriously challenging lines in each resort that we have visited on our EPIC pass ski trip.

This has grown as my skiing has progressed and I always felt I have to challenge myself to judge my personal improvement.

Palmyra Peak was one such challenge and on our last day in the resort I decided to take it.  

The mountain over-shadows the whole resort and requires a bootpack from the top of Prospect Express chairlift at 3600m up to 4008m.

This may not seem like much of an ascent but at high altitude it felt very steep and tiring.

The summit is actually the highest point I’ve ever been to.

It was hard work climbing up, carrying skis and then facing an extreme double diamond run.

Note the “extreme”.  There are many double diamond black runs at Telluride but the peak run was the toughest. You need to be confident and have the nerve and skill to avoid cliff drops.

I admit I was nervous but I was confident I would be able to ski the route. I have skied some very challenging runs throughout the holiday but I still needed to pluck up the courage to ski off the peak.

G starts the climb from Mountain Quail to Palmyra Peak in Telluride.

The climb to the summit

The hike is estimated to take around 1 to 2 hours from another bootpack route, Mountain Quail. To get to Quail takes about 20 to 30 minutes of bootpacking. 

Having been reasonably high before I knew the thing to do was pace it slowly. It’s easier to keep your breathing steady than to get it back once it’s gone. I took regular stops and walked far slower than I thought I needed to.

I was caught out the day before when reaching 3800m, for a different off-piste route, and I had been totally out of breath. I also had chest pains and  felt light-headed.

On my way to the peak, I was  overtaken by a couple of locals who were obviously more acclimatised than me. 

Another consideration was the terrain. There was thin snow covering loose gravel so I needed to ensure I had a good solid foot placement. The gradient wasn’t too steep but if I had slipped it would have been difficult to stop.

Near the top, there were a couple of short rocky sections. I had to use my hands to keep my balance.

After about 50 minutes I reached the summit. Another four people were at the top, too, including two ski patrollers. One of the ski patrollers mentioned it was his fourth lap of the day!

One of the snow patrol skiers. His record for the full climb is 45 minutes.

This was my first chance to look down at the descent route. It didn’t seem any steeper than routes I’d skied previously but the entrance to the chute was narrow. The route also required tight turns between rocky sides and I was aware of cliff drops below me. All this made me feel tense. I knew there could be no room for error.

The climb up (blue) and the ski down (red).
Looking down into the chute from the top.

I slid carefully into the chute and after I realised that the snow was slightly firm but grippy, I made my first turns. Finally, it started to feel like fun. 

Half way down the chute there was a secondary gully and I opted for this because it had fewer people and the snow was fresher.

Looking down into the second gully.
Looking back up the slope.

After leaving the gully, the mountain opened into a large bowl with the best snow on the mountain.

Completing this run was tiring and it took me out of my comfort zone, but it also gave great satisfaction. I really enjoyed the fantastic views, too, although I had been a little too focused on the skiing to truly appreciate them at the top.

As with most of the Canadian and US resorts that we’ve been to, the additional hike above the lifts always rewards with better views, better snow and fewer people.

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