Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bemrose Ski Circus Snowshoe

Distance: 3.6 miles round trip
Elevation: 11, 541 ft - 11,989 ft (highest)
Elevation Gain: 1,173 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Off Leash (National Forest)

The views looking west from the Bemrose Ski Circus can't be beat

The Bemrose Ski Circus is a series of winter trails on the west side of Hoosier Pass near the Breckenridge ski resort. For the most part, the trails are unmarked and the skier or snowshoer can go where they will. We were in the Ski Circus to try out the Flume Trail, a flat trail that bisects the area. Our plans changed dramatically upon arrival, a fortunate event because the best views in the area are up high and NOT on the Flume Trail.

Trailhead sign

Map of the area courtesy of the US Forest Service

Both guide books we were using indicated that the Flume Trail was the only marked trail in the area and was marked with blue diamonds. Additionally, the National Geo and Forest Service Maps both showed the Flume Trail splitting off from the right border trail a couple of hundred yards from the trailhead.

Starting out directly behind the trailhead sign. Blue diamonds could be seen in the trees.

The reality is the Flume Trail starts right at the trailhead with an immediate left. The right border trail, in contrast, starts directly behind the sign and is marked with blue diamonds. Of course we did not know this until much later.

There were lots of interesting views to the south from the trail

We followed the blue diamonds as anticipated, continually looking for when they might split off to the left and start the Flume. We never saw this and kept climbing higher along the right border of the area. One other party had broken trail for us, so it was not terribly difficult to keep climbing. We knew we were not where we were supposed to be but the views of Mt. Lincoln, North Star Mountain, and Quandary Peak that were filling the sky line behind us, which drove us higher.

Out of the trees now and heading upwards. We knew we had missed our turn off by this point but the route look too interesting to back track.

The tracks we were following cut north near 12K feet and headed for the top of a small rise. Below was a Sprint cell phone repeater. The rise was covered in willows that made for rough going as the snow collapsed around them. The tracks headed back down the mountain via the antennas but we decided to turn back around and retrace our steps to see if we could find the Flume Trail.

Higher up both North Star Mountain and Quandary Peak form a winter tableau.

Once back down we kept looking for any blue diamond that might lead off to the right. Finally, we saw one on a telephone pole out in the middle of a meadow. We could see no others but dove into the knee deep snow to see.

Our tracks coming down the unmarked but highly inviting hillside that finally dumped us on the the Flume Trail

Standing beneath the pole the meadow dipped down sharply in two directions. One followed the transmission right of way and the other headed down into some trees. Deciding to just play, we headed down the slope, sliding, laughing, and enjoying the fresh powder. After a bit we could see a well trod trail heading north. We figured this had to be the Flume. Blue diamonds were quite plentiful for 50 yards or so.

The recessed Flume Trail. The ditch reminded me of a Civil War era sunken road.

After a quick lunch we headed up this trail that immediately dove deep into the trees in a sunken ditch that is the flume. 5 minutes of this monotonous scenery, and we were ready to turn around and go up again. Fortunately, the Flume Trail crossed a drainage and we immediately turned up it, breaking trail as we went.

Our second journey upwards

We kept going right up the gut until we crested a small rise where we could look down onto the Bemrose Creek Drainage. To our right was a ridgeline that looked easily scalable. Our GPS told us we were farther east than our turn around point on the other side. Had we the time we might have gone over the ridge to make a loop. We'll save that for another day.

The open meadow through which we climbed was bordered by a ridge to the south and trees.

Back down to the Flume Trail, we retraced our steps and at the junction where we came into it, we took the obvious turn to the right and followed this out to the trailhead. We did not see any Blue diamonds in this section, so who knows what the real route is supposed to be.

Our final turn around point. A small pass with Mt. Lincoln (14,286 ft) and North Star Mountain (13,614 ft) in the background.

The Belmose Ski Circus turned out to be a nice surprise. The view above the trees is stunning. The routes one can create are varied in both views and difficulty. Unless you are a total novice, do include a route that goes up the hillside, you won't regret what you see.

Our GPS track. We started on the lower part of the map then did the upper.

Altitude Profile

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