For remote, backcountry territory, look to Peak 6
You would not think of Peak 6 as particularly remote. Right next door is the Breckenridge Ski Area. Head south to Hoosier Pass, and every drainage is bisected with jeep roads and trails, skiers and snowmobilers. The primitive zone begins as soon as you leave the ski-area boundary of Peak 7. In fact, you could walk from Peak 7, cross five major drainages to the north, and never see a jeep road or a person.
There is the Miner’s Creek Trail, but it’s not used much in the winter and hard to reach in the summer. Other than that, you have to drop down a few thousand feet to find a trace of human impact, and that’s the popular Peaks Trail. I like to think that this primitiveness is the balance our crowded range needs, as a place for a few of us, and the wildlife, to escape.
Peak 6 might someday be ski-area terrain, but for now it remains as one of the best backcountry ski destinations, and summer bushwhacks, in the county.
The two easiest winter routes to the summit are found by either using the T-Bar at Breckenridge Ski Area and exiting the backcountry gate or starting at the Peaks Trailhead and skinning through the woods. You should have avalanche knowledge and equipment, because there are a few areas where you need to be careful.
Some of our group on this day didn’t have ski passes, so we decided to start from the bottom. Unfortunately, our old forest route is now a Peak 7 ski run. We decided to take advantage of a groomed slope and skinned up the last run over, trying to stay out of the way, which wasn’t a real relaxing start to our “backcountry’ ski day.
Jeffrey kept waving his pole in the air so people would see us. It dawned on me that we did have another option. About a five-minute journey out of bounds from here is a packed trail alongside Cucumber Creek. I know this trail more from the summer as one of my favorite secret trails to the sub-alpine zone of Peak 6 and 7. Even though we’d have to slog through some rotten snow to reach it, we all agreed it was worth the effort.
Whenever I exit the ski-area boundaries, I’ll have that moment when I feel like I am really “outside.” I can stop, breathe deep, untwist the neck gator and notice the tree trunk over there, glowing orange in the morning light. I do love ski lifts, but even the best powder day at a ski area has a dose of tension that dissolves the minute I’m out of bounds.
We survived the slog through the woods and found Cucumber Creek, with the trail traveling on its north side, a few inches of old snow on top. This trail has the distinction of being the last route until Frisco that starts this low and heads right to tree line in the Ten Mile Range. Here, we are on the edge of the wilds.
Take a closer look at Peak 6. People often confuse its southern, steep knob as the summit, when it’s actually the non-descript hump over to the north. This marks the top of my favorite ski down, called “the Gully.’ It looks steep from far away, but when you get close, you’ll be relieved to see it’s actually pretty mellow. The danger of Peak 6 isn’t the Gully, it’s the ascent route on the south slope and the last few feet to the summit, which that day we chose to stop a few hundred feet short of.
One run in the backcountry can be more satisfying than a day in the ski area. In just two hours of hiking, we had all of Peak 6, with all its nooks and crannies left for us to explore and ski. When you look down that long Gully and the spotless white below, and know you have it all to yourself, you make every turn count. If you’re real savvy, continue on down one of the creek beds, which can add up to almost a hundred turns of true freedom.
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