Good News for Colorado 14er Skiers — El Diente Access To Be Legal

Post by blogger | August 4, 2008      
Colorado backcountry skiing.
These signs greeted climbers and backcountry skiers in Silver Pick after the owner closed access in 2004.

Due to legally grey private land access, getting to some of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks for climbing or backcountry skiing can be like driving with a cop a few cars behind you. You know you’re legal — but you got a tail light out or something?

In the case of climbing, you see the trespassing signs, know the land is private, but also know you’re probably got some sort of historical easement situation. Or you’re pretty sure the local mounties have better things to do than bust hikers on a trail that’s been used by the public for more than a century (and the same cops have probably been hunting on since they were kids).

Yet even if the cops are distracted, perhaps those pesky land owners are lurking, scheming how to ruin your day. So you can’t help but stress a little.

Such has been the case with Silver Pick basin access to El Diente and the Wilsons, a group of three 14ers in central Colorado.

The good news (which I’m happy to blog about after so much dire blinning (blogging + whining) about land closures and access restrictions, is the Silver Pick land has been acquired by the Trust For Public Land, an organization that buys private land and makes it public in various ways.

According to an article in the Telluride Daily Planet newspaper, the “hushed” deal with land owner Rusty Nichols was in the work for three years, and ended up costing around $3 million.

Since Nichols declared the land “closed” in 2004, cops and robbers antics of avoiding Nichols has been at times hilarious, other times just a demonstration of human nature that reminded me of feuding neighbors in a subdivision (e.g., don’t drag your lawnmower over the corner of my lot or I’m calling the cops!). Summer climbers tended to avoid the place because Nichols spent at least some time up there harassing people. But skiers and winter mountaineers continued to use the access as it is really the only practical way to reach El Diente during snow seasons (although a longish snowmobile ride and difficult approach does work from the southwest.)

Colorado 14er backcountry skiing.
Forest Service Visitor’s Map shows approximate location of private lands in Silver Pick Basin area, indicated by red outlines. Arrows indicate 14,000 foot peaks reached from here.

My favorite story from those days is when some skiers took their mountain bikes up the gated but dry road in early springtime. They came back to find Nichols had padlocked their bikes. The heinous trespassers had to walk over to the man’s cabin and receive a lecture to get the combo. I guess that’s better than being shot at, but since today’s mountain bikes are the equivalent of yesteryear’s horses, Nichols was actually getting into some serious stuff (as heard in Telluride: “You can have my Subraru and steal my girlfriend — but don’t touch my $6,000 mountain bike…”)

I recall a few trips up there myself when we’d tiptoe past Nichols’ place, wondering if he was there and was going to rage out on an ATV and ruin our day. Luckily that never happened.

Tricky part of this is they say the lower portion of the trail will be re-routed on the west side of the basin to avoid a homesite. No word if this will provide any viable winter access, or even springtime over-snow travel that doesn’t involve intense sidehilling and possible avalanche danger. For a while the existing road/trail will probably still be poachable when owners are not around, thought he legality of doing so will be more cut and dried.

Colorado 14er backcountry skiing.
El Diente Peak from Silver Pick area where the recent land purchase will open previously closed access.

In the end I don’t doubt someone will eventually live up there year around. When that happens, traditional winter access will probably be blocked and we’ll be forced to the new western trail. Thus, while on the surface this is good news, the details could be less than exalted.

[gmap name=’mymap’ width=’525′ lat=’37.839140′ lng=’-108.005476′ zoom=’12’ maptype=’g_hybrid_map’ desc=’El Diente Peak’]


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


5 Responses to “Good News for Colorado 14er Skiers — El Diente Access To Be Legal”

  1. scott nelson August 4th, 2008 7:17 pm

    A quick glance at the picture, and I thought that was somewhere around Marble 🙂 Did a recon/training run around the Lead King Loop this AM (for the upcoming Lead King Loop run in Sept. , great race by the way….) and noticed a ton of “no tresspassing” signs along the way. Hey, if its their land, then I guess they have a right to keep it closed off, but “padlocking” bikes? Cmon….

  2. Jim Jones August 6th, 2008 8:46 am

    The land owner closed the road to force a land swap. He’s a greedy Texan, and he wanted to swap his mining claim land for better land closer to T-ride where he could then build large McMansions. But fortunately the locals said no way. Remember the McCluskies?

  3. Scott B August 6th, 2008 3:26 pm

    That lines up pretty well with what I had heard about this. Seems to me that buying worthless mining claims on a 14er and then trying to close access so that you can force some non-profit to pay you off is pretty shady.

    Then again, I didn’t make 3 mil over the last couple of years, so what do I know?

  4. Lou August 6th, 2008 4:11 pm

    Scott, I have to admit to mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand, yeah, it’s kinda funky (but not really shady, as it’s all legal). On the other hand, if I owned that kind of land I’d be worried about local government possibly condemming my land or at least using all their power to control how I used it. Thus, the best thing to do would be to get out, and to get out for the largest sum possible.

  5. Terry August 6th, 2008 10:56 pm

    Good blog post and news. Thanks.

    FWIW, here are a couple shots of El Diente from the SW (Navajo Lake from Burro Bridge) and Navajo Lake from two weeks ago. Is the long approach from Barlow Creek to KilPacker (right on first image, I think) or the Dunton side.

    Navajo Lake with Wilson Peak

    (And just for grins, just one of many wildflower shots:

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version