photo- A look at the southside of Mt. Oklahoma. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
Ascent/Descent route: south face from Halfmoon creek trailhead.
Members of Group: Time Loes, Zach Taylor, and Darwin the Dog
Mt. Oklahoma is a centennial 13er that sits between Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert in the Sawatch range of Colorado. With its proximity to many 14,000' peaks, Oklahoma is often overlooked in favor of its slightly higher neighbors.
There was not a single trip report up on 14ers.com on skiing the peak when I was doing research on it (this has since changed with Nkan's report) and nothing on the internet besides the centennial skiers trip report at centennialskiers.com . I read their report and Gerry/Jennifer Roach's description of Oklahoma in their out of print 13ers guidebook and it sounded like a fun peak for snowboarding.
Mt. Oklahoma has prominent snow descents above Halfmoon Creek off both it's south and east sides. The south side is more mellow with maybe a 35 degree slope as it's crux while the east side provides a nice chute with more exciting snowboarding/skiing.
I had a free day between classes and decided it was time to get up Oklahoma before the snow melted off. My friend Tim was into it as well. Tim was my Anatomy and Physiology II and Microbiology teacher at Colorado Mountain College a few years ago and taught me a lot about science when I was first getting into it. I had not seen Tim in quite a while so it was fun to get out with him.
I live in Denver and Tim in Vail so we agreed to meet up at the trailhead the night before. We camped at the road junction that is about a half mile below the four wheel drive trailhead. The last half mile of the road up to the trailhead has a few potholes I was not willing to take my Blazer over. We drank a couple beers, talked science and mountain climbing and went to bed. We were up pretty early and hiking right at sunrise. It was actually a pretty chilly night for mid-June and the snow had frozen solidly. We hiked up the mostly snow free Halfmoon Creek trail for a while. Oklahoma, unlike most 14ers, does not have any trail going to it. You wind up the Halfmoon Trail for a bit and then cut west up a sub drainage that brings you in below the south face of the mountain.
photo-A waterfall on Halfmoon creek. photo by Tim Loes, 2014.
My map only showed one drainage cutting west off the Halfmoon creek trail and I new that would be the one I wanted so I looked left a lot as we got a bit higher up in the drainage looking for our turn off. After a bit more hiking we spotted a gully and creek coming down out a sub drainage of Halfmoon creek on our left. I took a compass bearing and everything looked good so we cut off the trail and began our bushwack up the creek. It got a bit more snowy and we post holed a bit but there was not enough snow to justify skinning.
As we reached treeline and got a view of Oklahoma we realized we were on a ridge on the other side of the main drainage that runs below the sough face of Oklahoma. My map was a very macro map and the small drainage we had cut up did not show up on my map. We were a bit farther from our goal then I thought but we still had time to make it happen so we dropped off the ridge north to the drainage below the the south side of Oklahoma and began hiking up the slopes below Oklahoma. Pretty soon we hit snowline and began snow climbing up the south face.
photo- Zach Taylor and Darwin the dog hiking towards the south face of Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes, 2014.
photo- Zach Taylor climbing up the south face of Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes, 2014.
The south face is pretty mellow with the steepest pitch being maybe 35 degrees. It is comparable or maybe a little harder than Quandary's east bowls but without all the 14er crowds. It is a much better wilderness experience and a route that is not traveled often despite being pretty easy by ski/snowboard mountaineering standards in Colorado.
photo- Tim Loes climbing up the south face of Oklahoma. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014
photo- Zach Taylor near the summit of Mt. Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes, 2014.
As we neared the summit we enjoyed some really nice views of the Sawatch, Gore, Mosquito, Front,and Elk ranges. By the time we reached the summit we were greeted with winds and developing storms in several directions. The storms were still at a respectable distance but things seemed to be potentially moving our direction and it was cold for June. We took a few pictures and got ready to drop in.
photo- The view from the summit of Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes 2014
photo- Zach Taylor on the summit of Mt. Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes, 2014
photo- Tim Loes on the summit of Oklahoma. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
The snow was actually not bad for being early in the afternoon. The snow was pretty mature by this time in the season and snow was only a little sloppy as we dropped in.
photo- Zach Taylor and Darwin riding down Mt. Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes, 2014
photo- Time riding down Mt. Oklahoma. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014
The "south face" was the crux. No camera tilt here! ;)
photo- Zach Taylor riding down the south face of Mt. Oklahoma. photo by Tim Loes, 2014
photo- Tim Loes riding the south face of Mt. Oklahoma, photo by ZachTaylor, 2014
photo- Zach Taylor at the bottom of snow line on Oklahoma. photo by TIm Loes, 2014.
We were able to ride down to a bit below treeline before having to sling the boards and start hiking out. It was a nice day out on a mellow Sawatch 13er. It has been such a great season with lots of snow hanging around late!
photo- Looking down the south face of Oklahoma, photo by Tim Loes, 2014
photo- Tim Loes topping out the south face of OKlahoma. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo by Zach Taylor, 2014.
photo- Hiking out Halfmoon Creek. photo by Zach Taylor, 2014