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Vail Backcountry
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By Ryan Malarky
From Denver, CO
Nov 19, 2006
Hulk

Any one have any good info on Commando Run from the pass down into Vail? I just heard about it today and my internet searching is not yielding that great of results. If no one has any personal beta about it, is there a book out there that covers it?

Thanks for the help.


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By Jeff Barnow
From Boulder Co
Nov 20, 2006
What goes up must come down

I think it would be pretty good and safe right now.


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By Ryan Malarky
From Denver, CO
Nov 20, 2006
Hulk

I was asking more if any one had any specifics on the route, i.e. where it starts, where it ends, how's the routefinding, is it just a tour and do you get to make some turns?

Or, is there a book out there that has this information?

Thanks again.


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By Leo Paik
Administrator
From Westminster, Colorado
Nov 20, 2006

Ryan, Brian Litz has a description written up in Skiing Colorado's Backcountry, Northern Mountains - Trails & Tours p. 232, Fulcrum Publishing, 1989. 3p writeup. 18.7 mi, 2800' up, 5100' down. Lots of turns. Big day. Need a shuttle setup. Starts at Vail Pass, ends at the Vail ski area. Routefinding issues. Avy issues. 1st 4mi shared with Shrine Pass tour (mellow).


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By Jeff Barnow
From Boulder Co
Nov 20, 2006
What goes up must come down

As for the route I've never actually done it so sorry. What I do know is that the snow looks very stable right now and that from what I've heard comando is pretty avi safe in general there for a good route to do almost anytime of the year. This is all hear say so take it with a grain of salt.


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By George Bell
From Boulder, CO
Nov 20, 2006
Hip trouble ...

The commando has become less and less backcountry over the years. With the expansion of Vail, I'm not sure what it looks like these days as I haven't done it since the back bowl expansion. If it is well-tracked you can follow the route no problem, but if there is no track you could get confused, bring a map and Brian Litz's description.

The highlight occurs after skinning up Siberia Pk. at the end of the tour. You then get over 3000 vertical (approx) to the base of Vail, down the "Mushroom Bowl". You'll get plenty of powder turns here, although not as much as it sounds as the final few miles go down a snow cat road.

However, you can also bypass the end of the tour and take one of the lifts from the back bowls and ski down the Vail slopes. In the past Vail has let you ski back there with no lift ticket, so this can be a fun option.

You can leave your car at Vail Pass and try hitching back from Vail, but not too many downhill skiers will pick you up.


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By John McNamee
Administrator
From Littleton, CO
Nov 20, 2006
Artist Tears P3

I'd wait until there is more snow at the Pass and also until the vail back basin lifts are running. Right now there isn't as much snow as it looks. I've never had any luck with hitching up to the top of the Pass, so i would suggest you bring another car or arrange a shuttle with a friend etc.


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By Jeff Barnow
From Boulder Co
Nov 21, 2006
What goes up must come down

Let's be careful as to what we talk about here on back bowl access. Granted a jackass I met spilled the beans in Powder Mag a few years back and the old secret is no longer so secret; nonetheless no one without beacon probe shovel avy knowledge and really good skiing snowboarding skill should investigate this area. It is dangerous, many people have died back there and it needs to be approached with the most of caution.

If you do intend to go back country in the Vail area it would be wise to call the avalanche hotline for specifically Vail...303.275.5360


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By Ryan Malarky
From Denver, CO
Nov 21, 2006
Hulk

Thanks for the good info. I'll have to look for that book. Sounds like a fun time as long as you can set the shuttle.


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By Phillip Morris
From Flavor Country
Nov 22, 2006
1234

Here's my recollections:

The trails illustrated topo map for the vail area has the route pretty clearly marked.

Anyhow, start at the vail pass fee area. Pay the parkies their money and tell them to suck eggs. Skin along the ski trail to the top of shrine pass, descend/skate ski the shrine pass road down to lime creek (obviously signed), then up lime creek road to bowman's shortcut (should be signed in mid winter) follow bowman's shortcut all the way up to the ridgeline.

There will be sucker trails breaking off earlier to the ridge - either way you go it is about the same. If you take bowman's shortcut, this sets you up better to ski into the ski area above blue sky basin (sweet tree skiing). If you break off before lime creek road, you will be better set up to skin up to red mountain.

Once on the ridge line you will have several options as alluded to previously: either dropping in to the back bowls, or skinning up to the summitt of red mountain (the original route). If you ski into the back bowls, you can still gain red mountain by hiking above the rope tow that takes vail skiers to outer mongolia. There will be a very obvious boot pack most days from the rope tow.

Either way you get there, you will have two choices: 1) you can descend down into mushroom bowl (the original route), and evenutally the vail ski resort. This is a relatively short but steep pitch, followed by a long cat track. or 2) A better option is to drop into benchmark bowl (east vail chutes). Very nice steep powder turns, cliffs etc. Ski the bowl down into the aspens and then look for the traverse that heads sharply skiers left. If you miss the traverse you will come out at I-70. The traverse leads to a james bond trail through the trees that will take you to a water tower and the fancy pants homes in east vail, where you can catch the shuttle bus back to the parking garage and the faux bavarian village.

Either way, these are avalanche prone areas and people do die here, so be prepared.

This is a fairly long day, and if the skin track is not set or the weather is bad, you will need to be pretty handy at map/compass/altimeter navigation and it will be a long day of trail breaking. A good overall test of your ski touring ability and an excellent outing. I try to do it once every few years.


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