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The Precarious Progression

Crested Butte

A ski mountaineering tour to ski three peaks: the first two are quite straightforward while the crux is saved for the end

Ski Touring Extreme

22 km
2 km
2 km
1 day +
Low Point
2.9 km
High Point
4.1 km
The Precarious Progression Map

This is a classic ski mountaineering route to ski three north aspects - Golden Tops, Cassi Peak and Precarious Peak.


Begin the day just past the historic town of Gothic and proceed onto the course of the Rustler Gulch summer trail. The first objective for the day is Golden Tops, which can be accessed most directly from the basin to its south. There is a straightforward, south-facing couloir that takes you nearly to the summit. From this point, ascend the short and sweet challenging section of the ridge that leads to the summit.

The line off Golden Tops begins with a steep north face that takes you directly into the couloir on skier's right (one of the best lines in the Elks). Upon skiing into the basin, you will see Cassi Peak directly to your right, which - to be fair - looks like a rather rounded and flat peak.

Ascend the north face of Cassi and descend the same route back down. Across the basin from Golden Tops lies Precarious Peak (aptly named). Ascending the south couloir to the southwest face will take you to the summit ridge line. Traverse the ridge towards the east to gain the summit. Skiing this peak is a challenge: carefully tip toe further down the ridge until you reach a point where the cornice is clear and you can safely drop into the north face. This portion of the ski is very steep, exposed, and will likely have some rocks that need navigating carefully through. The priority is to reach the couloir that exits towards East Maroon, which lies on skier's right. Carefully make your way into the couloir over some mixed granite and snow to enjoy the moderate grade couloir into the basin below.

To make it back towards Gothic, you will need to ascend one of the cols to the west of Precarious. The one directly to the right provides a quick route to return back to the starting point. Enjoy the long ski down the basin back towards the Rustler Gulch trail!

Precarious is a challenging descent, especially since you drop into a side of the peak that you did not come up first. However, the turns are amazing and the peak offers immense satisfaction that parallels Capitol.

This route is arguably the least challenging within this collection and offers a good test piece for endurance and technical capacities before proceeding to the others.



Extreme skiing terrain above 45 degrees. These routes are reserved for experienced experts.

High Exposure (E3)

3 out of 4

In case of a fall, death is highly likely.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between April and May


  • Face
  • Alpine
  • Cliffs
  • Couloir
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area