The Straight Arrow Couloir on Peak H

More of a picture journey of our ski tour deep in the Gore Range to ski the elusive Straight Arrow Couloir on Peak H than anything, but in many ways pictures are worth a thousand words :) For those interested, good bud Brian Miller did his typical humorous trip report over at Exploring The Rockies in a writing style that is uniquely his and his alone. All told, it was almost a 12 hour day and approximately 13.9 miles roundtrip with 7,150′ of vertical gain. Not too shabby of a day.

The day started around 4:15am with a 3,500′ vertical gain approach from the Booth Creek Trailhead in Vail to the 12,100′ East Booth Pass. Typically, that kind of gain will already get you to a summit, but we had a long way to go this day. However, we skied powder down from East Booth Pass to Upper Piney Lake at 11,000′.

Brian & J approaching West Booth Pass

Brian & J approaching East Booth Pass

Ben shot this awesome pic of Mt. of the Holy Cross with the top of Chair 3 at Vail visible lower right from West Booth Pass

Ben shot this awesome pic of Mt. of the Holy Cross with the top of Chair 3 at Vail visible lower right from East Booth Pass

J and Ben skiing down to Upper Piney Lake with our destination, Peak H, in the distance

J and Ben skiing down to Upper Piney Lake with our destination, Peak H, in the distance

I was able to drop a knee as it was awesome powder off the north side of West Booth Pass! Photo by Ben

I was able to drop a knee as it was awesome powder off the north side of East Booth Pass! Photo by Ben

Ben capturing Brian ripping turns down the north side of West Booth Pass with The Spider and The Fly as a backdrop

Ben capturing Brian ripping turns down the north side of East Booth Pass with The Spider and The Fly as a backdrop

Then, we began the long 2,000’+ ascent up Peak H’s south slopes. The scenery was astounding. I hadn’t been back this deep in the Gore in the snowy months before and it was breathtaking.

J and I skinning up Peak H's south slopes as far as our skins would allow. Photo by Ben

J and I skinning up Peak H’s south slopes as far as our skins would allow. Photo by Ben

Me putting the skis on my back. At some point, it became much more efficient to just boot it. Photo by Ben

Me putting the skis on my back. At some point, it became much more efficient to just boot it. Photo by Ben

The Spider's skiable northeast face. Wow

The Spider’s skiable northeast face. Wow

Ben booting up Peak H's south slopes

Ben booting up Peak H’s south slopes with Rockinghorse Ridge and West Partner Peak visible in the background

Finally, around 10:45am, we reached the summit of Peak H about 6.5 hours after starting out.

J and I on the summit of Peak H (13,080'). We had only been here once before when we traversed The Saw way back in 2012.

J and I on the summit of Peak H (13,080′). We had only been here once before when we traversed The Saw way back in 2012.

Looking down at Brian at the top of the Straight Arrow Couloir from Peak H's summit

Looking down at Brian at the top of the Straight Arrow Couloir from Peak H’s summit

Ben about to go head first into the Straight Arrow Couloir. Photo by Ben

Ben about to drop into the Straight Arrow Couloir with Peak Q in the distance. Photo by Ben

Ben's first turn

Ben’s first turn

So, while traversing The Saw so many years ago, I honestly couldn’t remember if there was a viable exit from the bottom of Straight Arrow back to The Saw’s ridge proper to get back into the Upper Piney Lake basin. I usually have a good memory of things in the mountains, but this topography escaped me. Nevertheless, Ben decided to ski down about 1,000′ and look at a seemingly viable exit skier’s right. He gave an “all systems go” signal and we skied this great couloir in awesome corn snow.

Brian ripping turns as he always does

Brian ripping turns as he always does

Brian much further down with quite the backdrop

Brian much further down with quite the backdrop

Brian. Photo by Ben

Brian. Photo by Ben

Me loving this couloir while J waits patiently at the top. Photo by Ben

Me loving this couloir while J waits patiently at the top. Photo by Ben

I think this pic makes the couloir appear steeper than it actually is. Photo by Ben

I think this pic makes the couloir appear steeper than it actually is. Photo by Ben

Me loving the tele turns. Photo by Ben.

Me loving the tele turns. Photo by Ben

Here comes J

Here comes J

J getting into the business. Photo by Ben

J getting into the business. Photo by Ben

The point where we packed up our skis and booted out to the exit Ben spotted

The point where we packed up our skis and booted out to the exit Ben spotted

J and Ben booting

J and Ben booting

A good look at Peak L's north face behind me

A good look at Peak L’s north face above the Black Creek drainage behind me

We reached the ridge and after a snack and some fluids we transitioned to ski mode to ski the remainder of Peak H’s south face. I did go over to the low point of The Saw after a few hundred feet of skiing down H’s south face and scoped out the climb up to the saddle from the apron of the Straight Arrow Couloir. Definitely climable. In hindsight, we could have skied a few more hundred vertical down the Straight Arrow and had a decent climb up and out to the saddle. Oh well. Definitely next time :)

Brian skiing down Peak H's south face. Photo by Ben

Brian skiing down Peak H’s south face. Photo by Ben

Ben shot me skiing down H with such a gorgeous backdrop here including The Spider.

Ben shot me skiing down H with such a gorgeous backdrop here including The Spider and Holy Cross.

And, me skiing down H with the Spider behind. Photo by Ben

And, another one of me skiing down H with the Spider behind. Photo by Ben

We skied as far as we could due south, but really dropped all the way down to Upper Piney Lake yet again. We had over a 1,000′ re-climb back up to East Booth Pass, which definitely caused us to put on the afterburners.

J and Brian topping out on West Booth Pass for the second time this day

J and Brian topping out on East Booth Pass for the second time this day

Ben and J at West Booth Pass with the Spider and The Fly behind

Ben and J at East Booth Pass with the Spider and The Fly behind’

After some lounging, we packed up and skied down the Booth Creek drainage where we still got almost 3,000′ of skiing to well below Booth Falls. Yes, it took some gymnastics lower down but we kept the skis on our feet to where it got unruly and Brian and I called it quits.

Me skiing down the south side of West Booth Pass on perfect corn. Photo by Ben

Me skiing down the south side of East Booth Pass on perfect corn. Photo by Ben

A very fun out....

A very fun out….

...until this

…until this

But, Ben, as always, managed to make the turn

But, Ben, as always, managed to make the turn

Great day out in my favorite range with the biggest Gore snobs I know. Until next time fellas.

Pyramidal Traverse

I have always had a few of the red, rugged, and rotten traverses in the Elks in the back of my mind to hopefully climb one day (other than the Maroon Bells Traverse, which I have done a few times) and when my friend Natalie suggested she wanted to do the Pyramidal Traverse, I was interested. A huge plus would also be to get into the Elk Range on a gorgeous fall day. But, mainly I just wanted a new ridge traverse. The Pyramidal Traverse traverses the 14er Pyramid Peak (14,018′), the centennial Thunder Pyramid (13,932′), and the bicentennial Lightning Pyramid (13,722′). Natalie wanted to scope out the non-standard northwest ridge route up Pyramid in preparation for a winter ascent. This sounded fun as well as I had never been up the NW ridge route. I had been up and down the standard NE ridge route 4 times in the past, the last one being with Rainier and Caleb & Jennie Wray in August 2009. While the loose rock of the Bells, Pyramid, and surrounding peaks is not my favorite rock to scramble on and doesn’t instill much comfort or confidence, it is still very unique rock and offers challenging scrambling even if only low 5th class, especially on the downclimbing aspects. Several climbing buddies had suggested we traverse south to north as we could climb up most of the low 5th class crux sections, but we wanted to climb Pyramid’s NW ridge route for a recon of the winter route, so it looked like we would be downclimbing all of the cruxes. And, it was a lot of downclimbing. I brought my 30m/8mm rope, webbing, harness, slings, biners, nuts, and a few cams in hopes to set up a rappel if needed, but it turned out everything just stayed in my pack. I always believe its better to have it and not use it than to not have it and need it. So, after Sawyer was in bed and Kristine & I had dinner, I zipped over in the Subaru to the Maroon Lake TH parking lot and got a few hours sleep in the back of the car with the tailgate open. Natalie showed up around 5am and we departed the TH around 5:30am. It was to be just about a perfect fall weather day except for the fairly stiff west wind that was supposed to subside by around 9am, which it fortunately did. We made quick work of the approach up into the amphitheater below Pyramid’s north face and then veered off south west on steep grassy slopes and loose scree to the northwest ridge at around 12,700′.

Pyramid's north face

Pyramid’s north face

The steep slopes leading up to Pyramid's NW ridge

The steep slopes leading up to Pyramid’s NW ridge

First view of the Maroon Bells from the small saddle at 12,700' on Pyramid's NW ridge

First view of the Maroon Bells from the small col at 12,700′ on Pyramid’s NW ridge

Looking up Pyramid's NW ridge from the small col at 12,700'

Looking up Pyramid’s NW ridge from the small col at 12,700′

We followed the northwest ridge route pretty much “to a T” up through the Keyhole Couloir and then further up the fun class 4 slab/chimney above. It was a gorgeous morning except that we were climbing in the shade and the wind was pretty stiff. I was chilled as I normally get considering my hefty plethora of body fat :)

Natalie on the easy portion of the NW ridge

Natalie on the easy portion of the NW ridge

The Keyhole Couloir

The Keyhole Couloir

Natalie climbing up the Keyhole Couloir

Natalie climbing up the Keyhole Couloir

Natalie at the top of the Keyhole Couloir/base of the fun class 4 pitch

Natalie at the top of the Keyhole Couloir/base of the fun class 4 pitch

Me starting up the class 4 pitch. Photo by Natalie

Me starting up the class 4 pitch. Photo by Natalie

I think I may have taken a stiffer variation up the class 4 pitch, but it was all good low 5th offwidth :)

I think I may have taken a stiffer variation up the class 4 pitch, but it was all good low 5th offwidth :)

We then just sort of traversed ledges and slight aretes until we both found ourselves into the upper bowl/amphitheater below the summit block.

Into the upper bowl below the summit block

Into the upper bowl below the summit block

We climbed this fun little chimney which Ntalaie said is dubbed the "JP Sneak"

We climbed this fun little chimney which Natalie said was dubbed the “JP Sneak”

Natalie climbing the "JP Sneak"

Natalie climbing the “JP Sneak”

Once on the summit ridge, it was a short scramble to Pyramid’s summit arriving around 9:15am.

Natalie almost to Pyramid's summiut

Natalie almost to Pyramid’s summit

Pyramid Peak summit (14,018')

Pyramid Peak summit (14,018′)

A nice little morning and wonderful to finally be in the sun!

A nice little morning and wonderful to finally be in the sun!

I was a little worried about my timing as I needed to be home by 7pm (back to car by 5pm), nut Natalie convinced me we would be ok with timing. So, we began the traverse south to the centennial Thunder Pyramid in what would be the “meat & potatoes” of the day.  The downclimb of the class 4 pitch on Pyramid’s south ridge was lots of fun and then it was pretty cruiser class 2 walking for several hundred yards until we started doing some pretty mellow class3/4 downclimbing with not much exposure on the ridge crest.

Descending Pyramid's south ridge

Descending Pyramid’s south ridge

Me descending the class 4 dihedral on Pyramid's south ridge. Photo by Natalie

Me descending the class 4 dihedral on Pyramid’s south ridge. Photo by Natalie

Natalie on the same dihedral

Natalie on the same dihedral

Making our way down to the lowpoint between Pyramid & Thunder Pyramid. Photo by Natalie

Making our way down to the lowpoint between Pyramid & Thunder Pyramid. Photo by Natalie

Looking back at Pyramid on the traverse thus far

Looking back at Pyramid on the traverse thus far

We tried the west side of the ridge to actually get down to the lowpoint several hundred feet below, but it didn’t go anywhere. We backtracked slightly and headed on the ridge top or just slightly east and found the top of the crux low 5th class downclimb with some big exposure that we had heard about. Well, there was only one way down. I was considering setting up a rappel, but there was just no good place to set up an anchor.

The crux downclimb to the lowpoint between Pyramid & Thunder Pyramid

The crux downclimb to the lowpoint between Pyramid & Thunder Pyramid

Me beginning the downclimb

Me beginning the downclimb. Photo by Natalie

Yep, a bit of exposure on loose rock. Photo by Natalie

Yep, a bit of exposure on loose rock. Photo by Natalie

On the climb down. Definitely, complete focus is a must on this crux section. Photo by Natalie

On the climb down. Definitely, complete focus is a must on this crux section. Photo by Natalie

Natalie after the hairiest crux sections of the downclimb

Natalie after the hairiest crux sections of the downclimb

The last bit down to the lowpoint

The last bit down to the lowpoint

I had gotten down to the lowpoint and was scouting the next portion of the traverse when Natalie thought she could just drop her pack the remaining 10 ft down into the top of a steep, loose couloir down the west side. While it looked like the pack would just plop down and not roll from Natalie’s perspective, it indeed took off down the couloir. We both looked and thought it would stop, but just went over a steep crux and into oblivion. Natalie went down after it, but triggered a small rockslide, which didn’t make either of us very comfortable. She searched for a good 20-30min, but to no avail. She came back up to the lowpoint and we would both have to get by with my half nalgene of water and half liter of Gatorade for the rest of the traverse and the descent down to West Maroon Creek. I felt awful for Natalie as she had some valuable gear in there including her Delorme. I mean that pack could have been close to her lowpoint or rolled to the couloir’s bottom. Who knows. She would later get in touch with Delorme and they would track it to be resting at 13,300′ or just below her lowpoint. And, Natalie would go back 2 days later, ascend Thunder Pyamid via the standard White Gully, and traverse over to retrieve her pack. Very admirable and impressive determination, Natalie!

Anyway, we continued along the traverse south from the lowpoint, which was now significantly easier with some class 3/4 and nothing all that exposed.

The remaining traverse to Thunder Pyramid

The remaining traverse to Thunder Pyramid

Me on a nice perch with Len Shoemaker Ridge & Basin below

Me on a nice perch with Len Shoemaker Ridge & Basin below. Photo by Natalie

Looking down the standard White Gully route up Thunder Pyramid

Looking down the standard White Gully route up Thunder Pyramid

Even with the delay for the dropped pack, we still made the traverse in just under 2 hours. It was my first summit of Thunder Pyramid and another centennial for myself. It was a nice summit.

Looking back at the traverse to Pyramid from Thunder Pyramid's summit

Looking back at the traverse to Pyramid from Thunder Pyramid’s summit

Thunder Pyramid summit (13,932')

Thunder Pyramid summit (13,932′)

Soaking it in. Photo by Natalie

Soaking it in. Photo by Natalie

I believe it was around 12:15pm when we left Thunder Pyramid’s summit for Lightning Pyramid. Easy class 2+/3 downclimbing at first quickly yielded class 4 downclimbing to get down to the lowpoint between Thunder & Lightning Pyramid.

On the traverse south to Lightning Pyramid

On the traverse south to Lightning Pyramid

Lightning Pyramid in the distance

Lightning Pyramid in the distance

We descended the ridge proper until a very airy downclimb when we elected to head east of the ridge proper and downclimb class 4 ledges to where we could get over to the lowpoint saddle

We descended the ridge proper until a very airy downclimb when we elected to head east of the ridge proper and downclimb class 4 ledges to where we could get over to the lowpoint saddle

I dropped my pack with all the gear at the lowpoint saddle between Thunder & Lightning Pyramid and in 15 minutes over easy terrain we were on Lightning Pyramid’s summit at approximately 1pm.

Natalie hiking up Lightning Pyramid's north ridge with Thunder Pyramid behind

Natalie hiking up Lightning Pyramid’s north ridge with Thunder Pyramid behind

Almost there

Almost there

Lightning Pyramid summit (13,722')

Lightning Pyramid summit (13,722′)

Our descent off this ridge was via the awfully steep and loose west side couloir between Thunder & Lightning Pyramid accessed from the lowpoint saddle. Not looking forward to it, we navigated it pretty well going one at a time for several pitches ensuring we don’t knock rocks down on one another. It could have been the worst couloir I’ve descended. I don’t know. However, I do know I will never touch it again.

Ready to descend. Photo by Natalie

Ready to descend. Photo by Natalie

The disgustingly narrower middle portion of the gully

The disgustingly narrower middle portion of the gully

More steep nastiness

More steep nastiness

Navigating some frozen snow which acted as nice hand holds

Navigating some frozen snow which acted as nice hand holds

Light at the end of the tunnel - the apron

Light at the end of the tunnel – the apron

Natalie coming out of the gully

Natalie coming out of the gully

The steep gully and the large rock apron below

The steep gully and the large rock apron below

It was wonderful to get down into the grassy Len Shoemaker Basin and take a break and guzzle our remaining fluids. We then made our way on grassy ledges and rock gullies to get down another 1,200′ to the West Maroon Creek trail.

The gorgeous Maroon Bells from Len Shoemaker Basin

The gorgeous Maroon Bells from Len Shoemaker Basin

The standard White Gully route up Thunder Pyramid

The standard White Gully route up Thunder Pyramid

We finally hit the West Maroon Creek trail, filled up with water and iodined our nalgenes, and cruised out the remaining few miles back to the Maroon Lake TH arriving just at 5pm. Natalie’s car keys were in her lost pack, so we hurried quickly down to 82 in the Subaru to get cell service so Natalie could call Geico and get some roadside assistance. After everything was settled, I was drove back to Edwards just in time to see Sawyer before bed, which was my goal all along. I later learned that Natalie’s spare keys were not in her locked car, so someone drove them up from Denver apparently and she finally got into her car later that night. But, my hat is certainly off to her for going back up Thunder and over to the couloir to retrieve her pack 24 hrs later. So happy it all worked out.

A zoomed-in pic from the West Maroon Creek trail of the steep couloir Natalie's pack fell down in the center of the picture trending up and right

A zoomed-in pic from the West Maroon Creek trail of the steep couloir Natalie’s pack fell down in the center of the picture trending up and right to the lowpoint saddle between Pyramid & Thunder Pyramid

Lastly, thanks to Natalie for a great day and a solid idea for an Elks traverse in the fall. Its exactly what I needed having not been in the area in years. I don’t get on 14ers too often anymore, but Pyramid will always be one of my favorites. I guess total stats are something like 5,500′ vertical gain in 12.5 miles and 11.5 hrs RT. Our little Pyramid loop is shown below:

Pyramidal Traverse via Pyramid's NW Ridge up and the Thunder/Lightning Pyramid west side couloir down

Pyramidal Traverse via Pyramid’s NW Ridge up and the Thunder/Lightning Pyramid west side couloir down

Final 2016 Spring Ski: Pauite Peak

Well, despite some early spring wet weather, which always seem to coincide with just about every April weekend, the month of May turned generally warm and dry we we were able to get a few spring skis on the books. The weather really heated up in June and a few weeks of downright hot weather was quickly melting the snowpack. Derek sent out an invite to come down to his “neck of the woods” in the Indian Peaks west of Boulder and hit the 13er Paiute Peak (13,088′) he had been wanting to climb & ski. This was also to serve as a prelude to our good friend Jesse Hill’s 16th annual summer solstice party in Wheatridge. J, Kona, & I drove down in Megan’s 1999 Volvo late Friday night to the Brainard Lake winter closure parking lot arriving around 10:30pm. Neither of us (nor Kona) had been in the Indian peaks so this was a new adventure for all of us and worth going east through the “tunnel”.

The Indian Peark as seen from Brainard Lake on our way out later in the day

The Indian Peark as seen from Brainard Lake on our way out later in the day. Pauite’s snowy southeast face is on the far right

Derek & his Australian Shepherd, Maude, were already there as was Derek’s friend, Russell, and our friend, Natalie Moran, all in their respective cars. J, Kona, & I slept in our bags next to the Volvo and each had a restless few hours mainly due to the mosquitos nipping at our heads every so often. I think Kona & I maybe got one good hour of sleep before my alarm went off at 3:30am. More good friends Mikey Santoro & Mr. Joel Gratz himself arrived at around 4:15am. Several folks had brought their bikes for the 3 mile ride up the paved road to the Mitchell Lake TH past Brainard Lake, but J, Derek, me, Maude, & Kona walked it. We regrouped with the bikers about an hour later at the Mitchell Lake TH and packed skis and boots on our backs to start up the trail in trail shoes. Natalie, Russell, Mikey, & Joel had locked their bikes at the TH. We hiked maybe a mile before the snow became a bit too much and we all decided to trade our trail shoes for ski boots, skins, & skis. Somehow, we ended up losing the already faint trail among the snowdrifts and ended up doing quite bit of tedious bushwhacking as well as shouldering skis across marshes and small creeks and boulder fields for a few hours. It was inefficient to say the least :) Nevertheless, it was what it was and we persevered. At around 8am, we reached Blue Lake. We briefly considered going to ski nearby Mt. Toll as Pauite was more distance and Derek skied Toll only a few weeks prior, but in the end no one had ventured to Pauite and that was the goal.

Making our way to Pauite (right). Mt. Toll is on the left

Making our way to Pauite (right). Mt. Toll is on the left

Getting closer to Pauite. Its steeper southeast face is dead ahead withe the Curvaceous Couloir on its right (left in pic)

Getting closer to Pauite. Its steeper southeast face is dead ahead with the Curvaceous Couloir on its right (left in pic)

After some more shouldering of skis up boulder fields interspersed by snowfields, we finally reached the 11,800′ high lake below Pauite’s steep southeast face. The intended climbing & ski route called the Curvaceous Couloir was melted out at the bottom and not continuous, but we all decided to climb it anyway and ski either the couloir or the steeper southeast face back to the small lake at 11,800′.

Booting up the lower snowfield above the 11,800' lake

Booting up the lower snowfield above the 11,800′ lake

J towards the top of the Curvacous Couloir

J towards the top of the Curvacous Couloir

Natalie

Natalie

Mikey still in his snowshoes on 40 degree snow

Mikey still in his snowshoes on 40 degree snow

Derek & Russell with Mt. Toll behind

Derek & Russell with Mt. Toll behind

We left our skis at maybe 12,900′ where the snow ran out and a few of us scrambled up to the rocky summit arriving sometime late morning (honestly cannot remember when). The view of the Indian Peaks were spectacular and all new scenery for me, J, Mike, Natalie, & Kona. We saw a familiar friend to the north in Longs Peak.

J on top of the summit block of Pauite

J on top of the summit block of Pauite

Mike on top of Pauite

Mike on top of Pauite

Me with Longs Peak in the far distance on the left

Me with Longs Peak in the far distance on the left

Hotter than heck in Denver, but a nice temp at 13,000'

Hotter than heck in Denver, but a nice temp at 13,000′

Close-up of Longs

Close-up of Longs

Group shot on Pauite's summit (13,088')

Group shot on Pauite’s summit (13,088′)

Me & Kona

Me & Kona

After maybe 20 minutes, we scrambled down the 200′ to our skis and Derek, Maude, Joel, & Russell. A few of us elected to ski the Curvaceous Couloir, but several of us went over to the steeper southeast face to check it out. J guinea-pigged the face and made it safely to the bottom. Russell went next and after Natalie and I saw him safe with J about 1,000 below, I went and Kona followed. It definitely felt steep for me maybe partially because I was nervous for Kona as she kept sliding some and then arresting herself. I was nervous for her as I didn’t want her to get in an uncontrolled slide over a rock band. She did very well, though, and Natalie came down behind us making great turns on what felt like a 45 degree upper face.

Me & Kona making our way out onto the face

Me & Kona making our way out onto the face. Photo by Natalie

Me & Kona on the upper face

Me & Kona on the upper face. Photo by Natalie

Kona on the upper face with the 11,800' frozen lake below. J & Russell can be seen way down on the right as well

Kona on the upper face with the 11,800′ frozen lake below. J & Russell can be seen way down on the right as well

Natalie

Natalie

Natalie in good form with Mt. Audobahn behind

Natalie in good form with Mt. Audobahn behind

Me lower down with Kona a bit behind me

Me lower down with Kona a bit behind me. Photo by Natalie

The lower face afforded much more fun turns for me

The lower face afforded much more fun turns for me

Derek, Maude, Joel, & Mikey all skied the Curvaceous Couloir, which I am sure was super fun. I sort wished I had skied that line instead of the southeast face, but c’est la vie.

Joel took this pic of Derek & Maude skiing the Curvaceous Couloir

Joel took this pic of Derek & Maude skiing the Curvaceous Couloir

We all regrouped at the 11,800′ lake and continued the long, inefficient descent all the way back to Brainard Lake with likely 20 transitions between skiing, shouldering the skis, skis on packs, and skis and boots on our packs in exchange for just trail shoes.

One last look for Mikey of Mt. Toll

One last look for Mikey of Mt. Toll

Back to Brainard Lake around maybe 1:30pm, the bikers left us walkers in the dust, but after only maybe walking 1/3 of the paved road down to the winter closure, Mikey came to pick me, Kona, Derek, Maude, & J up in his pickup. That was a time savior for sure as we needed to get to Jesse’s summer solstice party! A quick bite to eat in Boulder, J, Kona, & I met Kristine, Sawyer, Rainier, Megan, & Raina at Jesse’s house in Denver. Again, Jesse outdid himself and it was all outstanding as usual. Amazing he has done this for 16 years. He really has transitioned the party with the times. 16 years ago it was basically a big frat party at their “Brady Bunch” type house in Lakewood with 150 single and young early 20 somethings. Now, its much more low-key and family-oriented with a bouncy castle for kids, games, the street is blocked off, etc. But, Jesse still does the festival of meats, a whole pig, beverages, etc as he has always done. That has not changed. Rainier has been to 13 of the summer solstice parties. I have been to 12, I believe. Rainie has 1 up on me because we climbed Denali in June 2007 and were just getting off the mountain. But, Rainie sure didn’t miss the party! J flew home immediately after Denali while Kristine & I stayed in Anchorage to make the party. That is dedication.

Anyway, I highly doubt I will ski something else this spring. Just not enough now down low to make it worthwhile (for me) to haul skis that far. Plus, its full-on summer now and time for summer activities. Thanks to Kona, Derek, Maude, Mikey, J, Joel, Natalie, & Russell for a fun and adventurous final spring ski in the Indian Peaks.

Skiing Horseshoe Mountain’s Boudoir Couloir

The centennial Horseshoe Mountain is the 72nd highest peak in Colorado at 13,898′. Its northeast facing amphitheater resembled a large horseshoe and thus the name! Its a striking mountain that I’ve passed by a few times to climb nearby 14er Mt. Sherman. I knew of a fun couloir in the northeast facing amphitheater called the Boudoir Couloir that I would love to climb and ski someday. With a maximum angle of 38 degrees and maybe 1,200′ vertical, this couloir looked to be super fun and enjoyable.

HorseshoweMountain's amphitheater with the obvious Boudoir couloir at left

Horseshoe Mountain’s amphitheater with the obvious Boudoir Couloir at left

Our friend Chelsey graciously agreed to come over at 6:15am on a Saturday morning to Sawyer and Rainie sit for us. Chelsey is the best! And, its a plus that Sawyer and Rainie love Chelsey. Kristine, Kona, & I left around 6:30am and arrived at the Leavick townsite up Fourmile Creek Road around 8am. We drove a bit more to about 11,600′ and parked our new (new for us) 2008 4-door Tahoe. We had no idea that there was to be a marathon endurance run up this dirt road to the Horseshoe Mountain/Peerless Mountain saddle and back to Fairplay this day. It was cool to see and cheer for the runners on our way back to the car around noon time. We left the car around 8:30am with skis and boots on our backs and hiking in our trail shoes up into Horseshoe Gulch via old mining roads and across beautiful tundra. The day was already getting very warm. When we descended a bit to a small half-frozen lake and hit snow line and transitioned to skins and skis in the basin below the amphitheater, it was really hot. There was no breeze at all. Fortunately, as we made progress to the couloir proper, a breeze picked up a bit and cooled us off.

Kristine skinning up to the base of the Boudoir Couloir with Horseshoe Gulch behind

Kristine skinning up to the base of the Boudoir Couloir with Horseshoe Gulch behind

We started skinning up the steeper apron of the Boudoir, but the snow was so rotten and not very deep at all with exposed scree and rock that we decided it would be much more efficient to put the skis on our back and boot up a faint bootpack. We had crampons with us but didn’t break them out due to the soft bootable snow.

Kristine booting up the lower Boudoir Couloir

Kristine booting up the lower Boudoir Couloir

Kona taking a break this hot day

Kona taking a break this hot day

There are two narrower chokes where the angle steepens to the rated 38 degrees towards the upper part of the couloir, but this was some fun climbing. I was glad to see there was plenty of snow to ski through these choke points.

Kristine through the first choke point

Kristine through the first choke point

Kristine above the 2nd narrow choke point

Kristine above the 2nd narrow choke point

Kristine topping out of the Boudoir Couloir around 13,800'

Kristine topping out of the Boudoir Couloir around 13,800′

We took a break at an old mining shack and then skinned the remaining 100′ to the summit of Horseshoe Mountain.

A mining shack with a view

A mining shack with a view

Horseshoe Mountain summit (13,898')

Horseshoe Mountain summit (13,898′)

It was indeed warm out and probably a little late to be skiing the Boudoir (10:45am), but nevertheless we felt it to be safe – just maybe a tad too sloppy. We skied down the summit ridge and dropped into the Boudoir.

Kristine & Kona in the upper Boudoir

Kristine & Kona in the upper Boudoir

Kristine pondering the choke

Kristine pondering the choke

And through!

And through!

I thought the middle portion of the couloir afforded the best turns. Still firm enough for really fun and slushy corn turns. And, the bottom of the couloir? Well, let’s just say it left a lot to be desired with the unsupportive snow and rocks. Nevertheless, it was a fun ski and we skied all the way down to the small lake and again switched back to trail shoes and put of skis and boots on our backs. Kona got some much needed ice cold lake water here. We cheered some of the endurance runners coming down from the Horseshoe Mountain/Peerless Mountain on our hike back to the car. It was fun to see the racers. Back at the car around 12:30-12:45pm, we rolled back to Edwards after grabbing some pizza at Whole Foods in Frisco and were glad to see Rainie, Sawyer, and Chelsey outside playing. Considering Kristine and I both love to do these kinds of trips, its always special and means a lot to us when we can still get out together and do what we love. Obviously, doing these alpine starts, peak bagging, ski-mountaineering together is much tougher with a baby and a 13-1/2 year old golden retriever than say just going to the gym or out for a run during the middle of the day together when a babysitter usually can come over, but when the stars align and a friend like Chelsey is willing to come over pre-dawn, man its just awesomely special.

One last look at Horseshoe Mountain and its Boudoir Couloir on the left side of the amphitheater from Highway 9 outside Fairplay

One last look at Horseshoe Mountain and its Boudoir Couloir on the left side of the amphitheater from Highway 9 outside Fairplay

Jacque Peak with Kristine

Kristine has spring break this week and I took a little 5 hour hiatus from work so we could go spend a nice morning together up on a peak. The weather forecast this week didn’t look great all over the state, but Monday morning looked to be promising with clouds and showers coming in after 2pm. Kristine had yet to climb the prominent 13er Jacque Peak behind Copper Mountain. Copper Mountain had closed for skiing the day before and so the ski runs were empty. After leaving Rainier at home (she cannot do these climbs anymore) and dropping Sawyer off at daycare in Vail, we drove separate cars over to Copper and parked. On the snow at 9:30am, we skinned up the ski run called Roundabout under beautiful blue skies with Kona and our K9 friend for a few days, Molly. We ended up eventually skinning the steeper black diamond bump run called Colman’s Restreat up towards Union Mountain.

Kristine

Kristine

After about 2,200′ and a few miles, we topped out on the broad northeast ridge of Jacque after slightly bypassing the summit of Union Mountain. The wind picked up in a hurry, but the air temps were still reasonably warm. The wind abated here and there, but overall was pretty consistent all the way to the summit.

Molly on the ridge with the Tenmile Range behind. Left to right: Pacific Peak, Atlantic Peak, Fletcher Mountain, & Drift Peak

Molly on the ridge with the Tenmile Range behind. Left to right: Pacific Peak, Atlantic Peak, Fletcher Mountain, & Drift Peak

Happy to be up high again

Happy to be up high again

Me and the dogs on the ridge

Me and the dogs on the ridge

Jacque's northeast ridge

Jacque’s northeast ridge

Kona & Molly following the ridge

Kona & Molly following the ridge

Kristine skinning up a steeper section

Kristine skinning up a steeper section

Kristine higher up with the Gore and Tenmile Ranges behind

Kristine higher up with the Gore and Tenmile Ranges behind

Kristine summitting!

Kristine summitting!

The northeast ridge of Jacque is entirely skinnable and makes for a nice ski tour. We all arrived on Jacque’s summit a few minutes after noon and a stiff and ferocious wind greeted us. We surely didn’t dilly-dally as the dogs were pretty cold. We de-skinned, took a few pics, and were set to ski in 10 minutes.

Kristine & I on the summit of Jacque Peak (13,205')

Kristine & I on the summit of Jacque Peak (13,205′)

Kona saying "Let's get down from here. I'm freezing"

Kona saying “Let’s get down from here. I’m freezing”

While it would have been fun to ski the east face of Jacque, the winds simply wouldn’t allow it. Yes, the sun was out, but the winds were too sustained and strong all morning to let the sun do its job of heating up the snow to make it soft, safe, and fun for skiing. Oh well. We simply skied the northeast ridge back down the same way we ascended.

Kona & Kristine on the ski down

Kona & Kristine on the ski down

Kristine skating across the broad ridge back to Union Mountain with Jacque behind

Kristine skating across the broad ridge back to Union Mountain with Jacque behind

We took a good break right at treeline for some water and candy before we skied down the resort back to the cars.

Its always great being the only ones skiing in a ski resort

Its always great being the only ones skiing in a ski resort

Back at the cars just a few minutes after 1pm, Kristine, Kona, & Molly went to Silverthorne to do some shopping while I went back home to take Rainier swimming in the river and head to work before picking Sawyer up from daycare. All in all, just a wonderful Monday morning with my wife and the dogs. I wish every Monday morning could be like this one :)

Oh yeah, and Sawyer likes coloring now:IMG_0098

Mt. Arkansas’ North Ridge

Kristine & I wanted to get another peak in together before the holidays and we’d always had ole Arkansas on our minds as a fairly quick outing especially since Kristine had not summitted this mountain before. I climbed this route a few years back in some fairly deep spring snow (report here) staying to the ridge proper adding some nice class 3/4 scrambling in mountain boots. Nevertheless, I was pretty excited to go back with Kristine. Good buddy Dillon Sarnelli joined us as well and it was awesome for the three of us to spend 6 hrs together up high in the alpine on a decently sunny December day. Our friend and my co-worker Chelsey Lange was gracious enough to come over at 8:30am and babysit Sawyer and look after Rainier while we went and did our thing. Dillon did a fun recap of the day over on his site at http://basecampcolorado.com/2015/12/22/mount-arkansas/, which I am sure you will enjoy. A few of my favorite pics of the day are as follows:

mount-arkansas_23797493371_o (1)

Me battling the wind. Fortunately, the air temperature wasn’t all that cold. Photo by Dillon

Me, Kristine, Kona, & Dillon on the summit of Mt. Arkansas (13,795')

Me, Kristine, Kona, & Dillon on the summit of Mt. Arkansas (13,795′)

Looking down at the north ridge from the summit. Photo by Dillon

Looking down at the north ridge from the summit. Photo by Dillon

Happy holidays from all of us Chalks!