Well today was a tough day mentally and physically. Henry had the day off and we wanted to ski something in the gore. We started to look at weather and temperatures, none of it looked promising, rain, snow, and barely freezing. We knew it was going freeze around 10,000 feet so we had to go deep and high. My friend nick had showed me this line on a TGR forum, a guy skied this line in May 2008. We thought "great plenty of snow only worry will be if it freezes". We started at 6:30 in shoes, hiked for an hour, then switched to skins. We lost the summer trail but if you hug the east side of the basin it is pretty smooth going (gore standers, good bush whack for other standers). We noticed as we hiked in that the snow was very variable and we would have to really play it safe. We skinned for another hour and a half and finally got the base of the line! After skinning in the rain, snow and fog we looked up and saw that the hole line had slid, it was full of chucks of snow the size of a fiat 500's. Good thing we didn't set off the avalanche but heart breaking that we could not ski it. About half way up the line it does a dog leg, we decided to kick steps up to the dog leg and see if we could ski the upper part. No need to worry about bad snow, it was rock hard. Once we got the the dog leg more bad news, there was debris all the way to the top of the line.
Well as much as I wanted to bag this line, skiing down bowling balls for 2,000 vertical feet was not really what I or Henry wanted to do. We geared up, side slipped down the side of the couloir to the bottom and had 8 turns down the apron. We saw a little gully that led to the west side of the valley and decided to go explore. We looked down the gully and saw that it ended up in a water fall and opted to skip it and stay dry. We worked are way around it and found are self's on the west side of the valley, WRONG SIDE. Stay to the east side, the west is full of creeks and hills. After an hour of hiking around the west side of the valley we ran out of snow and got ready for the walk out. Five hours later we were back at the car, 8 miles, 3,500 vertical, and 8 turns, HELL OF A DAY!!!! Good thing I love adventures and love having the blessing of being in the mountains or today could have been a bust!
I singed onto my Facebook two days ago and saw that my friend Justin had shredded the north couloir of Pacific in epic conditions. Normally if I saw that some one else had just shredded a line I would want to go somewhere else but this was North Couloir on Pacific. I have grown up looking at this Peak my hole life. I saw the couloir three years ago for the first time and I told myself "I have to ski that one day." I was able to messaged Justin and get the scoop on the snow pack. I called up my buddies Peter and Nick and asked if they wanted to go, BOYA they where in! Since Peter was driving all the way from Durango and Nick from Boulder I looked into beefing up the day with another ski descent of Crystals north face, definitely worth it!
After an awesome ski we where at the bass of crystal and started to gear up for another climb. We kicked steps about half way up Crystals south face and then switched to skins because it flattens out and the snow was starting to get warm. We don't know how long it took to get up crystal but we topped out just before noon. The skiing off of the top of Crystal is awesome big open face skiing into some tight chokes. We had no beta on this route so we took it nice and slow and finally found that the fourth gully on skiers left is the only one that went top to bottom, this year. The choke was a little rocky but it made for a fun challenge! We then skied the drainage all the way back to highway 91. We were to tired to walk the old railroad grade back to the highway, we braved a river crossing, climb up the snow bank to the road, and walked the highway back to are car we left at the bottom of the Fremont grade. This is a really awesome way to get two epic ski descents in one day! 5,000 vert of skiing, 4,000 vert of hiking, and only 8 miles round trip!
Its been three years of planning and learning to put this trip together and pull it off! When I broke my back in 2011 the only way I was able to keep my head on straight was by study every inch of the Gore Range! I don't know why but something about how it is the last frontier of Colorado, not traveled/visited by many, tough access, amazing rock scrambles, availability of first ski descents are just a few reasons why I fell in love with it. I now have three summers of exploring this mountain range, three more years of back country skiing experience and thought it was time to test myself in the Gore. I AM NO EXPERT ON EITHER OF THOUGHTS TOPICS, but i felt confident enough that I could go in there, have some fun, learn, and truly feel how small and fragile you are compared to these mountains.
After a few days of planning I was able to get Nick and Noah to come along for the adventure. We met up at the Deluge Creek Drainage around 7:30. As we where packing up a nice older lady from the Vail search and rescue group made sure we new what we were doing, "I do not want to have my search and rescue dogs come find you!" We got on the trail around 8:00, it took us about five hours to get to the lake, 4.5 miles, 3,000 vert hike/skin. Now most people would say "WOW they are very slow, we could easily take an hour off there time." WELCOME TO THE GORE, NO TRAILS TO FALLOW, BUSH WHACKING, POST HOLING, 40 POUND PACKS, TAKING SKIS ON AND OFF, and O I free got to say that you gain 2,500 vert in 1.5 miles, this makes for some awesome type 2 fun! By the time we got to Deluge Lake we were dead and looking forward to getting into are shelter. This is where it turned into type 3 fun, our shelter had 3 broken windows and had blown full of snow. We shoveled it out and tried to get it dry.
After resting for a little we decided that it was still early in the day and the snow was still good. We headed off for the west slope of Snow Peak, we were eyeing up a shaded north facing couloir. When we finally pulled the skins off and started to ski it felt amazing. Skiing some nice soft snow made the five hour slug in and hike up snow so worth it!
As the sun started to set we knew we were going to be in for a long night but we where still stoked to be there. We had pasta, white sauce, imitation crab meat, Asian salad kit, and Twizzlers for dinner. We started to worry about are pro-pain and water situation. The lake was a few hundred yards away from the shelter, we thought we might be able to break threw the ice and filter out some water to save are pro-pain. When we got to the lake we only had to dig a few feet down to find melted water under the snow but on top of the ice. This was great for us because we got plenty of water fast but scary to think that this meant there was a good bit of water running under the snow pack. We got back and bundled up for the night, 45 minutes later we were wide awake, we had stolen a pika's house. I don't want to sound like a girl but its hard to sleep when you hear, see, and feel little things crawling around you in the dark! Some how we all got a little shut eye in between the wind and pika's scurrying around us, we where up at 6 am ready to climb Grand Traverse peak. Since it was SE facing it had had gotten a full melt freeze cycle from the last few days. We shouldered are skied, put on crampons, and grabbed are axes. There's no way better to warm up and enjoy the morning by kicking steps straight up 1,200 feet of 30-50 degree snow. We topped out in about an hour and half, took some pictures and waited for it to corn up. We skied a fun steep head wall into a little couloir that spit us out onto the SE face where we could rip some big turn down to the lake.
After the ski we came back to the cabin, had a second breakfast, cleaned the place up and got ready to head out on are 4.5 mile ski / bush whack. We ended up skiing the deluge creek drainage all the away out to the gore creek drainage. As we did that we had some awesome skiing on some south facing aspects, perfect corn. You have to be careful if you come out this way because it is very easy to get CLIFFED OUT. We skied/ bush whack another mile or two out of gore creek and found are self's back at the trail head around 11:45, what an awesome trip!
Sean was are next taker, we did the royal flush last summer together so I was fired up to get him back in a harness. Sean and Henry skied about 50 yards down the couloir to a point where they could get out of the way. I anchored into the tree and got ready to lower Jayleen and Josh. Jayleen and Josh both don't have a lot of rope time under there belts so it was awesome to give them an experience of a life time by lowering them 70 feet into a couloir! Nick repelled after them and got everyone moving. Henry skied down half way to a safe zone, fallowed by Sean who sent it all the way. Sean and henry cleared it form the bottom up and Josh, Jayleen, and Nick skied it one by one top to bottom! As they did this I repelled in, pulled and coiled the rope and by the time I was done it was my turn to drop. We all leapfrogged out the bottom and within 30 minutes we were all safe back on the bike path.
Last year Sean told me about this line but I never thought much of it because it was not filled in at the time. Sean called it the butt crack because it goes right down the north side of Battle mountain and you look right at it as you go threw Minturn. According to previous reports though I think people have called it the Pipeline couloir. I saw reports on 14ers, teton, and a video of people skiing this on YouTube. Are group was a little confused with the beta, this might help clear up the beta problems. We parked at the cemetery in Minturn and skinned the railroad tracks into the two elk drainage. We then found a old road cut on the north side of battle mountain and up we went, it was a quick up, pretty steep. The top of the couloir sits around 9,900, you don't need to take the road all the way to the top. You head south (left) off of the road and pop out right on top of the couloir. We didn't know how to enter the couloir so we kept heading south and ended up skiing some trees down into the couloir. I don't think this is the proper way to get into it, there might be a repel into the top or a route we didn't see.
Once we got into the the couloir we started to make a plan. The snow felt and look pretty solid, had a nice base to it and a pretty consistent layer threw the middle. We did have to worry about the top 4 inches of knew snow on top of the dust layer thought. The new snow had not bonded well with the dust, as you skied you would get a good amount of sluff coming with you. Nothing was propagating or shooting cracks, so the name of the game was sluff management. Knowing this we decided to leap frog down to the first belay station, brain had the rope so he took off first! He set up his 70mm rope to the tree that has two pieces of webbing / rope on it, two non locking carabiner's and one locking carabiner. Matt was the first to repel because he had the other rope for the second repel. Matt made the call to repel with skis on, Brian was next. When Brian got to Matt they decided that you could jump the 6 ft ice fall, Brian went for it. Eggelton was up next, he repelled the first ice fall and followed Brians track off the 2nd ice fall. I got on the rope last and repelled down to Matt. Matt jumped the ice fall while I pulled and coiled the rope, I jumped the ice fall and we started to eye up the next ice fall.
Eggelton and I where not feeling it, we traversed to skiers right and skied a series of ledges down and around the last ice fall. We enjoyed skiing the gully right back down to the road. We took are skis off, crossed the road, skied down to the railroad tracks, and started the 30 min skate / push back to the cemetery.
We recognized that are hazards for the day where going to be sluff management and variable snow conditions. With a clear line of view top to bottom I dropped first. I had some great turns and some really sketchy turns, this was the first time that my knee really didn't like what I was doing. Taking it nice and easy I stopped on top of a ridge where I new the sluff from Henry and Keran would not hit me so I could get some pics. We measured the bottom part of the couloir at 41 degrees, the upper part has to be a little higher then 45 degrees. After we measured and regrouped we skied one by one to the bottom, bush waked threw the aspens, back to the summer trail and out we went. All in all it was a nice hour and a half trip with some fun turns and we had a great time with Keran!
Today was one of my coolest experiences and opportunity in the back country! My friend Chuck invited me to go a skin with him and the director of COBS (Colorado Outward Bound Schools). I knew this was going to be a great trip no matter what happened and I was going to learn a lot. With chuck knowing everyone at copper we got a sled to pull us form the bottom of copper to the access gate on the far west side of copper at 8:00 am. We got to the access gate and started off the day with a nice mellow ski down to Guller Creek. Me being the youngest and least educated of the group thought that I would be in the back watching and learning........WRONG. We threw on the skins, I took lead, and off we went towards Jacques Ridge! Good thing I have been working on breaking trails and navigating because after an hour and half of breaking trail threw deep dark timber some how I put us out right on top of the ridge,BOOOYAA!
We put on some new layers knowing that we were going to be above treeline for the next few hours. Getting to the high point on the ridge was not to bad, you just had to stay away from the edge because of the fairly good size cornice all the way across. We made it about 1/4th of the way across the ridge before we ducked behind some rocks and had a quick lunch. After lunch it was back into the wind and new challenges. We had to skin across some very exposed faces, then we ran out of snow and had to do some rock/dirt scrambling up to the top of Jacques Peak! We didn't stay on the top for long but got a quick summit shot off then it was time to ski! We had some awesome turns down the east ridge back to the Copper Mtn boundary. We got back into the ski resort and enjoyed are very mellow ski back to the bass of Copper.