| Grizzly Couloir Shred
Happy Saturday 14erites!
The mountains are cloaked by thick banks of clouds today - meaning I have time to catch you up on our last few weeks of adventures. Hope you enjoy the reports, this May has treated us well!
Take it easy,
On Cinco de Mayo Eve, Mike Records, Grete Gansauer, Andrew Oakley, Ethan Vimont and myself snuck out for an attempt on the Grizzly Couloir of Grizzly Peak. We chose to boot directly up the West Face of Grizzly, rather than hike the roller coaster from Loveland Pass or approach from Grizzly Gulch. While the lower 500 vert of this route is rather annoying, as it meanders through an off fall line, rock-walled drainage, the next 1500 vert of mellow snow climbing proved efficient and fun. Personally, I would recommend the West Face Direct Option over the roller coaster from the pass on most days, as it minimizes wind and eliminates down climbing…not to mention it feels like you are actually climbing a peak. Grizzly Gulch is a more efficient approach to the Couloir for sure, but we wanted a second lap on Dave's Wave...so the West Face it was.
We left the desolate upper parking lot of Abasin around 8am, finding immediate snow from Highway 6. Unfortunately, a binding break forced Grete to retreat within the first half an hour of the tour; meaning our co-ed crew become a dude quartet. By ten o’clock, we had joined up with the Summer trail on Grizzly’s NW ridge, and were rapidly approaching its summit.
Ethan pushing through the final bit of 2000′ of snow climbing…fresh from Mali, son!
Andrew taking the high and dry road, smiling upon his return to the hills.
The beast shows itself – fueled by sweat and exertion!
A strong wind along the Northest Ridge of Grizzly brought a few of us to our knees. However, we were blessed by warm temperatures that minimized the chill. The roller coaster was quite popular on Friday, as we intersected thee groups of hikers who had made their way from the top of The Pass. 75 year old John Taylor of Silverthorne, outpaced us “young guys” the last 500' - proclaiming "you never have to get old."
While it felt rather cool amidst the gale at 13,400 feet, we kept our summit lounging session abbreviated, as the Grizzly Couloir had been receiving direct sunlit since dawn. The hike along the eastern ridge of Grizzly was magnificent, suspending our group above the steep north face. We found snow somewhere around 13,300 feet, and cruised our way down to the entrance of the chute.
Fun hiking along Grizzly’s eastern flank, with Mike Records and Andrew Oakley.
While the Grizzly Couloir lacks the length of many other Colorado “classics,” it provides skiers and riders with a gripping entrance and sustained pitch. In fact, the “standard” entrance to the line involves negotiating an overhanging cornice on plump hanging snowfields. Being our group’s first time in the couloir, we passed by the cornice and decided to enter the line via a steep and exposed face skier’s right. This narrow snow ramp held a couple of tight pinches before swinging northwest into the main line.
Ethan passing through the first of two pinches in the upper line.
Andrew Oakley makes his first turn in a month in a very hairy place. Killing it, son!
Mike snapping fluid and powerful turns up top. Boom.
And putting it down with style close to granite walls.
Ethan opens it up in the wider section of the Grizz proper.
Andrew putting it down on soft snow mid Couloir. Bam.
Swinging turns down the rock hallway of the Grizz' is an exercise in sensory aesthetics. Cascades of loosened snow follow each rider down the pitch, contrasting vertical peripheral granite slabs. The snow proved sublime; a sun softened storm surface just waiting to be shralped. And we, a group of four never before together in the backcountry, moved through it with precision and style. A BC killin’ crew.
Following a few bonus turns on the apron, we broke for a quick lunch in the trees. It smelled ripe of summer and rejuvenation – a thick piney musk. Soon enough we were skinning west towards the Divide, our final destination standing a couple of miles and 2,000 vert above us.
Mike and Andrew take in a moving view of Grizzly Peak D’s remarkable North Face.
Mike leads the group into Upper Grizzly Gulch on saturated but supportive snow.
The crew rallies up the skin track in super-thermal conditions. Whew, did it feel like Summer!
Andrew inviting YOU to the Gun Show.
And Mike extends the track….an all terrain skinner.
Looking down at a thinly covered Arapahoe Basin
After a couple hours up constant uphill motion, we gained the melted out tundra of the Continental Divide. We passed over and by unranked “Cupid” Peak, a pile of boulders, and stopped at the beginning of Dave’s Wave. Dave’s Wave is a 2,000' snaking snow feature that drops straight from the top of the Divide to the upper parking lots at Arapahoe Basin. It is goofy. It is popular. It is off-fall line. It is strange. And we shredded it as best our leaden legs would allow.
Ethan pushing the edge of the Wave – surf style.
Mike follows suit with a California Inspired move.
Andrew plays on the opposite edge of the Wave, all laid back and happy like.
As we descended Dave’s Wave, the snow transformed from heavy slop to heavier slop to unsupportive rot. We milked the snow to the last foot, making low speed acrobatic moves as needed to stay upright. Soon enough we found the end, where a few hundred yards of willows stood between us and the highway. 4200 vertical climbed, 3600 vertical skied. Not a bad day for a low snow May!
Sharing mountain adventures with this community is a real privilege, so thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this report, and desire to enable our community to help change the lives of Children with Burn Injuries, please visit the Peaks for Peace Website and consider making a donation to a powerful cause!
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