| Southeast Face Ski
The Gores (Red from Eccles Pass)
Peak – Red Pk (13,189ft) of the Gore Range
Group – Myself, Ben (Benners), Matt (Pioletski) and his girlfriend Gerlinda
Food Rations – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Salt N. Vinegar Pringles, Junior Mints and Benner’s signature brick of cheese
Route – Ski descent of the Southeast Face from the Buffalo TH
The Gores Range is a real treat in the summer and upon a little imagination, an equally as rewarding treat in the winter. Ben and I have been slowly scratching the surface of the aesthetic lines of the Eastern Gores this Spring, and upon his completion of the 14ers Ski Project, we’ll dig a whole lot deeper soon enough.
Our line on Red (from Buffalo)
Alarm went off at 4am, Ben picked me up and we were on our way to the Buffalo Mtn trailhead just before 6. We met Matt and his girlfriend, Gerlinda, who just returned from a spectacular trip in the Himalayas (literally just returned, Matt picked her up from DIA on Saturday). The skin up the trail was all too familiar and we were all greeted with a winter-like atmosphere.
still winter in Colorado
Me, Gerlinda and Matt
We traversed around Buffalo to the base of the Silver with a good 10-12” of fresh snow all around us. I made a feeble attempt to find the 4 peanut butter malted milk balls I dropped on our climb of the Silver back on April 9th, but to no avail. We did happen to notice this furry little foreigner waddling around….
Ptarmigan hiding in the open
From the base of the Silver, it seems like the best way to travel further up the valley is to stay higher in the trees and hug the southern edge, instead of doing what I suggested and drop down. The skinning will be easier that way. After a few switchbacks through the trees, we popped out in an open meadow.
skinning through the trees
I noticed we were on the edge of a cliff, rather sheer and large cliff, with the creek below, the one we were supposed to be on the right side. We decided to stay high and on the left side, with the hopes we’d eventually be able to casually cross the well snow covered creek (we were spot on with this logic). This involved a little bit of map and compass consultation throughout.
Matt reading the map
We finally reached a clearing and were offered a nice view of our objective, at least 75% of it. The weather was pretty prime for a ski descent on this day. Minimal winds, temps in the 20-30 range, cloud cover to keep the snow in perfect dry fluff and more snow on the way.
lookin at the route ahead
Gerlinda and Matt makin headway
Ben with Dillon Valley in the back
The views of Buffalo from this angle were pretty dramatic. For being a mere, lonely 12er in the southern realm of the Gore Range, this peak has a lot to offer from a ski mountaineering perspective, not to mention its view from the top.
a stratovolcano? Na, just Buffalo Mountain
Aside from a little dilly dallying, and conversations about Gerlinda’s recent Himalayan adventure, among many other things, the day was proving a little longer than expected. Despite being a 9-10 mile, 4000 foot day, these turns were certainly going to be earned. To speed things along, Matt slugged a few stem cell cocktails and trucked up the hill, leading us 20 year olds up the mountain. Its truly a sight to see, and an inspiring one as well.
Matt charging along, leading as usual
Around a rock on the slopes below Red’s summit at 12,600 feet, we decided to take a quick break. Matt decided to turn around with Gerlinda and call it a day, given that she just hopped off on airplane not 12 hours earlier from a multi-week trip. We said our goodbyes and pushed on.
Parting ways with Matt
Our motivation at this point was a tad strange. We wanted to reach the summit, but we had no clue how much further it actually was, given it was a near white out at this point. The lack of wind and a delirious quoting of Braveheart had us moving onward. Ben was doing his best impression of a Scottish accent, myself blurting out sadistic King Longshanks quotes while tossing my poles up the hill and pushing up on my skis as flotation, my logic being as long as I kept tossing my poles 15-20 feet above me, I’d feel compelled to reach them.
nearly a white out
Ben took on the trailbreaking duties for the final 500 or so feet and we reached the much welcomed summit around 1230pm. For those who have never been graced with Red’s summit, the North Face is really something else to see. Although intimidating at first, upon further observation and research, its home to a few of the more aesthetic lines in the state, possibly the single most aesthetic line in the lower 48 (What Big Eyes you Have).
As we were sitting there munchin on some cookie dough, the skies and the valley below cleared. Not wanting to waste potentially our only opportunity for some visibility on this descent, we geared up quickly and locked in.
Ben with Red's ridgeline looming in the clouds
Like I mentioned earlier, there was a brand new layer of about 10-12” of powder. The folks at ABasin enjoyed this as well, along with thousands of others, as did the 8 or 9 parties that skied the Silver that very day. Matt got a taste of it from 12,600 feet, but Ben and I were able to enjoy 2500 feet of untouched, unbelievable low density powder from top to bottom, in May no less. I’d like to think it was mother nature’s way of rewarding us.
Some shots of the ski (warning : too many powder shots while sitting in a cubicle can be hazardous to your health) –
off the top
Ben engulfed in pow
and some more
So many lines in this region
the powder continued in to the trees
dare I say it got even better
skiing down to valley below
Post climb meal consisted of the one and only Chimayo Grill in Dillon, for any Chipotle enthusiasts out there, this place gives it a serious run for its money, just a FYI. Once the head hit the pillow at 6pm, I didn’t wake up till 6 the next morning, for a total of 12 hours of shut eye, much needed and appreciated for this 9 to 5er.
Ben's take on the day - Ben's TR
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):