May 17 2011

South Maroon –SW Couloir

A line like the SW couloir on South Maroon needs a better name than that. I certainly don’t believe that I have the creative energy to make up a name for it. But it really is a line that should be on any Colorado ski mountaineer’s tick list. I’d ski it again.

It seems to me that the crux of any Bells/Pyramid mission in the spring is finagling your way up the road in the early morning hours. If it is half melted out….bikes don’t work. If its half pavement sleds overheat. I’ll let you figure that part out for yourself.

After Pyramid and Laundry Chutes consecutively I wasn’t sure how a 3rd day in a row was going to treat my legs. Oh well. I guess we’ll give ‘er hell.

Matt is about to enter the Maroon Bells Pressure Cooker.  We came out steamed and hot.

Matt is about to enter the Maroon Bells Pressure Cooker. We came out steamed and hot. (Click all images to Enlarge)

After making our way up the road we begin the all too familiar skin up and into the woods on our way to the base of the climb. A few hundred feet below the garbage dump we begin booting. Punchy…great.

I have seen the sunrise from this place a couple dozen times, but to me it never really gets old. I love it and it is a gorgeous place to be at this hour.

Sunrise from up high.  That is Maroon lake peaking out down below. (Click to Enlarge)

Sunrise from up high. That is Maroon lake peaking out down below. (Click to Enlarge)

The booting certainly isn’t the most fun but it does get better the higher we get. That said the temperatures start to become in the realm of ridiculous pretty quick. It is pure t-shirt/beach weather until we hit the ridge that is.

Matt is up front.  It's hot.

Matt is up front. It's hot. (Click to enlarge).

The east face is heating up fast! We watch as flakes of snow and soon small streams pour off the cliffs. Our pace doubles. As soon as I pop over the ridgeline it is back to winter in a hurry.

On the ridgeline bundled back up and ready start the real climbing. (Click to Enlarge)

On the ridgeline bundled back up and ready start the real climbing. (Click to Enlarge)

The climbing on the ridge is challenging and enjoyable. I really find enjoy this type of climbing, rock mixed with ice and snow. It keeps things interesting.

Starting up the ridge from the top of the Couloir.  Me in the yellow and Ari in the Blue.

Starting up the ridge from the top of the Couloir. Me in the yellow and Ari in the Blue.

Ari, Anton, and Matt following up the somewhat airy ridge.

Ari, Anton, and Matt following up the somewhat airy ridge.

Anton and Matt as we near the summit.

Anton and Matt as we near the summit.

Happy Crew on the summit.  Me, Ari, and Matt.

Happy Crew on the summit. Me, Ari, and Matt.

It is a pretty windy day, and time on the summit is enjoyable, but getting chilly. A quick transistion to skis and we are ready to go.

Matt skiing off the summit.  He is on the shortlist with the Elks almost completed along with much of the states 14ers.

Matt skiing off the summit. He is on the shortlist with the Elks almost completed along with much of the states 14ers.

A crew has come up from the Crested Butte side and are ahead on the descent. We wait while they finish it off.

A splitboarder from Crested Butte finishing off the couloir ahead of us.

A splitboarder from Crested Butte finishing off the couloir ahead of us.

It is time for the second fun part (the climb being the first of course).

Anton:
8

9

Ari:
10

11

Matt:
12

Myself:
25

26

We get to just above the bottom of the couloir, and one look down it confirms that it is full of wet debris from the days prior. A hard traverse right takes us to a notch that divides Fravert Basin from upper Snowmass Creek. Through the notch we do a bit of scree walking and then ski on down and take a hard right hand traverse.

Traversing in upper snowmass Creek.

Traversing in upper snowmass Creek.

Now what I haven’t told you yet is that Matt and I have a sly little goal of climbing the west side of North Maroon and skiing down the North Face in route back to the trailhead.

Snowmass and Capitol looking over the valley.

Snowmass and Capitol looking over the valley.

Matt starts the booter up the west face of North Maroon.

Matt starts the booter up the west face of North Maroon.

Anton Whippeting up a small ice fall in route.

Anton Whippeting up a small ice fall in route.

Anton and Ari sweating in the May sun.

Anton and Ari sweating in the May sun.

It’s getting hot. Too hot. We reluctantly make the decision to bail. Nice thing about bailing here is that there is a bailout option. A couloir just skiers right of the gunsight.

Ok...lets get out of here.  Matt up to his nipples in snow.

Ok...lets get out of here. Matt up to his nipples in snow.

It took some careful ski cutting, rock route finding, and postholing to make it to the top of the shady couloir safely. But all in all we make it in one piece and prepare for some of the better ski conditions on the day.

Anton and I are ready first so we make a quick descent of the chute and wait in the basin for Ari and Matt.

Anton skiing in the couloir:19

Coming back into this basin in the afternoon light was a bit surreal.

Anton skiing in and out of the sunlight.  This is a cool place.

Anton skiing in and out of the sunlight. This is a cool place.

Skiing out the basin was a lot of fun on big skis. It was pretty scenic too.

Ari finishing it off for the day.

Ari finishing it off for the day.

We got to the trailhead and headed on down the road to the gate. I was already late for work. They seemed to forgive me after the terrain management that was going on up there. Another great day, and it is snowing again in the mountains up high!

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “South Maroon –SW Couloir”

  1. pioletskion 17 May 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Those are some excellent pics Jordan. Yeah, I’d do it gain too!

  2. john doyleon 18 May 2011 at 6:15 am

    I’ve heard it called the ‘Coin Drop’ couloir. Very cool tour guys.

  3. Jordanon 18 May 2011 at 11:39 am

    Good call John,
    I think that sounds a bit familiar as well.

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