Pawnee Peak 12,943ft – South Couloirs
Brainard Lake Area (Indian Peaks Wilderness)
Riders: Dave, Oliver
I met up with Dave for a bit more June riding in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
We brought the bikes along since we were not sure how far the roads were open.
The road around Brainard lake was actually open all the way, but the last few hundred yards of road to the actual trailhead was closed. So we decided to pedal that part. It’s always fun to ride your bike with skis/snowboard on your back isn’t it? At least the tourists thought so when we came back later in the afternoon.
After stashing our bikes we made quick progress hiking on dirt/snow along Long Lake up to Lake Isabelle. We had a solid freeze on Friday night, so post holing was not a problem (even the way out was pretty easy again).
Lake Isabelle and a stunning view of the continental divide with Navajo and Apache:
(click to enlarge)
Close-up of Apache couloir and Queens way:
From there we headed north towards Pawnee, more or less following the summer trail.
Dave putting in the stairs:
Brainard Lake, Long Lake, Left Hand reservoir:
Nice views on the summit.
Navajo and Apache in the west:
Lake Granby to the north west:
Dave soaking in the views:
Mount Toll to the north - quite a popular spring/summer ski route.
Mount Audubon looks a little dry:
There are several south facing couloirs on Pawnee. We chose one a little more east than the most obvious two, since it looked more interesting.
It’s has a 55 degrees entrance before it starts easing and some interesting rock features to navigate around.
Dave getting ready at the top:
Dave Dropping in:
Oliver on the steep top part:
Dave surveying the scene after the first few turns:
Top third of the couli:
Navigating around some rocks was required:
IridePow enjoying some great lower turns:
The first line from the bottom:
After that first drop we decided to traverse over and hike up a few hundred vertical feet again, instead of just letting it run down to the lake. There was another good couloir we saw on the way up.
This would have been the most obvious line a little east from the summit:
(as seen above our traverse to the next objective)
On top of our next line:
Dave showing off the tele steeze:
Bottom of line 2:
The two couloirs we did:
From another angle:
On the way out we had to bring the “grass boards” out for a short section:
We could ride a bit past Lake Isabelle before we had to start hiking out again for a 7 hour car to car time.
Good by Brainard lake and Mount Audubon:
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Pawnee Peak 12,943ft – South Couloirs
Who: Dave, Lacy, Oliver
We went up to the Indian Peak Wilderness for some more spring skiing turns.
We drove up the bumpy Rollins Pass road and got stopped about 2 miles short of Yankee Doodle Lake due to snow drifts. So we had to hike a little longer than originally expected.
We hiked around the cirque and started to look for a good line.
It was dark and stormy: (Click to enlarge)
When we hiked around the cirque we noticed two more hikers in front of us. Where did they suddenly come from?
Dave had a line in mind he has done quite a few years back.
This year it looked prime, there was very good coverage in there and see.... there were tracks coming out of this steep couloir. The guys must have climbed up this route.
The tracks indicated that the snow was already quite soft, but that's actually not such a bad thing on a steep line. It provides you some better grip.
After poundering if we should give this extremely steep line a go (top is 60degrees + and the whole couloir is a sustained 55 degrees) for quite a while, we decided to try it.
In the meantime the other two backcountry skiers/boarders went down the Radio Beacon east face and positioned them so that they could see our descent very well.
Dave went first and reported after a few turns that the top layer is sliding, but nothing looked too dangerous.
The steep couloir (note Dave at the bottom, Oliver dropping in):
Picture taken by Adam
I went next. After sliding sideways into the top part I could do several good jump turns. Wet sluff was sliding, but I was able to easily avoid it with pulling to the side.
I am not exactly sure what happen, but probably I got a little too confident after the top half and started linking many turns together instead of stopping on the side to let the sluff run by. So suddenly there was lots of sluff moving around me and it wiped me out from behind. I got swept into the huge runnel that was on the skiers right side of the couli and it was game over. I managed to stay somewhat in control with my board below me, but I was going pretty fast. Two times I could almost get out of the runnel, but got pushed back again. So I enjoyed a nice slide down a 55 degree chute on my butt.
The good Oliver:
The bad Oliver:
The scaring off the spectators Oliver:
Lacy does it better:
Some nice jumpturns:
Dave and Lacy with the line in the background:
Lacy and Oliver:
A close-up of the couloir:
Lacy looking back a last time:
So in hindsight a few more things to say about this adventure:
Definitely the steepest line I rode so far in my life. The couloir is a sustained 55 degrees with a rollover on top of 60+ degrees. In some places at the top, the couloir was probably only one and a half board width wide. Needless to say it’s a pretty tough line to ride in a snowboard.
Dave has done it before in 1997. Back then it had less snow in it. He said that was one of the hairiest lines he skied in his life. So we knew it was going to be a tough one.
I still would do the line again with the same conditions. However I would pay a lot better attention to the sluff management.
I am still mad at myself that I messed it up. But I might just have to go back there and try it again to ride it properly.
Adam's (luca_brasi) TR on splitboard.com:
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I wanted to hit a decent line today with not too much hiking/postholing involved. Unfortunately everybody was busy with work. So I had to head out by myself.
We did this line last year, so I knew what to expect.
I was also eyeing Dead Dog if it looked alright, just to mix it up eventually.
I could drive 2.1 miles up the road before hitting this road block:
So I had to hike another mile to the Grays Peak summer trail head.
We got a solid freeze overnight and large parts of the trail (at least at the beginning) are even dry now, so the boot packing all the way to the top of Torreys was quite easy.
I started at 6:30 and summited at 10.
Familiar views on the way up:
(Sorry for the quality, was pretty cloudy right then)
View from the top towards Grays.
The clouds moved in and out. But it stayed mostly cloudy today.
There were a few people I met on the way up who hiked Grays/Torreys and were already on the way down. But on the summit I was totally by myself. I lounged around there for 45 minutes.
I was considering going down the Dead Dog and working my way over to Kelso. But there was quite some debris in there from slides and other skiers on days before. Since the sun did not really come out it never softened up. Therefore I decided to hit up the Emperor. Changes that this line was filled in with a little bit powder from a few days ago were better. It usually does not get skied as much as the DD and can be smoother. It is also quite a bit longer.
Looking down Emperor from the top:
After the first few turns:
Looking up about half way down:
Looking up almost from the bottom:
The top part was still really hard and crusty. But every once in a while you could find nice pockets of wind blown powder.
About one third down the snow started to soften up and quite a few nice turns were had.
Bottom part was nice corn to slush.
This line really rewards you with some nice vertical.
There are not too many places close to Denver where you can get over 3,400 vert in one descent. Nice sustained steep, but interestingly not just a straight shot.
Too bad that the whole thing was already over after 20 minutes. :D
Then another 1:30h hike back to the car was in order. For a total car-to-car time of 6 hours.
Who the heck parks his snowmobile here?
This would be another option. Do Dead dog first and hike back up Kelso for this line, which would dump you out right at the car.
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