Hiking Colorado Couloirs In June

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Bjorn soloing some rock half way up the line, in crampons

 

Bjorn and I rolled into Boulder a little late on the arrival night due to airline delays.  Meeting up with Theo at the Boulder Outlook Motel around midnight meant four hours of sleep to be out of town the next day by 4:30 am.  A few hours of sleep and lots of hiking for June couloirs would be the pattern of the next five days as we filmed the second leg of the June installment of 12 Months.

On Day 1, Cody Booth and Nate Goodman rolled into the Boulder Outlook and we were on the road to the Rocky Mountain National Park a little after 4:30 am.  Cody rides for us and combines freestyle shredding with a ton of human-powered lines in AK and elsewhere.  Nate is a friend of his who knows the classic routes of the Rockies super well and is training to be a mountain guide.  A quick stop at a greasy gas station north of Boulder let us grab a microwave burrito for breakfast and your typical energy food for lunch.  By 6:30, we were on the trail, heading out on the four mile hike to Notch Top Mountain and the Notch Couloir.  We climbed up into the Alpine and found sparse snow in the bottom of the line.  After climbing the first bit of snow, we hit a section towards the bottom of the couloir that was melted out and required two mellow pitches of rock climbing.  I roped up for the second of the two, but Bjorn just cranked up it with no protection.  No problem.  From there, the line steepened to the high 40s and turned slightly to get exposed over a cliff, before topping out.  Bjorn dropped first, hammering into the first steep, exposed section with speed and power.  Impressive to watch given my plans to ride it super conservatively.  By early afternoon, were back at the truck after doing about nine miles, 2,500 vertical feet and a semi-sketchy line on four hours of sleep and sea-level lungs.  It was time to eat.

Day 2 was a rest day to acclimate and get ready for three straight days of going hard.  We spent some time at Satellite in Boulder that day getting boards tuned up and hooking up with Raul Pinto who is one of the owners there.  After letting him know what we were up to, he decided to jump into the next leg of the trip and camp out with us at the 4th of July Campground near Eldora to hit up the Arapaho Peak zone.  Sure enough, at 4:30 on Day 3, he rolled into the Boulder Outlook in his dope-ass 1966 Ford pick-up.  Pretty cool to have a shop owner impromptu decide to come climb lines in June.

Day 3 started early and got us on the trail by 6:30 to South Arapaho Peak, where Nate and Cody were looking to do Skywalker, a long line with a 50-to-60 degree upper entrance.  When we got up into the high meadow, Skywalker still needed time to warm up, so Bjorn, Raul and I headed across the bowl to do a network of lines that emptied onto an open face.  This is the line of Bjorn’s helmet cam in the video.  About 1,000 feet of soft, steep snow—fun times.  In the early afternoon, Cody and Nate headed up Skywalker, Bjorn and Raul chilled in on the rocks with Theo, and I did a quick 30-minute hike up to a mellow bowl for some feel-good turns before Cody and Nate dropped the line.  At the top of the bowl, I stood at a saddle looking into our zone for Day 3.  After watching Cody and Nate ride Skywalker, we all zombie-walked back down to the campground a bit calorie-deficient and over-exposed to the sun.  A serious refueling of food was necessary.  After a bunch of food, we had good night’s sleep under a bright moon-lit sky.

Day 4 started a bit later than normal.  Around 8:30, Raul headed back to Boulder and we headed back up the trail, still tired.  The day’s route would take us up through the South Arapaho zone we rode during Day 3, down into a different drainage on the backside, and around to North Arapaho Peak.  This would turn out to be the biggest mission day of the trip.  After dropping down a boulder field on the other side the prior day’s “feel-good” bowl, we had to wrap around for probably about a mile to find the base of our line, the North Star Couloir.  Theo climbed a ways up to film from inside the couloir (in streetwear boots with crampons!), and we proceed up until the snow stopped.  With a few spots of nice, smooth snow, the line featured mid-30s and low 40-degree pitches, with two choke points.  With a bit more snow, it would have been amazing.  Once the line was done, we still had a mission to get back to the car: traverse back to the saddle, climb about 800 feet of vert, ride the mellow bowl, and hike two miles out.  It was probably a 10-mile, 3,000-foot day that got us back to the car around 6:00 pm and down to Boulder for a big meal around 8:00.

Day 5, our final day, started as normal: wake up at 4:30 on about four hours of sleep and look forward to 3,000 feet of climbing.  We departed Golden around 5:00 and geared up at the parking lot for Gray’s and Torrey’s, two 14,000-footers off of I-70.  After hiking for a while, the two mountains came into view, with Dead Dog Couloir being the obvious line off the summit of Torrey’s Peak.  Despite rough looking snow in the line caused by some rock fall, Nate was still focused on Dead Dog, but Bjorn and Cody opted for a steep couloir off the flank of Torrey’s and I opted for the less-consequential turns off the summit of Gray’s and into the bowl.  On the last day of the trip, I was more into smooth turns than fall-and-die exposures.  Bjorn’s and Cody’s line was probably the most flowing line of the whole trip.  With the lines done and some interview footage captured in the high meadow below the peaks, we landed in western Denver around 4:00 for a feast at La Fuente, a small Mexican joint around the corner from our rep’s house.  Later that same evening, Bjorn and I hopped on planes around 9:00 pm to head home.  All in all, we did five lines, climbed about 13,000 feet and hiked about 30 miles.

Good times.  Thanks to Cody and Nate for making it happen.

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