Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:40 am Posts: 113 Location: Salida, Colorado
On Sunday the 7th, my bro Ryan and I headed out to run the Grand Couloir of Mt. Aetna. Our other partner bailed on us the previous night because he wanted to do something silly like float the Arkansas instead of taking advantage of the stable snowpack this time of year. Mark, you missed out man.
Mt. Aetna, located in the southern Sawatch Range, sits at 13,745'. The prominent Grand Couloir can be seen from practically anywhere on Monarch Pass. Here's a view from the hwy. of Aetna (on the left) and Taylor, peaking over a ridge.
Here's a close-up of the Grand Couloir...
Looking at it from afar, it appears to be an indirect fall line, but when we got right up to it, we found a series of dips, ribs, and other features that made the run very entertaining.
We got to the trailhead around 9:00. With the elevation, wind, and cloud cover coming in, we were'nt concerned about getting to the top too late. After about 2 miles of easy hiking along a 4x4 road we arrived at the runout and took a little break...
Aetna suffers from the wind all winter long. Basically what you see is wind loaded snow and rarely does it get completely filled in.
We began by walking the rocks up a ways to the snowline then crossing over to the left ridgeline. The further we went up the more clouds rolled in, and eventually it started snowing lightly. One has to come to grips with the wind around here (Chaffee County's dirty little secret), so we threw on some more clothes and finally made it to the top. Here's a view looking northwest towards the Elk Range in the distance...
We were stoked to see the snow was still soft despite the cold, wind and elevation.
In the next photo, the sense of scale become apparent.
What a run! Perfect conditions and great company as always.