Date: 16 May Peak: Quandary Peak (14,265) Length: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet Route: Cristo Couloir
Cristo Couloir from Hwy 9 after skiing Democrat:
After skiing Democrat on Tuesday with Jcwhite and Goldenboy, I decided to try for the Cristo Couloir on Quandary's south face on Wednesday. With the early sunhit, I set my alarm for 4:20 in the morning, and promptly slept through it. I woke up instead about 5:30 and decided it was still worth a shot. I grabbed a super-quick breakfast to eat in the car, gassed up, and headed up I-70, making great time. I parked at the upper dam and 7:30 and was on the move by 7:40. When I parked, there was one other car and a climber about 1/3 of the way up. Right after I parked, a third car pulled up and he started climbing the same time I did.
View from the car:
The other climber and I got to the base of the snow about the same time, but he geared up much quicker and left me in his wake. Turns out we would both pass the first climber, but he summited and passed us on his way down about 500 feet below the summit in a little less than two hours from the car. He was moving.
Back to the climb, shortly after putting on crampons and heading up the couloir, a herd of mountain goats started working their way down to the slope (climber's right).
I passed a few other pairs that were on the climber's left side after about 200 feet.
The climb up was straight-forward, and generally in pretty good shape. The west half was softening up much quicker, so I stuck more towards the middle for firmer crampon work. There are quite a few goat tracks that cross the slope, as well as old climber tracks both up and down. The glissader's runnel is also getting pretty deep in spots.
Maybe about a third of the way up, with another climber near the rock band in the center:
Looking southwest past Northstar towards Lincoln and Democrat about halfway up:
The lower half was also fairly clean, with most of the crud and junk snow collecting around the runnel. Near the top of the couloir, right near the entrance there are numerous rocks and a lot of crud that has refrozen in odd lumps and shapes. I expect this will be the first part to melt out.
After exiting the couloir proper, I traversed eastward seeking a direct descent route from the summit. After finding what I wanted, I climbed the last little bit only to be blasted by wind on the summit ridge. It was certainly much less hospitable than Democrat's summit the day before. I took just enough time to take a few pictures, put away the axe and crampons and pull out the helmet, gloves, and board.
Democrat's North Face with some interesting lines:
Looking down from the summit. The descent would first require a traverse left, then back right to enter the couloir:
The snow on top was just coming into shape, so it was time to head down. The traverse went fine, but lead to some interesting turns through the crud at the couloir entrance. After clearing that, I hugged skiier's right where the snow was much smoother and appealing. After reaching the bottom, I worked my way down the little snow finger until it ended, making for a descent of about 2,400 feet.
Here's the route from the south side of the dam:
I made it back to the car at about 10:30, just under 3 hours car-to-car.
_________________ - Kyle
"Oh man, that's like releasing a pack of wild baboons onto a keg of Icehouse next to a tied-up and gagged Lindsay Lohan." - Luca Brasi on TGR