Post subject: TR - 3/23/07 Gray Wolf Mtn 13,608', NE Couloir
Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:07 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:10 am Posts: 1159 Location: Denver
Gray Wolf Mtn, 13,608'
NE Couloir via Echo Lake TH
11.5 Miles, 4,200' Gain
HikeforTurns & IridePow
photo from November
IridePow mentioned earlier in the week that he'd like to get out on friday. So I called him thursday night and after looking over some photos and topo maps, we decided on Gray Wolf Mtn, in the Mt Evans Wilderness. I figured it would be a nice skin and couloir climb, followed by a few decent turns, maybe 8-10 hours RT. Little did we know, it wouldnt quite work out that way. We met up at the Lookout Mtn exit, and carpooled up the Mt Evans Road, to Echo Lake and our TH at 10,600'. We skinned up and left the TH at 6:45am, just as the sun was coming up......
Following a trail too dry and sketchy to skin, we decided to boot pack on dirt and firm snow down the valley towards the Chicago Lakes Trail. Luckily the snow remained firm, as we were able to make it down the valley and reach the main trail without punching through, we would pay for that later though. We made good time as we skinned up the closed road en route to Idaho Springs Reservoir. Iride and I both remarked on how the return trip up to the TH wouldn't be pleasent. I put that thought in the back of my mind, as we passed the reservoir and entered the wilderness. As if on cue, the scenery turned and we found ourselves in an amazing alpine valley. Large granite walls loomed overhead, as I thought to myself what a return trip during the summer might yield...
At this point the skinning became difficult, as evidenced by the monster postholes left by snowshoers from a few days before. We managed to make our way up the valley, often breaking through to our waists with skis on. IridePow knew what I was thinking when he mentioned that travel may be difiicult on our return trip, as the sun had a chance to rot the snowpack even more.
Undeterred, we continued on and left the burned trees for the more pleasant creek bed. Snow was improved here as we made quick progress towards our next destination, the upper valley holding Gray Wolf's NE Cirque. Another mile of rotten snow, and we had gained access to blessed treeline, where the snow was much improved. We also got our first look at our intended line.
Just before we left treeline, we encountered a nice Bristlecone forest.
Once we reached the basin below Gray Wolfs NE Cirque, we were introduced to several more interesting looking lines. If the approach wasnt so long, I would consider a return trip. Maybe with a tent next time. We boot packed up a NE facing snow slope, towards the NE ridge and the summit, where we could look down our intended line.
After zigzagging up the slope we made it to the ridge, and stashed our gear at the top of the Couloir. After a quick trip to the summit and back, we did an evaulation of the snow in the couloir, first by sending down a couple rocks, then cutting a section of cornice with some rope I had in my pack. We werent able to get a good size chunk to go, but we were satisfied with the results we got, only marginal sloughing and a good 2-3 inch of soft on top of a solid base. Guess will drop in and have a look!
Snow in the couloir was about as good as expected, soft enough to support some good turns.
Good turns were had in the couloir, and soon IridePow and I were faced with the grim realization of the return trip to the TH, about 5.5 miles away, much of that below treeline in some of the most rotten snow Ive ever encountered. Postholing to our waists was the norm, add that to a 25 degree slope with downed trees and you can get a taste of the travel conditions. Eventually we made it to the Chicago Creek and followed that through willows and old beaver dams. This was a welcome change to the snow in the trees. At this point, Iride and I realized we'd be lucky to make it out before dark. Fortunately we were able to use our phones and avoid any hasty calls by certain loved ones. We made better time in the creekbed, and we eventually made it back to the road. Phew! Soon we began the ascent out of the valley and we were elated to be traveling on firm snow. The inch of snow that had fallen during the day had melted, making for some wet and foggy travel back to the TH. 13 hours from when we left, we reached the truck just as it was too dark to travel without headlamps. We both decided to try for a shorter tour next time. Thanks for joining me Iride!