East Partner Peak 13,057′ Southwest Couloir 10.5 Miles, 4,300′ Gain Gore Range, CO Adimmen, NHtele 1/12/09
After a nice hike of Goliath Peak near Mt Evans on Saturday with the family, I was itching to do some skiing and take advantage of the lull in avalanche danger. My friend Andy is usually up to something creative and I sent him a text. He had gone out on Saturday for an attempt on East Partner, but they were unable to make it all the way. He was pretty set on making another attempt on sunday, and knowing I wouldnt have to break trail for most of the way, I agreed to join him. Also joining in was Colin, a recent transplant from Jackson. We agreed on a 4:45 start time from the Pitkin Creek TH in East Vail.
I reluctantly woke up in Denver around 2:15 and made the easy drive to E Vail on empty highways. The sketchiest part being getting out of the city at bar closing time. Temperatures were moderate as we geared up at the TH. We got going shortly after 5am, booting up the initial section of trail. After the angle relented, we switched to skins for the remainder of the ascent, myself on the splitboard, and Andy and Colin on Dynafits. These guys are no slouches and I didnt mind following up the rear for the majority of the climb. Thankfully Andy had broken a good portion of the trail the day before.
Snow during the approach was light and fluffy, sitting atop a solid midpack, with the usual suspects down at ground level. Trailbreaking had us sinking in about a foot or so. Weather was overcast in the AM, and turned to snow and poor visibility for awhile, especially while in the couloir itself. We made a zigzagging track up the couloir, until it became a little too steep for my liking, and we bootpacked the rest. Andy dug a pit about midway up the route, at the top of the apron. It confirmed our previous observations of a strong midpack, supporting the foot or so of fresh on top and bridging over the rot at the bottom. Towards the top of the couloir, it was only about 10 inches on top of a very hard crust. We topped out at a dogleg in the couloir, not wanting to see what the last couple hundred feet of hardpack and ice had in store. An easy decision for me, as my soft snowboard boots were not biting into the hard layer well at all.
We topped out around 1:00pm, and made a platform of sorts to sort gear and ready for the descent. It was pretty chilly and Colin and I had trouble keeping our digits warm. My toes had been numb for hours now, but It wasnt bad enough to turn around. My big toe is a little tingly still over a week later. My mistake for not wearing thick enough socks! Andy runs pretty hot though, as he only had a poly shirt hard shell jacket combo for most of the day. Turns in the top of the couloir were quite nice on the top 10-12 inches. We stopped twice down the chute at safe spots and to take pictures. Down lower in the chute and on the apron the snow was really nice and light and deep. Unfortunately the lighting was so bad we couldnt open it up and make big turns. So we made small turns and felt our way down the deep powder. During the descent down through the valley, I remained in split mode with skins, unable to keep momentum through the flat sections and deep snow. We made it down to the TH around 4:15p and I was pretty spent. We were all in good spirits though, having skied a big line in mid winter is a nice treat. No so nice was the epic 4 hour drive home from Vail in horrendous traffic. Part of the front range game I guess…
Nice turns brother! When Killclimbz, Brasi and I were up Vail pass we gazed wistfully across I-70 and commented on how ridiculous the Gore range is! It’s like f-ing AK up in that piece! Way to wreck that shit! :rock: