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02-11-2007, 10:04 AM #1
TR: Bookend Couloir, North Traverse Peak, Gore Range, 2.9.07
TR: Bookend Couloir, North Traverse Peak (13,035’), Gore Range, 2.9.07
Aerial view of the Gore Range in October:
Photo taken by John Spencer.
The Gore Range was named after Sir St. George Gore, a wealthy Irishman who organized a hunting expedition through the Colorado Rockies in the mid 1880s. He was guided by the famous mountain man and storybook frontier Jim Bridger, who showed St. George the beautiful and awe inspiring peaks of the southern Gore Range and lush greens covering the Vail Valley. During their hunting and trapping expedition, they encountered many challenges, with one of them being travel through the Gore Range.
One of the first documented maps of the Gore, 1933:
There is nothing “easy” about this mountain range. Nothing. Long in-and-out approaches with little-to-no trail system and lots of vertical gain (8K-13K+) through rugged and steep terrain make any trip into the Gore a challenging yet rewarding experience. There are 13 trailheads that access the Gore Range. For a small area you think the place would be overrun by skiers, climbers, backpackers, day hikers, peak baggers, etc. That’s not quite the case. Most trails dissipate after the first 2 miles or so, leaving one with a thick and adventurous bushwhack the rest of the way.
Glaciers played an important role in shaping the upper reaches of the range. Not only are U-shaped cirques, glacial lakes, and deep etched out depressions common in the Gore but the very ruggedness of its summits is partially attributable to the impressive power of glacial carving. With the exception of Buffalo Mountain, there are no rounded summits in the Gore. Most of them have either fang-like knife edged summits or towering arrowhead peaks as their highpoints. Compared to other mountain ranges in the state, the Gore is relatively new and active.
After a long and hectic work week, I couldn’t take it anymore so I called in sick for the next day, pulled up some topo maps, loaded the truck with my ski gear, and picked up JP early Friday morning for another adventure into the Gore. The night before JP had asked me if it would be a ‘mellow’ day or a ‘death slog’ and after telling him where we were going I didn’t have to answer his question . I got the answer of, “Oh, I guess I’ll pack really light and hope not to puke like I did the last time you brought me into the Gore…”. JP is a strong partner and the only time I’ve ever seen him hit the wall was during a ski backpacking trip to Peak C last spring.
The day started snowy and cold. On the drive over the pass we weren’t quite sure what the day would bring as the snow intensified. Hoping it would let up, we arrived at the Bighorn Creek Trailhead shortly after sunrise and began skinning up the drainage. Shortly thereafter the sky began to clear and the sun poked through the racing clouds overhead. Visibility improved as the morning went on, leaving us with hope of reaching our intended goal. The climb up Bighorn Creek is rather gradual, unlike most of the other drainages in the Gore, which made for a nice skin to tree line. The lower part of the drainage is encompassed by thick Aspen stands, which would make for a beautiful hike during the fall months.
After a couple hours of difficult skinning through unconsolidated breakable crust we reached a nice lookout point, giving us the first glimpse of our goal for the day. Part of the “Grand Traverse” came into view, as well as the south side of North Traverse Peak. The Grand Traverse is an amazing 4th class knife edge ridge traverse running between North Traverse Peak and Grand Traverse Peak. The ridge runs for a good mile from peak to peak. We also got a decent view of the couloir we wanted to climb and ski.
Taking a break:
We pushed onward and slowed down our pace since we knew that we had a big climb shortly ahead of us. Just below tree line we reached an old mining cabin, which served as a great place to seek some shelter and refuel from the approach.
I reached into my pack to find no food and no water. “Oh shit!”. I had left all of my food and water in the truck. The only thing I had was a can of Red Bull and a small ½ tube of peanuts. Up to this point I was doing pretty well on energy, so I felt alright about going forth with our plan despite not having any food or water. We decided to take it step-by-step and not push too hard.
Terrain peaking up through the trees:
We made it to the base of the couloir and started boot packing up the steep apron. The snow in the couloir was nice and consolidated, which made the boot packing a lot easier than the horrendous skinning conditions we had encountered down in the trees.
Skinning the upper apron:
We moved swiftly up through the lower choke and found some nice powder sitting on a firm base. The couloir was that out of a dream. Big towering walls on both sides, ski length choke, and a nice 45 degree pitch with a few inches of powder sitting on top of a firm base.
Above the choke:
Once past the tight choke the couloir opened up a bit and became more exposed. JP decided to stop, while I continued on to the summit. I was feeling the effects of not having any water, but felt that I had enough energy to power through to the summit, which was another 1,300’ of climbing.
Last edited by iskibc; 02-12-2007 at 08:41 AM.
02-11-2007, 10:04 AM #2
I climbed up through another tight choke and then came out on a highly exposed face. I had a good view of JP down below and was able to signal to him that all was good. I slowed my pace down and took careful steps up the convexed upper face of the peak. The views all around were absolutely awe inspiring.
There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as climbing a big mountain solo. The senses strengthen and the focus becomes sharper. I really feel in-tune with my surroundings and the task at hand to the point in which everything else is blocked out.
I made it to the top just as snowflakes began falling. Knowing JP had been waiting for me for a good 70 minutes or so, I quickly got ready for the descent and made a plan of attack. The upper part of the peak had thin snow cover, so I was careful as I made my way down the upper exposed face. The snow was actually pretty good as it was firm, yet easy to carve. I carefully made my way through the upper choke and made tight turns the rest of the way down to JP.
The snow stayed fairly consistent throughout the descent, with no real dangers of any instability. Despite the recent issues we’ve had with the snow pack here in Colorado, I’ve been lucky to find stable and skiable conditions for these big peaks we’ve been on lately.
I joined up with JP who had been waiting patiently and we continued on down the couloir.
Into the abyss:
We had some really fun powder turns through the tight section of the couloir, before opening up to the apron below. We made some nice long arching turns down the apron and skied back down to the cabin to take a rest.
After a long and taxing 2,300’ climb up the couloir, I was dehydrated and tired. We put on our skins and started the trek out of the upper drainage at a slow pace. Luckily, about half way down we found an opening in the stream and we were able to get some water. It was like an oasis in the deep snow. I drank a good 40 oz. of water and felt much better. At this point I was able to take off my skins and cruise back down the trail and down to the truck. JP skinned the rest of the way and wasn’t too far behind. We made it back to the truck just before sunset. Another long and grueling day in the Gore.
02-11-2007, 10:09 AM #3
Awesome! Once again great stoke iski!!
02-11-2007, 10:09 AM #4
02-11-2007, 10:11 AM #5
Nice TR, and even nicer cotton sweatshirt!
02-11-2007, 10:16 AM #6
02-11-2007, 10:20 AM #7
JP - I thought hiking was for skiers Maybe not now with that pretty split board......Nice work you two!`•.¸¸.•´><((((º>`•.¸¸.•´¯`•.¸.•´¯`•...¸><((((º>
"Having been Baptized by uller his frosty air now burns my soul with confirmation. I am once again pure." - frozenwater
"once i let go of my material desires many opportunities for playing with the planet emerge. emerge - to come into being through evolution. ok back to work - i gotta pack." - Slaag Master
"As for Flock of Seagulls, everytime that song comes up on my ipod, I turn it up- way up." - goldenboy
02-11-2007, 10:38 AM #8
Nice Work! I loved the Gore Range History lesson!
02-11-2007, 10:46 AM #9
Goregeous!Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all.
02-11-2007, 11:02 AM #10
02-11-2007, 11:40 AM #11
fkna guys. way to get after it. JP how did the splitboard treat ya? Im getting better at skiing on the low angle terrain that sucks for splitters, not enough angle to ride, so just keep the skins on right? I dont think Ill ever be able to keep pace with skiers on terrain like that.
About 8 miles 4,500' or so, and a winter Gore Range summit? Id take that over work any day.
02-11-2007, 12:10 PM #12Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2005
Cool work, Thanks!
Maybe Wisconsin (or where ever that is) has "Land O' Lakes", but the Gore is definately "Land O' Lines!"
Seems every hill in there is covered with them.
02-11-2007, 12:48 PM #13
02-11-2007, 12:48 PM #14
Minesota i think Zappa.
Sweet TR as always! Thanks for the stoke
02-11-2007, 01:06 PM #15
May I have some of your mountains please....
02-11-2007, 01:29 PM #16
Killer TR, that is what skiing is all about. Looks like a lot of fun!
02-11-2007, 02:06 PM #17
Awe inspiring, as always.
02-11-2007, 03:22 PM #18
As always, amazing. I love your gore range write ups, they really make that area sound remarkable. It's cool seeing JP ripping that couloir on a snowboard.
02-11-2007, 03:31 PM #19
02-11-2007, 03:53 PM #20
02-11-2007, 04:06 PM #21
02-11-2007, 05:26 PM #22
Nice find! that's a heck of a pinch, too.
02-11-2007, 06:58 PM #23
FKNA nice work boys, looks like a fun day.
02-11-2007, 07:05 PM #24
Nice you guys! Love the Gore. It always demands some kind of sacrifice for admittance. Gotta pay to play JP you know you want your snowshows back
02-11-2007, 09:19 PM #25
Iski..... kicking it up a notch heh? Now even without food and water !!?
JP..... putting that Khyber right to the test!
Kinda surprised you guys found so good and stable conditions.
I was up at Butler Gulch today.
On a West/NW facing slope:
4" of pow on top of 6" slab above 2ft of facets.... some good turns were still had, but man... it's going to be interesting after the next storm.
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