Atlantic Peak: The "V" Couloir

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Atlantic’s V Couloir as seen from upper McCullough Gulch on April 29th.

Partners: Marc Barella, Rick Thompson
Route: Ascent of Atlantic’s V Couloir (skier’s right branch) from McCullough Gulch, ski descent of ascent route to 12,000′
Stats: 2,900′ climbed, 1,850′ skied, 7 miles, 6 hours RT

Back to back weekends in McCullough Gulch yielded a pair of good, aesthetic ski descents off two Centennials. I’d like to say thank you to Brennan Metzler for heading up there earlier this spring and documenting these lines, as the beta he provided gave us yet another sure bet for keeping this shortened ski season alive. A few late April storms succeeded in refreshing the snow coverage in the Tenmile, despite other ranges being more or less beyond saving. Once again, it was northeast/east aspects that delivered, as they have all season. Gotta appreciate the power of wind loading!

On Atlantic, I was joined by Marc and Rick, the only two partners of mine still willing to get up at 2:30am, posthole through a deadfall riddled forest in ski boots, and race to the top of an east facing line in time for safe skiing. Though many would probably disagree, I still feel the last few sets of turns of any ski season are well worth the struggle.

The road was dry and passable by passenger cars all the way to the gate on the 29th. We set off from the TH at 6am and hiked through the woods until we hit snow just below treeline. We gained the large moraine guarding upper McCullough Gulch by heading climber’s left (south) and finding a low angled snow ramp to ascend in between the trees. Once above treeline, we had great skinning conditions for the remaining mile to the base of Atlantic’s Southeast Face. Skis on our backs, we began our ascent of the chute.

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Booting up the chute.

This line extends roughly 900′ from the basin to the summit snowfield, then another 150′ or so gets you to the true summit. It took us about an hour to top out from where we stopped skinning in the basin. On the summit, we stumbled upon the temporary home of a few mountaineers who had headed off earlier in the morning to climb Pacific. Cool idea; camping on the summit and catching a sunrise would be a great way to spend your Saturday evening. We turned around and began the descent at 9:30am. The snow was pretty good.

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Spring camping on top of Atlantic.

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Marc etching his signature into the summit snowfield.

I love springtime in the Rockies.

The chute is relatively straightforward from a skiing perspective; low forties in steepness and about as wide as they get. There is however some fall potential at the top where the chute twists to the east, making a wall hit probable if one were to go into a sliding fall.

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Marc heading down the couloir. Photo by Rick.

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Rick enjoying the good snow.

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Skier’s right held the best snow, as Marc demonstrates here.

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So I headed over there too. Photo by Rick.

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…and one more of Rick skiing out the bottom

Rising temps warmed the area very fast. At 10am we decided it would not be prudent to go after Fletcher’s East Face Couloirs, though they were part of the original plan. The Northeast Line in particular still looked good though. Perhaps a return trip was in our future…

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