Peak/Route: Red Peak 13,189 (Gore Range)/”Big Bad Wolf” (NE Couloir)
Mileage/Vert: 12-13 miles, 4,500 feet
Group: Me, Hugh and Jon
Food: Sweet n spicy trail mix, hot and bothered Perky Jerky, Honey Stinger gels, Gatorade energy chews, fruit punch, double stuffed Oreos
Resources: iPhone Topo Maps, Vail/Frisco/Dillon Trails Illustrated #108
The plan was to hit “Big Bad Wolf” Couloir from Willowbrook based on a brief report mentioned in Stan Wagon’s site from a couple years ago. I hadn’t seen much posted about this line anywhere and was intrigued. I knew the snow conditions would be solid, with moderate/low avy danger due to the recent storms, so another Gore slog was in store. After the Silver 2 weeks ago and CC Rider on C, figured I’d keep the momentum going. What I learned was, in a range full of potential ski lines, Red Peak is near the top of that list with regards to diversity, aesthetics and fantastic consistent skiing. Hugh, Jon and I met around 4:30am in Morrison, made it to Willowbrook TH around 6am and were skinning soon after. The first couple miles flew by and we reached the Gore Range Trail junction, where we continued to follow the summer trail, till it made sense to follow Willow Creek in a more direct line to the base of Big Eyes. We were granted a few solid panos of the Willow/Salmon cirques early on in some open marshlands…..
After 2.5 hours, we popped out of the trees almost directly at the base of Big Eyes Couloir on EE Red and took a prolonged break. We got our first small glimpse of “Big Bad Wolf” finally and saw 50% of it was still in the shade, so we had time. The winds were picking up around this time, and we held on to the hope it would relent as the day went on. Fortunately, for once, mother nature threw us a bone, and it did.
We basically skinned along the northern slopes below the Red Massif, contouring around to the Upper Willow Lakes valley. This was straightforward for the most part. Above the last lake, we encountered a semi-annoying mix of wind and awkward skinning conditions. We pushed through it and made it eventually to the base of the line at around the 4 hour mark.
Jon took first dibs on the bootpack up the couloir and it was slow(ish) going due to some deep powder. The crux was around the middle of the line, with a 52 degree convex roll over, that was the main concern for the descent. We kept the climbing to the left most side of the couloir and just soldiered on up. As we reached the 12,900 range, we were presented with 3 couloirs – we chose the middle, direct line on the ascent and chose the looker’s left (skier’s right) on the descent in an effort to exercise efficiency and logic. Some shots of the ascent:
The summit was a tad on the windy side, so we retraced our steps back to top of BBW, dug out some platforms and feasted for a solid 45 minutes before dropping in. The SE line looked sticky and a tad boney, so we were happy to be dropping in to some northerly aspects and hopefully some softer snow – which it very much was! Some highlights of the ski:
The skin out was rougher than I remember. We stayed on the left side of the creek and got small segments of momentum, mixed in with annoying poling and some upclimbing. Hugh, who had been recovering from a cold earlier in the week, started to get a little delusional. He kept asking how much longer to the car, reminding me of this scene from Snatch…..
We made it to the car with light to spare, devoured some Chips and Sadie’s salsa and motored on down home to feast some more. Another solid Gore ski descent in the books. Thanks for reading.