Touring in the Gores: Red Peak B South Face

Skinning somewhere below East Red Peak B in the Gore Range.

When some ill-timed weather/snow conditions prompted us to call off an ambitious weekend plan we had for the San Juans, I was not surprised when Brian suggested the Eastern Gores as a consolation. Matt was in, as was his significant other, Gerlinde, who had just returned home from climbing a 20,000+ footer in the Himilayas. Congrats again Gerlinde!

We settled on Red Peak B’s South Face, which we believed would provide us a safe, low-angled tour. I have enjoyed getting into the Gores this spring with Brian, they have a lot to offer the ski mountaineer.

Good friends.

We set off from the TH at 6:30 or so and made good time up towards the Buffalo Mountain trail junction. From there we had to drop a few hundred feet of elevation into South Willow Creek.

Old Man’s Beard?

We skinned past the mouth of the Silver Couloir on Buffalo, which Brian, Rick, and I skied back in April.

The Silver.

A few routefinding issues below treeline slowed our pace a bit, but eventually we broke treeline in South Willow and got a good view of the South Face of Red. The weather remained a tad socked in, but warm temps and a complete lack of wind had us in good spirits. This was one of those days where you actually don’t mind the low visibility.

Cool formations along the north side of South Willow Creek Drainage. Photo by Brian.

Once above treeline, Matt installed a switchback track up the lower-South Face of Red.

Brian enjoying the views from the skin track.

The north side of Buffalo, looks more like a PNW volcano than a Colorado 12er.

We continued up into the cirque below East Red’s summit, at which point we lost the ability to judge distance off of nearby terrain features as the fog socked us in even more. We took a long break at a rock outcropping, where Matt and Gerlinde decided to turn back and savor the turns they had earned up to this point. Gerlinde was jet-lagged from getting off a plain from Nepal less than 24 hours earlier, I’d want to catch some z’s too.

Brian and I had a chat with Matt and elected to continue, as the summit was only 500′ away. At this point we would go for periods of time with little to no visibility, but occasionally the clouds would clear just enough for us to catch a glimpse of the surrounding terrain.

Some aimless plowing through deep powder above 13k had us to the summit at 1:30pm.

The photos make it look miserable, but the day was actually quite pleasant even after we reached the summit. A quick transition had us geared up and ready to ski.

Brian took firsts off the top, I snapped a few pics and followed.  The skiing was phenomenal. The photos, not so much…

Photo by Brian.

Brian’s turn to ski.

Further down the snow was just as good, and the photos just as bad…

Photo by Brian.

Photo by Brian.

Eventually we began to head skier’s left to hasten our exit. Photo by Brian.

We were able to ski all the way to the base of the Silver, at which point the skins went back on for the climb out. An hour later we were in Silverthorne enjoying mexican food and Junior Mints.

This was a fun run, and makes for a good low-angled day. I’m going to have to get into the Gores more often.

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