Ben and I had stumbled upon the SW Couloir route on East Partner while searching around the internet. The Gores are one of those ranges with a ton of great lines and not a ton of advertisement, but we were fortunate enough to find some brief, but sufficient enough info on this gem. One of the nicest aspects of skiing in the Gores, which also could serve as one of the biggest deterrents, is the options you have once you haul up in to these deep drainages. From Pitkin Creek alone, you have ski lines off all the 13ers (Partners, Solitude, Climber’s) as well as some solid lines off local sentinel 12er – Outpost Peak.
Ben, Dillon and I met at the all too familiar Wooly Mammoth lot at the ass crack of dawn friday morning and enjoyed a gaper-free commute to the Piktin trailhead, arriving around 5am. Despite Ben and I both spending time in this drainage in the past, we had some minor issues trying to find the path of least resistance. We kept seeing what we thought was a skin track to the left side of the valley (which we would later find out were the ski tracks out). Eventually we stuck to the creek side of the valley (the lower right side) and found some straightforward terrain all the way to the base of the couloir more or less.
After some bench hopping, we arrived with an IMAX view of the Southwest Face of East Partner Peak. In Kramarsic’s “Mountaineering in the Gore Range”, there isn’t a ton known about the early exploits on East Partner. It was simply named Peak V to keep it consistent with the rest of the range, and the nickname “Partner” was a result of the close proximity to West and the similar elevation. East Partner is noticeably more difficult to climb than West, thanks to an easy, class 2 route up West Partner’s western flanks from Booth Creek. There seems to be something for everyone on East, in all seasons. It’s quietly a great peak for ski mountaineers, as there are multiple couloirs stemming off its southern aspects, and a beautiful North Face emptying out into Lower Slate Valley.
From lookers left of the summit, we chose the left of the couloirs, split by a rock rib, as an ascent route. Not gonna lie, the line was mostly decimated by some heavy wet slide debris, but this made the ascent easier, and we were able to avoid the majority of the chicken heads on the way down by sticking to the sides of the couloir. Some shots of the ascent:
We eventually reached a small col west of the summit with less than 50 yards of class 3/4 ridge scrambling to the top. We stashed packs and darted for the summit, with great views all around.
After some grub, we made the quick, 20 minute scramble to the true summit, with some class 3/4 scrambling along the way. We all took a long load off, as it took A LOT longer than expected to reach this point. We just sat there admiring all the potential in this range.
After making our way back to the col….
…and feasting on some Spicy Salsa Pringles while giving Dillon a head start down the couloir, we peered down the line.
And made a few turns….
Sorry folks, that’s all she wrote with regards to ski shots. The ski out was a blast, with some perfect corn on each of the benches we skied to the valley below. We naively thought we would be able to add another peak to the itinerary, but all we had on our minds was pizza and more pizza. We reached the car around 5:30 and amazingly enough only waited for Dillon the shoer for 45 minutes on the dot.
Any day in the hills is a great one, but in the Gores, they are a notch above the rest. This was no different. One of the more interesting and fun ski descents done to date, despite the slightly below average condition of the couloir itself. All in all, a very worthy objective.