Peak: “Peak C”, 13,220′, Gore Range
Distance: 30 miles round trip on sleds, 10-11 on skin
Vert: Approx 4,300′
TH: Red Sandstone Road (1 mile up road to sled drop, left sleds at Piney River Ranch)
The CC Rider on “Peak C” in the Gores had been in the back of Ben’s and my mind for a couple years now, the obvious setback being the access. Earlier in the week we decided to send our old friend Elliot a quick text to see what his plans were. Oddly enough, he and his buddy “MVP” (Brian) had 2 sleds and were headed for C. Its not everyday where all you have to do is show up to a TH with 2 sleds at your disposal, so the decision was pretty simple. We met up with Elliot and MVP along the winter closure on Red Sandstone Rd around 4am and load up the sleds. We approached in “Canadian Style” which means we each stood on each side of the sled, with one person on the throttle and the other on the brake. This sounds unstable, and, well, it was. I fell off on the very first switchback but with some quick adjustments, we figured things out on the go until Elliot and Ben’s sled overheated. Ben piled on to MVP’s newer, more powerful workhorse sled, while Elliot zoomed on ahead. That sled didn’t overheat untill we arrived at the ranch, so we were set for the time being. On a side note, I commend anyone who owns a snowmobile. They have got to the most depreciating asset on planet earth. And whoever MVP’s neighbor is, we are forever grateful for your generosity. Without those sleds, this outing would probably never be possible, at least in the condition we hit it. After arriving at the ranch, both sleds were overheating, so we dropped them at the cabins and started skinning. Instead of following the summer route along the left side of the valley, you can basically skin right over the lake and up the valley and parallel the creek.
We reached the forest and followed a skin track up the valley towards the southern base of Peak C, using a topo app to guide us. It was surprisingly easy to navigate the basin, especially with the usage of the skin track, which dumped us right on the tarn below C’s southern ramparts.
We were rolling in to 11,500 around 11am and the breakable crust underneath us needed some time to soften, so we slowed our pace a little. Despite being a South/Southwest facing aspect, given the earliness of the season, the overnight freeze and some breeze – time was on our side. After a long break at the base of the couloir, we donned crampons and went vertical. The couloir is tame for Gore standards – barely 40 degrees at its steepest. We weren’t climbing the entire couloir though, as we were on the lookout for an exit ramp from the couloir that would deposit us directly on the summit.
Ben, like usual, was in the lead, putting in the He-Man booter. We exited too soon on our first attempt to locate the summit ramp face, and climbed up to what I believe was the THIRD exit up the couloir (taking beta shots from below helps when you are close up and in the couloir). The exit ramp was further up the couloir than we thought, and was obvious once we found it. It was a little more than 2/3rd of the way up.
Soon after locating the exit ramp, things got a little steeper and we were topping out on the summit before we knew it. Views from C are hard to top…..
We didn’t want to dilly dally on the summit as it was around 1pm now and the snow was rapidly softening. We dropped in on prime conditions and were able to get away with it due to the early season conditions all falling in to place perfectly.
Ben’s footage of the descent:
The conditions down low were only getting softer and softer, so we decided to follow the tracks out verbatim to ensure we get out with as little brain damage as possible. With the rapidly softening snow, this just got more and more arduous, but we eventually broke treeline. All we had left was 2 miles of skinning across an open snowfield, basking in the sun. I nicknamed this part “The Melanoma Valley” and there was no escape. We doused ourselves in 70 spf and it didn’t hold a candle to these bouncing sun rays.
We reached the sleds soon enough, with a couple La Cumbre’s waiting patiently for us. Piney River Ranch sure is a peaceful place in the off-season.
After finishing off the libations and talking typical post-climb nonsense for long enough, we loaded up the sleds (this time with Ben and I in an unusual method of tow behind the workhorse) and were off for pizza pie’s at Pazzo’s in Vail.
This day, with the quality of the snow on the SW ramp and apron, the solitude, the fact it was the Gores, the La Cumbres, meal at Pazzo’s with Ben’s dad and any other reason puts this day easily in the top 5 ever. I hope this is a sign of things to come this spring. Even if it isn’t, I’m appreciative of it nonetheless, as I feel anyone should experience a day like this at least once a year/season/lifetime. Thanks for reading.