“Peak H” – Straight Arrow Couloir
Booth Falls Trailhead
13.9 miles, 7,300 feet
Group: Ben, Me, Brandon, J
Making an attempt to keep the streak of long, but iconic Gore slogs going, sights were set on the elusive Straight Arrow Couloir off Peak H. Sadly enough, the easiest way to approach and ski this line is from the Booth Falls TH in Central Vail, since Piney is snow covered late in to the summer and Black Creek is, well, no explanation really necessary there. Nonetheless, we were salivating for another Bone Tomahawking cause Peak N a few weekends earlier wasn’t painful enough.
Anyways, Mr.Chalk suggested a “very f**kin early start”, which meant 1am wake up time for my sorry Front Range ass. Start times like these are beginning to hurt more and more each year, and it doesn’t usually hit me until the drive home. I always laugh when I think about explaining this hobby to someone completely foreign to it. I envision their reaction would be something like this….
Sometimes thats my own reaction as well. But at least H is/was completely worth it.
We started a tad later cause some people who shall remain nameless have something against 24/7 gas station snacks. I’ve made a living off climbing these mountains off gas station junk food, but I understand if people think they need their flaxseed and all natural foods. We shouldered skis/boots for around a mile up the initially dry trail. We hit snow but continued to shoulder cause the freeze was solid and we were making good time. Around tree line break, I spoke my peace and counted to three regarding transitioning to skinning and Ben joined me, with Brandon and J pushing on a little further ahead. Soon after, we easily found passage in to the drainage that spits us out on to “West Booth Pass” (West Partner/Spider saddle).
The Gores have a tendency to constantly one-up themselves in their mind bending views. Bubble Lake coming off the Elephant, Ripsaw from the summit of N, the view of Peak L from just about anywhere are all panoramas etched forever in my mind. But the view of Upper Piney Basin from this little known pass seemed to, on this day at least, top them all. There was basically no difference between it and Ruby in the Weminuche, or any basin in the Weminuche for that matter.
We skied as far as we could down in to the basin and transitioned back to skinning. We basically eyed the South face in the 2nd to last pic, and skinned/climbed up the path of least resistance.
The final grunt hurt deep down in the plums, but it was one of those vantage points so incredible, you kind of just stopped caring about all the physical pain and admired the universe you got transported to.
The line ran around 1500′ or so to the valley floor. We admittedly didn’t ski the entire line cause we didn’t know what the exit was going to be like. Ben dropped in first and searched around for an exit that looked feasible and found one a little less than 1000′ down. We could’ve basically kept going to the very bottom and Brandon found a pretty straightforward way to the HJ Ridge and back in to Upper Piney (we learned this in hindsight – oh well).
We all reconvened at the exit and booted up around 100′ up to the ridge. From there we got as much momentum as safely possible to get back to West Booth Pass. It was painfully obvious, looking at all the pics from the day, that the Spider was grabbing people’s attention. That face NEEDS to be skied.
We made it back to the pass around 1pm or so and geared up for one final round of corn harvest.
We were actually able to keep our skis on to within a half mile of the cars, which was pretty impressive. We were able to ski with relative ease up until a mile of the cars, and then some billy goating, like the pic above shows, was required.
All in all, this tour is right up there with the best of them. Its a grunt, but you get a lot of skiing in when all is said and done and if you do it early enough when things have settled down, you can probably ski all the way back to the car with relative ease.
Thanks for reading.