TR: Gothic Mountain 2/27/2016
Crested Butte is one of my favorite places anywhere. The town is amazing, the locals friendly and relaxed, the inbounds skiing rowdy, and the backcountry terrain incredible. A big group of us from the Front Range had planned a trip down, with the intention of skiing inbounds.
As usual before a trip to CB, I shot out an email to my friends over at 14erskiers.com, Frank and Brittany Konsella, to see if they were around for skiing/dinner/beer drinking/etc. Brittany was out of town, but Frank was around.
Only thing was, it hadn't snowed in 3 weeks, and Frank wasn't too excited to go ski the resort, which is what our whole group was planning to do. But when he told me that he had skied the East Face of Gothic Mountain in powder conditions the week prior, and wanted to do it again, I was quickly persuaded to bail on everyone else and join him.
Gothic is one of the few things in CB that doesn't require a snowmobile. We dropped a car at the closure for Gothic Road then set out from Washington Gulch, along with Frank's friend Josh. We made quick work of the road approach and joined a surprisingly large train of people up a steep skin and bootpack next to the iconic Spoon line. I took no photos on the ascent because Frank and Josh are really f'ing fast. But the views from the summit were fantastic.
Southwest towards the Oh-Be-Joyful Wilderness and Upper Slate River.
South Face of South Maroon Peak.
The heart of the Elk Range to the northwest.
Mt. Crested Butte from on high.
The south facing Spoon is certainly the most commonly skied line on Gothic, but every side of the peak is skiable. The crown jewel has to be the imposing East Face, however. 3200ft long from summit to valley floor, the face has a series of steep, 40-45° bowls and spines that funnel into a massive cliff band, where a couple chutes provide skiable passage.
The direct line off the summit was pretty well tracked (Frank joked, "Hey, if it doesn't snow for another week, we might get a nice bump line built up!") and the cornices were looking disturbingly close to detaching, so we didn't ski off the true summit. Instead we headed to the skier's right side of the face, which wraps just a touch more to the NE, which had both better and untracked snow, and was out of the line of fire from the big cornices. Josh dropped first, then me, followed by Frank in a slightly narrower chute.
Most people ski directly down the face, which funnels into a narrow choke through the cliff band. With the number of tracks on the face, we knew that the main choke wasn't going to be particularly fun. We had also sent a very large amount of slough down through the main line (there was another party on the face below us, but we had spoken to them in advance and gave them plenty of time to clear the crux before we dropped in). So we decided to ski a hidden exit chute instead that Frank is calling Doubletree. He snapped a nice shot of me dropping the hanging snowfield towards the entrance.
I dropped first into Doubletree and snapped a couple shots of Frank.
Though the snow got more and more sun affected the lower we went, the apron was still smooth and fun. Frank enjoying the mellower slopes down to the valley floor.
Really, the only downside to this line is that it ends on Gothic Road, which is 3 miles of soul-sucking, slightly uphill slogging to get back to the Snodgrass trailhead. Do you skin? Do you skate? One skin on, one off? Doesn't matter, they all suck. I went for skins and was maybe 5-10min slower getting back to the car. Fortunately, there's a great view of the East Face on the exit.
Thanks to Frank for showing me a great line. It's definitely one that I'll ski again.