TR: Red Peak B "Big Bad Wolf" Couloir (04.20.2019)
For a number of reasons, my ski mountaineering season has gotten off to a slow start this year. But it finally looked like my schedule, weather, and snow conditions were all going to line up so I texted Rick and began kicking around ideas.
Turns out he had some ideas of his own and the crew was starting to get large, so we nixed the idea of using snowmobiles for access. The Big Bad Wolf Couloir, on Red Peak B on the edge of the Gore Range near Silverthorne was suggested and although it had never been at the top of my list, it was definitely a line I was interested in. When he threw out the idea of using a short car shuttle to save a bit of distance and vertical, I was sold.
Since we were going for a northeast facing line, Rick, Ben, Alex, Dylan, and I got a fairly leisurely start from the Buffalo Mountain Trailhead and began skinning through a recently burned forest. This was the high profile Buffalo Mountain Fire that significantly threatened many residences in summer 2018.
Skinning was fast and easy into the South Willow Creek drainage (minus one terrifying descent that would have been much less terrifying had we stripped skins) and we soon passed below Summit County's most popular mogul run, the Silver Couloir.
Not much further up the valley we encountered the remnants of a massive and sobering avalanche that ran during the historic March cycle. We estimated the slide at R4D4; it broke mature timber up to 24" in diameter and flagged some trees 50' above the snow surface.
Fortunately this sort of extreme instability was a thing of the past, and we begun skinning up the southern aspects of Red Peak with great views all around.
Looking back down the South Willow Creek drainage towards town.
The first sub-summit east of Red holds some great lines. Some of our party watched a solo snowboarder descend one of them.
The remote Deming Drop looks to be in great condition. I didn't notice at first, but turns out our friend Brittany can be seen standing on top of the line in this photo.
We were able to skin all the way to the summit...
...where we had fantastic views into the heart of the Gore Range. The Silverthorne/East Thorn massif:
Upper Gore Creek vicinity:
We clicked in right on the summit and descended the 50 or so feet down to the entrance of Big Bad Wolf. Rick dropped in first and found nice chalky, edgeable snow.
Ben, Dylan, and Alex followed.
The couloir twisted and rolled steeper in the center section, making for an entertaining descent. The snow quality generally got better and better and was legitimate compacted, dry powder in the middle of the line. Ben and Alex enjoying it:
Ben got a cool shot of me about 3/4 of the way down.
Down low the couloir widened out, but the best snow was on far skier's right near the rocks. Rick hugged them, which the gods of photographic composition thank him for.
The North Willow Creek drainage is stunning. East Thorn:
And a look back at out line, which provides a solid 1900' of quality skiing down to Willow Lakes.
The exit was long and tedious as expected, but surprisingly uncomplicated. Or as another friend put it recently "I never thought I'd exit via Willowbrook and think 'oh, that was pretty straightforward and efficient.'" Our stats for the day ended at approximately:
Vertical Gain: 3900'
Vertical Descent: 4700'
Round Trip Time: 7.5 hours
Great day out in the hills!
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