Peak(s):  Eureka Mtn A  -  13,507 feet
Hermit Pk A  -  13,350 feet
Rito Alto Pk  -  13,794 feet
PT 13,524  -  13,524 feet
Spread Eagle Pk  -  13,423 feet
Post Date:  12/01/2011
Modified:  12/07/2011
Date Climbed:   11/23/2011
Posted By:  Dad Mike

 Eureka! Couloir   

I'm writing this report because I couldn't find any information about this route. It would make a great Sangre snow climb in the spring.

Dani and I climbed Hermit Peak back on October 29th. Once we broke above treeline, I couldn't keep my eyes off Eureka Mtn. It's the first major peak you see and it is awesome. It's big and rugged. It's northeast ridge is endless and seems to continue all the way back to Westcliffe . And the north face is beautiful...steep, rocky, and just begging to be climbed. I noticed a great looking snow line...a dogleg shaped couloir that starts from just above Eureka Lake and tops out just right of the summit. We had hopes of continuing up and over Hermit to Eureka that day, but the wind was too much. We headed back, but I was determined to return as soon as possible.

I drove down to Westcliffe on Tuesday night, stopped at the Silverdome for a pizza, a few cold ones and interesting conversation, and camped at a turnoff on the Hermit Pass Road. I was able to drive to 9500'. This is about 1.7 miles from the left turn junction. The snow is pretty deep after that and I wouldn't expect you would be able to drive any higher until the spring.

Here is a shot of Eureka's endless northeast ridge in the early light on Wednesday morning.

I was blown away by the volume of downed trees I saw...there were thousands of them. A lady at the bar told me they recorded 140mph winds during the storm they had a few weeks ago. I didn't believe it until I saw all the devastation. Thanks to whoever cut and cleared the trees from the bottom of the road.

I really wanted to climb the couloir that I saw back in October. I tried not to get too excited because I know what the snow can be like in the fall. Here is a shot of the route I hoped would go. I saw that I could get right up to it before making a final decision. If the conditions were no good, I could just climb up to the northwest ridge and continue that way.

I needed snowshoes till about 12,000’. This is a shot looking back at Hermit and Rito Alto from the Eureka Lake area.

Here is the beginning of the couloir. It starts up the fatter section to the right, bangs a louie at the y-junction and a ralph behind the rocks. My google search to find a name for it came up empty. Eureka! Couloir is obvious, but still pretty sweet. The only other name I could come up with was Call of the Wild Couloir. (I was listening to a little Jack London on the approach)

The snow turned out to be perfect…steep and firm with just a little give. I didn’t even need crampons. This is looking down from the Y turn.

And this one is looking down at the top section…my tracks are on the left near the rocks and you can see Eureka and Hermit Lakes at the top of the picture.

It’s just a short walk over to Eurka’s summit.

Here’s a look at the route to Hermit, Rito Alto, Pt. 13,524 and Spread Eagle. No real difficulties…just a constant 20-30mph wind from the west.

Rito Alto Summit…you can see Hermit and Eureka off to the left.

South ridge of Spread Eagle. Finally…the last ascent of the day. I thought it would never come. That notch looks harder than it is.

2:30pm on the summit of Spread Eagle Peak.

Now I have to figure out how to get down. I was worried about this all day. Between me and my jeep are 4000’ of elevation, miles of untracked snow, endless amounts of downed trees and 1 large ridge separating the North Taylor Creek and Middle Taylor Creek drainages. Here’s a look at Spread Eagle’s east ridge. It was nice and dry to start with, but once I got to the trees I had to go left back into the snow.

I didn’t take many pictures of the fun that ensued. It involved fun-sucking crusty snow, snowshoe malfunctions, crawling over broken trees, a bent treking pole, and a fun up and down traverse on the Rainbow Trail back to Hermit Pass Road.

I hope you enjoyed my report more than I enjoyed writing it. : )

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Thank you, Thank you     12/02/2011 18:30
That range holds year-round possibilities but I haven't seen much on couloir climbs except around Kit Carson. Thanks for info on a great looking route. I'd probably do a more human option of quitting after Rito Alto, but such is life as a fat guy.


I think you're ready for Ecuador     12/02/2011 20:44
You seem to be ready for your trip!
And that's a nice looking line on Eureka, nice job!
Thanks for sharing Mike...hopefully we can get out soon before you leave for S America.


Bananas     12/04/2011 14:20
Nice job, Mike. I'll have to agree with Floyd on the quitting earlier - I'm pretty sure I would have stopped at Rito and hiked down the road. You're an animal!


Good God, dude...     12/04/2011 17:19
That's gotta be 7000 vert with a steady November wind in your grill. By the looks of it, I'd say that stretch is nice and quiet right now too. Nice and quiet. I like to see images from an area many never visit around this time of year.

And for the record, I'd never egg your house because the chances of you hauling me down are probably 99.999%.


Thanks!     12/06/2011 16:21
Looks like a really fun trip, Mike.

Love that area; the report is helpful.
Great write-up and photos. Thanks!

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