| Shralpin' Lost Cities on Atlantic
The broad East Face of Atlantic Peak rises above McCullough Gulch. We climbed and descended the inset couloir looker’s right of center.
Good morning 14ers.com!
I am writing to you from a soggy Summit County. That’s right, water vapor actually condensed and fell from the heaven’s last night – and for a few hours at that! The extended forecast is full of chances of precipitation; awesome news for backcountry enthusiasts and firefighters alike IF the storms track as predicted.
Yesterday, Justin Ibarra and myself were able to summit and snowboard the “Atlantis” Couloir on Atlantic Peak, a Centennial Thirteener located in the southern reaches of the TenMile Range. Unlike its well traveled neighbors, Atlantic Peak shows no distinguishing characteristics from any roadside viewpoint. However, with a little sweet talking, we were able to get this shy peak to reveal the of aesthetic and exciting terrain on its East Face.
The road to the McCullough Gulch TH is passable with a moderate-clearance vehicle to within 3/4 of a mile of the Summer Gate. Despite having a well-traveled jeep-road to follow for the first two miles of our tour, Justin and I completely wiffed on the obvious, missing a fork in the road within 1oo yards of the car. Consequentially, we spent the first hour of our day bushwacking through thick aspen groves, up creek beds, across bouldery headwalls, and through punchy snow.
We are awesome.
An excited Justin grins upon making it back to the road. It’s the simple things, really.
Upon emerging from the interesting depths of lower McCullough Gulch, we found ourselves at an old though maintained property.
Standard Protocol for Spring Backcountry 2012 – covering bare ground with loaded packs.
After digesting an unscheduled dose of humility, Justin and I continued along the well-established Pacific Peak trail, countouring slowly upward through patchy snow and frequent downfall. The steep North Face of Quandary Peak kept our direction true and minds fixed – so many options for the interested mountaineer!
Upon breaking through the benchy terrain and blasting our way past treeline, we encountered continuous snow! We were able to skin the remainder of the approach from 11,800 feet at the shores of a phallic lake (check the topographic map if you don’t believe me).
Justin excited to get some weight off his pack and put his technicolor dreamboard to work.
The gentle approach to Atlantic took us through spectacular country.
Jagged ridgelines and sharp couloirs characterize Fletcher Mountain’s eastern profile. Last week, I descended the inset line looker’s left of the summit.
Just after 11am, three hours after leaving our trucks, we arrived at the base of “Atlantis.” Unfortunately, a couple of cute cottony clouds were quickly changing into clusters of cold cumulonimbi. In other words, the sky looked super threatening – thunderstorms were developing. Rather than force a bad position in the couloir, we chose to relax for an hour and feel out the weather. During this uncertain and ominous break, we witnessed party after party of eager hikers reach the summit of Quandary Peak – willing lightning rods for the Gods. Not that our position was the best possible given the potential storm, but Darwin would be pleased by the individuals choosing to stand as the tallest object in a 20 mile radius…
The primal and powerful spirit of the backcountry.
Soon enough the atmosphere provided a suitable sky for climbing. We traveled onward and upward through the slowly turning and steepening chute. Beautiful striated rock walls and soft snow guided our passage to the top of “Atlantis.”
Looking down from a lofty perch atop the chute. The snow fin to the right capped a massive rock tower that grew from the basin beneath.
Justin tops out of “Atlantis” – 1200 vert of front pointing. BAM!
We covered the remaining ground to Atlantic’s rolling snow-capped summit and relaxed for a bit; taking in the majesty.
Buddah-ING the summit cairn.
Hey, proof that I exist!
Well, the time had come to do what we do best – manipulate gravity in the greatest of ways! The uncertainty that comes with strapping in atop a committing line produces a set of strong emotions. On one hand, the snowboarder in me wants to rip the piss out of a slope – Travis Rice it, per say. Then, there is this whole conditioned “adult” component that sets in (yeah, I have one of those somewhere down deep), tempering delusions of grandeur with a focused reality check. Yin and Yang, I suppose.
We warmed up our fatigued legs with some playful turns down the soft summit slope. The textured snow produced interesting vibrations and unique sounds, though did little to impede fluid riding. Justin stopped above and right of the entrance to Atlantis, giving me the gift of first tracks down the upper pitch. As I rolled into the couloir my mind went overwhelmingly blank; superprocessing its way into a focused detachment.
I stopped beneath a dividing rock band in the chute and called up to Justin. He hollered back and dropped in, making his mark. Watching a new-partner flow down a line is a thrill. Every rider has a preferred turn, a different set of movements and mastery of riding; a unique eye for the line. Justin is no different, seeking out the steep, blasting across the fall line, and moving with a relaxed power down the hill.
Ice axes and GoPro’s, required tools for the 21st century backcountry enthusiast. Warming it up atop Atlantic Peak.
Justin arcing beautiful turns through the steep upper stretch of the line…
And showing the classic form that has enabled many successful descents.
In no time at all, Justin blasted his way out the bottom of the apron, howling! I took a deep breath and followed suit, slashing surfy turns down the sun-softened snow. High-fives and smiles were exchanged as we gathered our gear and prepared for our exit down the valley.
Thanks for following the journey – hope to see you all soon.
Sharing mountain adventures with this community is a real privilege, so thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this report, and desire to enable our community to help change the lives of Children with Burn Injuries, please visit the Peaks for Peace Website and consider making a donation to a powerful cause!
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