Peak(s):  Fluted Pk  -  13,554 feet
Little Horn Pk  -  13,143 feet
Post Date:  05/11/2012
Modified:  05/12/2012
Date Climbed:   05/10/2012
Posted By:  Furthermore

 The Skin Flute Couloir    

Fluted Peak 13,554
Little Horn Peak 13,143

May 10, 2012
~9.9 Miles, 5,300 Gain
Trailhead: Horn Creek trailhead.
Route: FA of The Skin Flute Couloir AI3 or M2/5.5-6


Driving from Medano Pass didn't take very long and we arrived at the Horn Creek trailhead around 4:00 PM. Shortly after my arrival, my partner Justin arrived from Denver. We set up camp, sorted gear and hung out until we went to bed.

It could have been worse but the alarm went off at 4:15 AM and we were hiking up the Horn Creek Trail around 4:45 AM. We quickly intercepted the Rainbow Trail and headed north until the Dry Lakes Trail junction. I was surprised at how rocky the start of the Dry Lakes trail as we headed upward. The uphill was relentless but a trail to follow was a novelty. Unfortunately, the trail came to an end around ~11,000 feet. If anyone was wondering where the snow was, it was located in this valley.

Almost immediately, large snow drifts blocked easy progress up the trail. The snow wasn't consolidated and was rather slushy. After a few ass deep steps, we decided to climb up steep slopes on the north side of the valley to avoid the deep snow. As we traversed west on the north side, we endured plenty of side hilling, talus and an occasional step up to the crotch snow. So much for our planned 2 hour approach.

When we were done being tortured by our side-hill trek up the valley around ~11,800, the lush environment of willows took over for the rest of our approach. I have certainly endured worse willows and I would rate this willow bushwhack as a Class 2 willow whack.

Little Horn from our approach towards Dry Lakes.

We arrived at the base of our climb much later than we anticipated but the snow appeared to still be in good shape. In theory, if our nice trail was in condition, the approach would have only taken us 2 hours not 3.5 hours. From the base, we could see several areas that could pose as possible cruxes. We decided to rope up from the bottom and just simul-climb until a belay was needed. The snow climbing began around 8:30 AM.

East face of Fluted Peak.

Justin approaching our climb.

A zoom of our climb.

The first portion of the climb went fairly fast and I quickly encountered our first cliff band crux. A direct climb of the ice was not an option as the ice was completely sun rotted. I found an M2 weakness on the left side of the cliff band and was able to get a large nut in a crack for protection. Justin would probably argue this was the hardest move of the climb as he complained that I knocked off all the ice making it even harder.

Starting up the couloir. (Photo by Justin)

First mixed portion over the first cliff band. (Photo by Justin)

Within another 100 feet of our first cliff band was our second crux. Again, I climbed out on the left side of the cliff band. It was a committing class 4 move which I protected with a small nut. Simuling upward after the second cliff band, we finally hit what I thought was the crux of the climb. The climb would have been so much better if we could have climbed the short 30-40 foot AI3 section but the ice was completely rotten.

Approaching the AI3 section/chimney. (Photo by Justin)

An alternative to the alpine ice section was a dirty 120 foot M2/5.5-6 chimney. Justin set up a belay for me at the base of the chimney and I started upwards. I was able to get 1 shorty ice screw placed along with a few cams before I hit the crux chockstone. Climbing out from under the chockstone was scary since my last piece of protection was 15 feet below me. Dry tooling and finding decent feet with crampons on conglomerate boiler plate slabs was something I was not well practiced at. Rock protection was nil, the ice was too rotten under the chockstone for a screw so I placed one of my tools in the ice for protection. It would probably stop a slip but not a big whipper as I wanted something for the committing move out from under the chockstone.

That ice is junk. (Photo by Justin)

Starting up the M2/5.5-6 chimney. The chockstone crux can be seen above me.


Once on top of the chockstone, I encountered some more mixed snow and ice until I was able to reach a ledge. I set up a belay for Justin and he made his way up the chimney. From our perch, we found a grassy ledge which took us back into the main couloir. To our surprise, the snow was in better condition in the upper half than in the lower half of the couloir.

Little Horn from high on our route.

Looking up the upper portion of the climb.

Looking down the route from our traverse back into the main gully.

Justin climbing the upper portion of the couloir.

Continuing upward, we noticed a very large cornice at the top of the main couloir. Exit from the main gully was not going to be an option. Consequently, about 100 feet below the ridge was a hidden spur couloir on our left that allowed us to gain the ridge without any cornice. Near the top of the spur the steepness was around 60 degrees and the snow was poorly consolidated. Fighting deep powder and energy consuming steps I finally reached the top of the ridge.

Nasty cornice in the main couloir.

Left spur exit.

Justin making his way towards the top of the main couloir. (It's not that steep)

Justin working his way up the left spur.

The steep part of the left spur exit.

Justin finishing the snow climb.

At the top, I set up a quick belay for Justin and from our snow climb exit, it was a 5 minute hike to the summit where we arrived at 11:20 AM. What an outstanding way to climb Fluted. We took a break and packed up our climbing gear and started our way towards Little Horn. I was not very excited to have a heavy pack again.

The hidden left spur (top is still hidden). Our steps can be seen.

Looking down the main couloir.

Crestones from the summit of Fluted.

East face of Fluted. Lower section of our climb can be seen.

Zoom of the crux from near the Little Horn-Fluted saddle. AI3 left, M2/5.5-6 chimney right.

Fluted from the west ridge of Little Horn.

Crestones from Little Horn.

Fluted from our descent off of Little Horn.

The traverse to Little Horn was non-eventful and we arrived on the summit at 12:20 PM. I noticed plenty of names from the recent 14ers gathering. The class 3 sections on the east ridge of Little Horn took a little bit of time as the fresh snow from the recent storm made things a bit slick. We made our way downward, fighting a few snow drifts. Once we found a dry path, we cut directly south to the Horn Lakes Trail which took us back to the car where we arrived at 3:00 PM.

Route Topo.

Route Topo.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Nice route/naming     05/11/2012 17:36
Looks like a daunting climb. Way to get creative. Thanks for the TR.


fun     05/11/2012 18:07
Looks like a great time. Thanks for all the pics and great TR!

Boggy B

sweet!     05/11/2012 18:10
Would you say about 1000' for the line proper? Some awesome terrain up there, especially around the spur. Nice work!

Brian C

You're an animal!     05/11/2012 18:48
Dude! You've been rocking it up there lately. I need to stop being so lazy and start getting back out!


Gain     05/11/2012 18:55
Boggy B- It is about 1400 feet of climbing from the base.

Brian- I am always looking for 13er partners.... Perhaps this summer when your free??


Way to play the flute     05/11/2012 18:59
I mean, get the FA on a sweet-looking line! Looks like better ice conditions on those flows would make it a stellar route. Props on being bold and knocking this out, with creative 'routefinding' to boot. Your climbing & mtn. ticks have been off the hook of late--way to go!

I Man

Now that's my idea of fun     06/20/2012 13:38
Well done dude....Looking forward to some awesome adventures this summer. Thanks again for all your help planning this week!


Holy Crap     05/11/2012 19:31
You guys climbed a 133,000 foot peak without bottled oxygen. Damn!

All kidding aside, thats a sweet line. How ”huckable” is that ice section if one decided to ski this?


You Rock.     05/11/2012 20:14


great style     05/11/2012 21:16
Great way to get a summit! I'm surprised Justin let you take all the leads.
Nice one guys!
Cool b&w's too.


Image 16     05/11/2012 21:22
Is so badass its not even funny. Great lookin line!


Image 16     05/11/2012 21:27
Is so badass its not even funny. Great lookin line!


Ski     05/11/2012 22:07
Brian - I think the ones to huck would be the lower cliffs at ~10-15 feet. If one was to mess up the landing on the big one with the ice, one would go over the edge of the other 2 smaller cliffs. It could be done. Probably better with a rap of the big one.

Darin - If the ice was in, you know Justin would have taken the lead; I wouldn't have had a choice.

Kevin Baker

Nice FA!     05/12/2012 02:37
Kudos on the FA, Derek! Too bad the ice wasn't in better shape for you. Scintillating way to climb Fluted!


Excellent     05/12/2012 15:50
I love the black and white views of the crestones.


Great route     05/12/2012 23:21
Yet another climb to add to the to-do list!


FKNA     05/13/2012 18:52
Very impressive!! And an excellent name for the climb.


WHOA!     05/13/2012 22:03
The first time I read this and checked out the pics, my eyes were bugging outta my head. < bigger eye popping than that guy. Finally got 'em back in their sockets, so I can now post.
Excellent pics and TR. Congrats on the climb!
Thanks for writing this up! Love the B & W's of the Crestones.


NICE!     05/16/2012 13:36
wicked job

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