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 Peak(s):  Fletcher Mtn  -  13,951 feet
 Post Date:  06/09/2012
 Date Climbed:   06/08/2012
 Posted By:  jmc5040
 Additional Members:   mitrik

 Fletcher Mountain Ski Descent    

Mitrik and I started off at the Blue Lakes Trailhead at 06:30 under beautiful calm skies. The route we choose follows the Quandary West Ridge trail up to the saddle then northeast to Fletcher Mountain. This route is not as defined as some of the other routes on Quandary, and with snow still on the ground in places up the route it’s easy to not stay on the actual trail in places. However, the saddle between Fletcher and Quandary is in sight for a lot of the hike so it’s easy to keep in the correct direction. We first got off trail early in the hike and battled talus for a while before we hooked back up with the trail. The route up to the saddle was very interesting with multiple small streams and pools of water. The water pools mostly all had an ice layer on the top, which was a sign in the right direction that there was at least somewhat of a snowpack freeze the prior night. This section of the hike was very scenic with easy trail finding. As we ascended higher up the valley we encountered our first snowfield which was approximately 175 yards long with a steeper grade towards the top half. The snow was still hard and holding footing was difficult, but I did not see it necessary to put crampons on for this section. Careful foot placement in mitrik’s boot track and a lot of pulling with my trekking poles got me up this slope. The next section of the trail consisted of various sized boulders and at this point I was shooting to get back on snow as soon as possible. It wasn’t long before we hit the next larger snowfield which went up the steeper section before hitting the alpine meadow southwest of the saddle. This snowfield was starting to soften up under direct sunlight which made for better footing than the previous snowfield. Upon reaching the saddle we traversed northeast to the ridge to get our first view of the upper area of McCullough Gulch which we would be eventually descending into. Along the ridge to the top of Fletcher we took in views to better hone in on our exit route options back up to the Quandary – Fletcher saddle. We eventually set sights on the switchbacks headed up the northeast slopes.

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Blue Lakes TH

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Lower meadow

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First snowfield

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Above the first snowfield

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Boulder field and upper snowfield

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Back towards the valley

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On the saddle

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Fletcher Mountain


The one large concern that I had with our chosen ascent route was our potential inability to see our ski line in its entirety prior to dropping into the couloir. The concern was quickly diminished as the rock bands that surround the couloir’s entrance offered excellent views of the couloir in its entirety and the route down to the frozen lake.

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Lower couloir section

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The couloir

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Couloir right entrance

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Couloir left entrance (our line)

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Mitrik and Quandary at couloir's top


At this point we dropped our gear and hiked the short 100 feet to the summit. The summit offered excellent views of the Elks and a snow covered Democrat north face which looked awfully tempting to ski. As it was now 10:30 and getting to the point where we wanted to ski our line before the snow softened up too much we headed back to our gear.

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Elks

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Democrat

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McCullough Gulch


At the couloir once again, mitrik and I discussed safe points and strategy as I prepped my gear and he set up his tripod. There are currently two entrances into the couloir, a left and right entrance. We opted for the left entrance due to the more direct line that it provided. The couloir’s entrance is steep, probably over 60 degrees, and the first few turns had to be pre planned before dropping in due to the width of the couloir between rock walls. The average width of the couloir is probably somewhere around 10 feet before it opens up at the bottom before hitting the snowfields. The snow in the couloir was excellent. It had softened up a nice amount, but not too much such that excess sliding was occurring. The primary slide activity resulted from the sharp turns we threw to keep our speed in check down the approximate 40 degree slope (and steeper at spots). I skied down to the designated safe spot and waited there for mitrik to ski the line (Fletcher Mountain Couloir Ski Descent Part 1). Mitrik skied down to my position then continued to a rock outcropping in the lower snowfields to capture more video. I then proceeded to ski down to the frozen lake. The snow in the snowfield was choppier with small runnels, but still made for excellent skiing (Fletcher Mountain Couloir Ski Descent Part 2).



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Skiing the couloir

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Skiing the couloir

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Skiing the couloir

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Mitrik in the Couloir

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Lower couloir

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Fletcher Mountain

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The descent route


We then hiked around a small ridge to gain access to the switchbacks that ascend to the saddle. We spent a fair amount of time high up the northeast slope rock field enjoying the still excellent weather and eating some food. Upon reaching the saddle we traversed west to hook up with the upper snowfield that we had climbed earlier. The traverse across the ridge consisted of some scrambling and minor down climbing in spots. In a short amount of time we reached the upper snowfield and put our skis back on to descend back down. We skied the first snowfield, walked about 200 yards, and then reached the lower snowfield. Both snowfields offered excellent bonus skiing on surprisingly good conditions given the time of the day (15:30). The short hike back to the car was just as beautiful as it was in the morning with sunny skies and an increasingly warm breeze. We made it back to the car by 16:00 as the winds started to pick up and some more clouds started building. This was an excellent day of hiking and skiing in the Tenmile Range.

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Fletcher from Quandary northeast slope

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Traverse across the ridge

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Mitrik skiing the upper snowfield

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Mitrik skiing the upper snowfield

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Skiing the lower snowfield

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Upper and lower snowfields

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Old structure in valley



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
clemsonmtneer


Awesome     2012-06-11 07:42:06
Sweet looking line, nice work!


livetothemax96


wow     2012-06-11 18:45:02
you, my good sir, are a beast snowboarder, you opened that line up pretty well. Nice job making me feel bad about myself just kidding nice report and nice descent!



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