| OB Couloir - Climb and Ski
Pulled up to the Willow Creek trailhead at 8pm, sorted the gear, had a beer, set the alarm for 1am, and dozed off inside the car. Around midnight I heard someone outside screaming "Open the door!!" I pulled the sleeping bag over my face hoping the person would just go away. The scream came again "Open the damn door!" Slowly, I lifted my head and looked around but didn't see anyone. The headlamp shining outside just showed my reflection back at me. There was no one outside, it was a dream. Since it was 12:15 now and there was no way I was going back to sleep, I decided to just get dressed at hit the trail. By 12:45 am, I began the long approach up Willow Lake area.
Earlier that week, I had made some plans to try to ski Kit Carson with Bill Middlebrook of 14ers.com fame and bergsteigen of similar 14ers.com fame. While they had planned on doing the approach to the lake on Thursday, due to the vagaries that are my life circumstances I found myself relegated to doing a day trip, so we agreed that a 5am high camp meeting would work just fine.
Slowly I made my way up the long approach in the darkness, around 4:45am I arrived at the high camp. After making the introductions, I relaxed while the crew assembled the gear in the early morning light. By 5:30 we were heading up the trail, after rounding Willow Lake we got our first good views of the day.
Early morning light on Challenger and the Kirk Couloir.
Bill and bergsteigen skinning in the dawn's early light.
By 7:30am we were a the base of the OB Couloir and the bootpacking commenced, we took turns booting but bergsteigen did the majority of the work and for that I was extremely grateful.
Rich blue skies overhead and cold snow under my feet.
Continuing up the OB Couloir, the familiar view following bergsteigen
The bootpack up the couloir took a little longer than expected due to somewhat challenging conditions, nevertheless we crested the top around 9:30am. From the top of the notch you just want to drop down a little bit and contour around till the south face of KC comes into view. Here's Bill negotiating the most technical part of the climb, making it look easy.
Once the south face comes in view just follow an obvious gully till it reaches the ridge. While climbing be sure to enjoy the amazing views, such as this one as Crestone Peak, the magnitude of the landscape dwarfing Bill in the gully below.
We made it to the summit just before 11am, here's the official summit shot for the record.
Bill on the summit ridge, glancing pensively towards westward skies.
We were able to ski right off the summit, down the ridge with a little billygoating. After the slopes below the summit we traversed back over to the notch just piecing together patches of snow.
Once at the saddle we took turns making turns down the OB couloir, the snow was plentiful albeit a tad firm. Bill made it look easy with great style.
bergsteigen scouts the line.
Then she drops it.
Bill with classic form in classic surroundings.
After the couloir ended we wound our way down the basin, past the cliffs and back to the high camp around 2pm, where I pumped some water by the lower Willow Lake waterfall.
After a short break I bid farewell to Bill and bergsteigen as I was eager to get the hike out over with. I made it back to the car by 4:30pm, just shy of a 16 hour day. All told it was around 14 miles and 5,300 feet of elevation gain and I felt all of it arriving back at the car. Huge thanks to Bill and bergsteigen for making the day that much more enjoyable, both are great climbers and skiers, as well as polite, thoughtful and punctual. Hopefully we can do that again soon.