| Return to the Gores
Peak C - Gore Range
Climbers - Myself, Chris and Nate
Route - SW Couloir (mixed)
11 Miles (exactly), 4000 ft elevation gain and Dale's Pale Ale waiting at the car
Chris and I had been goin over some ideas for a quality, close climb this weekend, and after much compromise spanning 4 different ranges, we agreed upon Peak C in the Western Gores. I should've been more excited, especialy since I'd made an attempt at this peak 2 times prior, once in November of 07' where I made it to the "Tarn" Basin but turned back due to it getting late and loose snow and then a second time when I walked around Piney Creek in circles in the pitch black looking for Kiefer and friends to no avail. I had kind of put this peak on the backburner, pretty much writing it off till next late spring/early summer. Chris reminded me how many times I annoyed him over wanting to climb this seldom visited gem, and my memory was refreshed, we were ready to go.
Anyways, since my route finding abilities have never been tip-top, probably a result of 5 documented concussions and a near fatal car accident back in the day, it was nice to have the resourceful ChrisJFerraro and his friend Nate (aka "Big Cat" - this was self proclaimed) along for the ride. I set my alarm for an always appealing 1:30am, once again. We were up so early, we could've hit up last call, but got more amusement dodging drunks throughout the streets with the Nissan. The usual suspects were at the 7-11 as we filled up the tank and got some ice and tied up loose ends and I'm pretty sure 50% of the cars on 6th Ave were all shitcanned. We arrived in one piece at the Piney River Ranch, just outside Vail, around 4am, hitting the trail at 4:30.
The trail, this time, was actually pretty easy to navigate, with light and 3 sets of eyes. I don't recall getting lost once and we made it to an obvious clearing in an hour and a half.
When you reach this view turn left :
This is what you should be looking at as you turn left :
This is obviously a closer view of the waterfall, which is very apparent from the trail turnoff, but it isn't really a turnoff, more a place where you consciously leave a maintained trail and bushwack through mosquito infested s**t for the next couple hours, just a part of climbing in the Gore Range.
When you get to the waterfall, you gain the hill/ridge to the right side and make your way around, up into the so called "Tarn" Basin, which is usually shown with snow cover, but having hit this peak late in the season, it looked more like this :
Soon after weaving our way through teetering boulders and creek crossings, we reached the base of the SW Couloir route on C. The weather report had been consistently showing bad climbing weather all week and projected a 40% chance of T-storms today, but at least in the early morning, there seemed to be no threat of anything worth noting.
This was our view with some crazy looking clouds of the SW Couloir :
It was still kind of filled in, atleast up until the last 50 or 60 feet to the very small saddle. Its a relatively mellow gulley, never getting too steep, I'd agree with Kiefer's reading of around 41 degrees. In fact, Chris and I never put on the points, Nate did though, he felt obligated since he insists on renting some Grivel's week in week out. After a brief argument over the pros and cons of renting vs. owning crampons, we made our way pretty quickly up the gulley.
Nate in the lead
Not only do the Gores feel like an island unto themselves in terms of seclusion and solitude, one look back at Piney Lake gave us a feeling of being cutoff from the rest of the world, it did not feel at all like we were anywhere near one of the gaudiest ski resorts in the world (town, not mountain).
Piney Lake, very far below
The snow came to an abrupt end, about 50-60 ft below the small saddle and we had to slog up the loose scree in a close group.
Nate reaching the scree
As shown in Kiefer's Pk C report from over a month ago, the class 3/4 climbing begins directly from the extremely small saddle linking C to C Prime, which looks like it wanted to eat us, it was a frightening looking site. Here's a shot of Chris and Nate on the initial ascent....
And then a look back down at the saddle, did I mention it was small?
And then a look back at C-Prime, did I mention it was frightening?
The climbing between the top of the saddle (12,950ft) and the summit (13,220ft) is along a cool, somewhat exposed ridgeline. I think the main reason its rated class 4 is due to 2 separate, short tricky downclimbs, which can be easily done with a little bit of care. Other than that, its a pretty quick ridge run to the summit.
Chris and Nate nearing the summit
Once again, there was no summit register, but thats not abnormal for an obscure Gore Range peak, I was just glad and a little relieved to finally stand atop this imposing peak. We spent a good amount of time up there since the clouds weren't doing anything out of the ordinary.
Myself with Powell in the background, what an unappealing traverse from C
Not a beta shot in terms of mountains, but a beta shot on how to set up a camera on a tripod the ChrisJFerraro way for a group shot
After some nuts, banana chips, Red Bulls, Gatorade and Pringles, it was time to descend.
Nate scaling the knife ridge back to the saddle
We had our reservations about descending, most Gore Range peaks are a bitch to just ascend, this one was no different. Although we did get to glissade the entire SW gulley, so we had that goin for us.
The hike out was pretty uneventful, but as we neared the ranch, the trail got more and more crowded. The highlight I guess was Chris and I talking about awkward confrontations with strangers, one of which involved running into someone through a narrow doorway. According to Chris, and I agree, its an assumed "excuse me" from both parties. Apparently the other guy in the story Chris was telling replied "your excused". Another case of people rubbing others the wrong way was displayed on the hike out. As we were making good progress to the car, a lady and her kid got out of the way to let us pass. We said a quick, cordial "thank you", her response was "uh huh". Good times.
Anyways, some hike out shots :
Piney Creek flowing quite well
Piney River Ranch letting Chris know this is where the Wilderness officially begins
And finally, a relaxed view from a dock surrounded by a lot of weird people who frequent that ranch, of our days work
Final notes :
- route finding issues on this mountain aren't as bad as I thought, if you care to climb this ever, just look for the clearing where you see that mountain that looks like a fang, look left for a waterfall, head towards waterfall and then SW couloir
- If you like solitude, climb this peak, its a cool feeling
- people at the ranch are a little off
- For those ever wanting to climb C and Powell together, keep in mind that gaining Kneeknocker Pass is a serious endeavor. You can climb low 5th class terrain straight from the summit or descend the way you came, and traverse all the way across to the saddle. Powell looks a lot tougher than it really is by the way.
- Ripsaw Ridge looks somewhat straightfoward from the summit of C, but its probably not. Nevertheless, there is a gulley below C-Prime, about 1/3 the way down the SW Couloir where you can bypass C-Prime and get over to PeaK D quite easily. From there, E,F and G would be a long day, you would need really good weatherto say the least. Looks like a lot of fun regardless.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):