Support 14ers.com
Buying gear? Please use these links to help 14ers.com:

More info...

Other ways to help...
 Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
 Post Date:  05/04/2009 Modified: 11/25/2009
 Date Climbed:   05/02/2009
 Posted By:  doumall

 Culebra North Face Ski: An Excellent Adventure   

Ski Descent of Culebra Peak's North Face:
A First Descent?

Crew: Jarrett Luttrell, Fritz Sperry, Derek Dreschsel, Caleb Wray, Joe Brannan

Climb of Snake (West) Ridge
Ski Descent of North Face, Direct
Deproach using Carneros Creek Drainage to Four Way


Into the Unknown:

Photo: Caleb Wray

Setting up a ski of Culebra is a crux to skiing the 14ers. I missed my chance to join a strong crew last year due to a broken leg. A big part of me is now happy I had to wait till this year. For a split second I considered poaching it, but it wouldn't be right to slight the climbing community like that. Risking future access to others would be incredibly selfish.

To do it legally, you have to set up a date with Bobby Hill and pay out the nose for it, a task now completed each of the last three snow seasons. He likes to have a group of at least five to make it worth his time, a cool grand in his pocket. I went hunting for like minded mountain people to join me. I lucked out and found four guys who were a blast to spend a unique day in the mountains with.

We met Carlos at the North Gate, drove to the North Headquarters, paid the fee and turned in the waivers, then drove a short distance up the road to the snow. Our day started around 7:15. I immediately felt like the fee was worth it. The ranch has a special feeling to it. Animals are everywhere. We spotted some fresh-from-the-den bear tracks.

Bear Been Here:

Photo: Joe Brannan

The road is mellow to Four Way.

Four Way:

Photo: Joe Brannan

We all chatted, maintaining a leisurely pace, catching up like old buddies.

I tell you what!

Photo: Caleb Wray

The skin up the West Bowl started out real grippy and easy. By the time we reached the top, skins were frozen over, falling off and the weather had moved in.

This is May:

Photo: Caleb Wray

Derek turned to me and said "It's the Ghost of Taylor, he doesn't want us to ski his mountain!" Don't say that, I'm scared…


Photo: Caleb Wray

That kept going through my head the rest of the day as winds blew heavy wet drifts of snow into my face. We opted to contour South around the high ridge with the large cairn and meet the saddle with a traversing skin. A bit of booting was required to get to the ridge, though not much.

Gaining the Namesake Snake Ridge:

Photo: Jarrett Luttrell

Caleb, Jarrett and I battled the wind to the false summit, which we thought was the real summit.

Balance Good:

Photo: Caleb Wray

Jarrett Demonstrating Refined Split Board Skills:

Photo: Joe Brannan

All of our altimeters were showing well over 14k, a low pressure duke. After digging in…

Give Me Shelter:

Photo: Caleb Wray

..building some rime beards…

Jarrett:

Photo: Joe Brannan

… and trying to stay warm, Fritz showed up. We realized Derek was ahead of Fritz, and therefore must not have seen us when he passed by. Caleb and I took off at a quick pace into the pea soup following his footsteps. We hoped to catch him fast and reel him in. After a while, we hit a significant elevation increase along the ridge and realized we had stopped short. On the real summit we found Derek wondering where the heck we had gone off too. Eventually we all made it to the top.

Fritz on the Way Up:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Culebra Summit, a Chilled Bunch:

Photo: Caleb Wray

Passing by the entrance to the line 50 feet west of the summit, we all had the same thought. That looks pretty burly, but good! It was steep, thin and looked continuous to the edge of visibility. Let go for it!

Caleb:

Photo: Caleb Wray

Derek's 41st 14er Descent:

Photo: Caleb Wray

A first descent this may be, or maybe not. One thing is for sure, we had as much information about the line as any first descent would be expected to have, maybe less. The lower line is hidden from view unless you make a serious recon trip. We didn't know if it went through or not. Could a impassable cliff be waiting?

The first few turns sent the top 3-4" of powder down the rocks. The new snow was wind affected and slabby, underneath was frozen wind board.

Unknown Below:

Photo: Caleb Wray

I followed the continuous snow to skiers right and then down a narrow slot to the gully below. Caleb following suit:

Caleb's First Turn on The Route:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Through the slot:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Jarrett took the 'Easy Rider Direct' route and side hucked from the upper snowfield over some rocks. More evidence this dude gets it done with style. I stood there looking at him, waiting for him to rip it into the blinding snow. "This is your trip Joe, go ahead!" he said. I couldn't resist that and made some fun turns into the more open terrain. The group slowly made way down the route in vertigo visibility.

Jarrett:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Caleb:

Photo: Jarrett Luttrell

Joe:

Photo: Jarrett Luttrell

Derek Making Those Smooth Derek Turns:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Eventually, after maybe 800 vertical, we came to what was clearly the squeeze of the route. Jarrett said it looked doable and went after it.

The crux:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Jarrett dry tooling to more turns:

Photo: Joe Brannan

We probably should have rapped this. We had brought two rando 30 meters, some slings and harness for this exact reason. The storm swayed our decision; we didn't want to stand around in the wind. By this time we were all pretty wet and motivated to keep moving.

Derek and Caleb, beginning the down climb:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Loose rock and ice abound, we carefully inched down this.

Derek on a traverse:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Back in a tight slot, we made a few more turns to the top of another difficulty.

Getting the Sticks Back on Feels Good:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Some of us kept the sticks on, others down climbed.

Derek down climbing the last difficulty:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Me implementing the side huck!

Photo: Jarrett Luttrell

Jarrett in the White Room, in a White World:

Photo: Joe Brannan

After some fun meadow skipping, we entered another choke with some technical skiing and then emptied out into the upper basin. Not wanting to climb back up to the ridge due to the storm, we opted to ski down Carneros Creek drainage. Before long we found our favorite snow, trap door collapsing isotherm. The skin out was humorous. I think I was the only one lucky enough not to go ass over ears off the skin track. Once we hit the logging roads…

Warning, Labyrinth:

Photo: Joe Brannan

…it was just a sticky skin back to Four Way.

Walking with bricks under foot:

Photo: Joe Brannan

Dirt Don't Hurt:

Photo: Joe Brannan

This sure was one of the most memorable days out there. Thanks to a great crew. You dudes rock! Whether or not some silent bad mother did this decades ago or not, it felt so good to do something with so much adventure involved. I wish there was a place with more gnarly skiable unknowns within a daytrip distance. Those of the pioneering days were blessed.

Route: approx 12 miles, 4200 vert

Complements of Fritz Sperry, makingturns.com

Face:

Complements of Fritz Sperry, makingturns.com

 


  • Comments or Questions (13)
drex27

Spot on...     2011-02-04 17:22:15
Joe awesome repot as always. You captured the day exactly as it happened. Don‘t forget another classic quote made early in the day: ”Its nice to do an easy 14er”. How things would change a short while later. As much as the weather and that slog out sucked, the group‘s enthusiasm and motivation was awesome. Can‘t wait to get out again with all you guys!


Jcwhite


Alpine boots     2009-05-04 18:10:24
Derek, I bet you had fun doing the downclimbs in those burly alpine boots! Congrats guys, this looks like a good trip.


sgladbach


Do you think.......     2009-05-04 18:13:54
that route could be done in inclement weather?

Good job!

Steve


skiwall


Way to go!     2009-05-04 18:46:59
Awesome trip report, and AWESOME trip! Way to go, guys!


RoanMtnMan


Nicely written.     2010-11-30 10:28:46
Expressed the day perfectly. Excellent work on the TR Joe. Another quote "come on mother nature, BRING IT!", sorry about that one fellas. Rookie move. And the EasyRider can ski, yes ski, on split boards better than most can on alpine gear.


killingcokes


Me like     2009-05-04 19:48:53
I like your take on it. That ”easy day” thing you said going up to the ridge was running through my head the whole day.

Cant wait for Thursday


Easy Rider


Looks Great!     2009-05-05 00:17:44
I would love to see that place sometime!


Chicago Transplant


Another one down     2009-05-05 07:51:46
Way to go Joe and Company, heck of a descent in some pretty burly conditions. Just think for 200 you could have bought a season pass to some east coast ice bucket in the Appalachians. This was was money way better spent


killingcokes


Money     2009-05-05 11:27:29
What gets me is how depressed that area seemed. Chama is a good example. I can see why the ranch charges for access. It may not be in the kind earthy spirit of the mountains, but it is in the spirit of survival. It just seems like a hard place to make it.


jesse


Wow     2009-05-05 11:42:19
you guys are Badasses great job fighting the cold and snow to accomplish something great!


hippitahoppita


that looked     2009-05-06 12:22:42
somewhat miserable but you guy‘s got it done in some crap conditions. Congrats to all of you sking down a 14er in vertigo madness.


DebbiesMOM

Crazy     2009-05-06 16:45:23
You guys can‘t get any crazier I don‘t think but I still enjoy reading the reports and seeing those scary pictures. I sure envy you your youth at this point! Wow! I mean you are doing that and I practically passed out at the top of Pike‘s Peak! You guys are awesome!


benners


Sweet Stuff...     2009-05-08 20:48:12
way to get creative with a huge turd of a peak. Great writeup too Joe, as usual...go get those last few! Wait, I‘m sure you probably are out getting them as I write this, looking forward to your finish man!



   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here


Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2014 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.