| Y-Couloir - Y? Because We Like It!
Pikes Peak - Via Y Couloir "Direct" Branch
08-09 June 2009
Ryan - "COmedic04"
Aaron (Not on this site)
Pikes Peak's North Face
As has become somewhat of a yearly tradition, when the winter wanes and I start to see the snow melt on the East Face of Pikes Peak, my mind drifts over to that beautiful area known at the North Face, and the Bottomless Pit. This incredible, not-oft explored area of Pikes Peak offers poor suckers in Colorado Springs, like me, a nearby escape to enjoy some exciting mountaineering that is sometimes lacking on the Front Range.
After biding my time, watching the weather, the snow (which has been considerable this spring on Pikes!), and reading trip reports, decided that this would be the best week to go! I had a little bit of trouble tracking down a partner for the climb, since my schedule availability is a little abnormal (Mon/Tues/Wed), but got my buddy Aaron to come along, even though he hasn't done much climbing lately. So after a little pre-planning, we decided to hit the trail Monday afternoon!
As per usual, I was running late...I had worked the night before, and was up all morning, so I inadvertently zonked out for a nap, and didn't pick Aaron up until shortly after we were planning to hit the trail. Anyway, we were relieved to see that Barr Trailhead wasn't too packed, as they're preparing to pave it as part of the ongoing saga of The Athletic Citizens of Colorado Springs vs. The Cog Railroad, so we managed to snag a spot. After a quick picture at the trailhead, we were off shortly before 5pm:
The brave adventurers
We slogged along on the uneventful, but always unpleasant hike up the endless switchbacks and finally got to Barr Camp. Aaron and I dropped our gear at one of the lean-to's and then plodded over to the cabin to enjoy a cup of tea and chat with the caretakers, Neal and Teresa, who are always wonderful for a friendly chat. It was especially nice because we were the only people in camp that night...a rarity in June, but probably because of the amount of snow the Peak had gotten so late in the year. We settled in for the night and enjoyed the extremely comfy mattresses in the lean-to...we felt they were a well-deserved luxury considering the approach for this climb!
Our comfy abode
We woke up bright and early, around 330, and had a quick breakfast and prepared to leave. (We noticed while eating that a Black Widow spider had taken up residence a short distance about our heads while we slept...kinda disturbing...it definitely woke us up!)
We donned our gear and hit the trail, making good time to the Bottomless Pit turn off, and began to enjoy the view of the sun hitting the rock formations along the trail:
The Bottomless Pit
At this point, our trip kinda took a turn for the difficult, although not technically worse. I'd been to the Bottomless Pit before, but wanted to avoid having to hike allllllll the way around the ridge that rises above the Pit (and prevents folks in Colorado Springs from glimpsing it from the city), and instead thought we could just climb up and over it. Well, it was good in theory, but meant we had to deal with some pretty difficult mixed snow/ice/rock scrambling, and hadn't yet put on our crampons.
Although this picture doesn't really show the difficult icy portions, it gives an idea of which direction we headed
Me, in shadow
Our first good look at the Y and the Corinthian Column!
After this slog up the ridge, we found ourselves having to traverse along this ridge for a while, before getting to a position where we could drop into the bowl where the Railroad and Y Couloirs meet.
We glimpsed a couple of other climbers ahead of us, going up the couloir, which gave us a sobering reminder of the climb ahead:
Y-Couloir in all its glory! If you look closely, you can spot two climbers just above the choke of the couloir!
After traversing across the bottom of the Railroad Couloir, and up and over the little ridge between the two, we finally dropped into the runout of the Y, and began the climb!
Preparing for the climb ahead!
Through the choke of the couloir
The obligatory shot of last year's (unsuccessful) suicide attempt...Teresa at Barr was surprised that the snow hadn't swept it down the couloir yet.
We decided to head for the right branches, as I wanted to ascend the "direct" branch, because of its dramatic and steep exit. Well, we definitely got the steep, and at a few places, the snow became really icy, causing us to have to use the pick of our axes instead of the spike.
We got to just below the junction of the direct branch and the right branch and started to get pelted by sliding pebbles and snow, and it realized that there were skiiers coming down the right branch on top of us! We shouted up to them, and they quickly realized we were below, and waited for us to safely pass the junction before continuing their descent. We took the opportunity to take a quick break and watch them take a few turns...and now I realize it was no other than our very own RoanMtnMan and his buddy Chris!! Great ski, guys! Love the pics!
Chris, pausing on the right branch while RoanMtnMan continues downward
After that quick little break, we continued up, into the iciest and steepest portion yet...but also the most picturesque:
Footsteps to heaven? Or just d_baker's from the previous day!
The plowing on the summit and the wind had produced a gnarly little cornice on top, which required some interesting maneuvers to get up and over the top onto the summit block:
Aaron, about to top out!
(Upon our return to Barr later that day, we learned from Teresa that the snow plow drivers sometimes have the bad habit of just pushing the snow from the parking lot off, and down the Couloir!! Glad we didn't have the misfortune of finding that out firsthand!!)
We both emerged, thrilled, tired, and ready for a break...but not before getting mobbed by tourists wanting to take our picture! We managed to get a nice woman from Texas to snap one for us, though!
We fought the crowds to find a seat in the summit house to rest for a little bit, and were bummed to find out that the donut fryer was out of order! So we were relegated to eating PowerBars instead. We chatted briefly with a few hikers who had come up Barr Trail, and they advised that the Golden Stairs were hellaciously snow-packed, and that they had problems ascending them. That was ok, because I had other plans!
After a nice, long break up top, we decided to walk down towards the East Face "Barr Couloir" and see how the snow conditions looked for a little glissade action, as mentioned by Kevin Baker in his TR from earlier this year! (This was mostly to keep ourselves from succumbing to the temptation of accepting a ride down with a tourist or from the Cog train! ) After crossing the Cog tracks and descending the ridge just a touch, we decided to glissage from there! Unfortunately, i didn't catch any pictures of this, but the snow was such on the face, that we literally got approx a 2000-2500' ft glissade down the face, and didn't stop until almost to the "A-Frame" treeline shelter! We felt refreshed and exhilirated from our fun glissade and the fact that we had skipped a LOT of needless slogging through the snow.
After removing our snow gear, we packed everything up and hit the trail. We made relatively good time to Barr Camp, and spent a few chatting with Teresa, then grabbed our overnight gear and mentally prepared ourselves for the long hike out! We made relatively good time getting back to the trailhead, but were both completely exhausted. We headed to Adam's Mountain Cafe' in Manitou for some dinner and to chat about our great trip! Think I'm going to continue this yearly tradition and hit this climb up around the same time next year! It was a wonderful trip up and other than the painful slog, I really enjoyed exploring this little-known oasis that Pikes Peak has to offer!