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Peak(s):  Mt. Arkansas  -  13,804 feet
Date Posted:  05/27/2016
Modified:  05/30/2024
Date Climbed:   05/25/2016
Author:  BillMiddlebrook
Additional Members:   SolarAlex
 Ark Northeast (Moonshine) Couloir   

The NE Couloir on Arkansas has been on my ski list for a loooong time but I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I've never skied this line, even though it's in my home zone. Either I would run out of time in the Spring ski season or the couloir would not have continuous snow from the summit. Well, this year I made a point to put it at the top of the spreadsheet. So, when the recent storm snow settled down, I did a bit of research and found out it was in from the summit. Instead of climbing the couloir, we decided to climb the standard, north ridge which is a fairly simply hike. The couloir, however, is a steep snow climb and exceeds 50 degrees in angle at the top. If you decide to climb and/or ski it, be aware that it's a no-fall zone at the top and a fall could be your last. It's as simple as that. If you've skied Dead Dog Couloir on Torreys Peak, this couloir is much more difficult. Dead Dog has about a D12 rating on Dawson's "D System" and I would say this line is D15.

Ratings are a bit subjective but here's a list for further comparison:
D19: Pyramid Peak - Landry Line
D15: Mt. Arkansas - Northeast Couloir
D13: Little Bear Peak - Hourglass
D13: Challenger Point - Kirk Couloir
D12: Grays Peak - Lost Rat Couloir
D12: Mt. Evans - North Face Steep (looker-left)
D12: Kit Carson Peak - Outward Bound Couloir
D12: Torreys Peak - Dead Dog Couloir
D11: Torreys Peak - Emperor Couloir
D11: Blanca Peak - Northwest Face
D11: Mt. of the Holy Cross - Cross Couloir
D11: Quandary Peak - North Gully aka Quandary Couloir
D8/9: Quandary Peak - South Gully aka Cristo Couloir
D8: Mt. Evans - North Face Moderate (looker-right)
D8: Missouri Mountain - North Face Couloirs
D6: Mt. Elbert - Box Creek Couloirs
D5: Mt. Lindsey - North Couloir

Pick your day carefully.

Stats:
Starting Point: Fremont Pass South (Climax Mine)
Elevation gain: 2,750 feet
RT distance: ~5.7 miles
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Arkansas' Northeast Couloir



Map (Yellow=hike, Red=ski)


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Ascent of the North Ridge


Click here for the (summer) route description on 14ers.com

We skinned from the truck to the base of the ridge before booting up hard snow to reach the ridge crest.
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Starting up the standard, North Ridge route

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Finally, we get some warmth.

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(Photo by Alex)

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Alex getting closer to the ridge crest and the heat

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On the narrowing ridge with a splendid view of the northern Sawatch. (Photo by Alex)

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Alex on the ridge

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There was a good boot pack along the summit ridge. This is not the summit!


Just before the crux of the ridge, we dropped to the right and followed a solid bootpack around the difficulties before regaining the ridge.
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On the ridge with summit in view. We dropped to the right to bypass the next crux of the ridge, seen on the right.

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Looking at the final summit pitch, with the NE couloir down the left. It's continous snow!

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On the summit



Skiing the Northeast ("Moonshine") Couloir


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Down we go!


As seen in the following photo, previous skiers had side-slipped the steep pitch which made for a slick, firm entry into the couloir. It was no problem on skis but it made the entry much more difficult for snowboarding.
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After I skied into the top, I made a quick turn under the cornice so I could get shots of Alex in the entry

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Under the cornice, looking down the couloir. Korn!


The strong sun and lack of wind in the couloir made the center and skier-left side like butter.
Alex riding the couloir...
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Nice

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Yup, still steep. Probably around 45-47 degrees in this section.

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Less steep


My turn! Big powder days aside, steep lines like this are my favorite type of skiing. I enjoy the thrill of a no-fall line where I have to ski it like a mountaineer. Commence jump-turning...
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(Photo by Alex)

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(Photo by Alex)

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(Photo by Alex)

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(Photo by Alex)

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(Photo by Alex)

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(Photo by Alex)

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Exiting the couloir

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Near 12,700', looking back on the exit


As you can see in the photos, there was a small runnel in the center of the couloir, but it was no problem turning on or over it.

After taking a bunch of pics, we traversed along the north side of the basin before dropping north and exiting northwest to the highway.
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Looking back on the exit, with 14er Mt. Democrat in view

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37


Comments or Questions
SchralpTheGnar
User
sickness
5/27/2016 9:13am
Love that line, never skied it, but there's a cool picture of it in Fritz's book. Put it on the list of things that I might do at some point. Nice pics Bill!


mtnfiend
User
Nice!
5/27/2016 9:25am
Way to get it in fat conditions! Glad to see the choke does fill in on the right year. Well done!


lodgling
User
Patience
5/27/2016 9:38am
Looks like you got it in great conditions. Congrats!


Krullin_14ers
User
Enjoyed
5/27/2016 9:44am
All the great pics!


Monster5
User
Nice!
5/27/2016 10:17am
Cool ski.


SnowAlien
User
Awesomeness
5/30/2016 3:38pm
Great line! Congrats Bill, and thanks for ratings comparisons as well.

p.s. Given this beta, we skied Moonshine today on Memorial Day. Great, steep line indeed, but wished snow conditions were better. Lots of avy debris and the runnel in the middle. Entrance actually wasn't as bad as expected. Will try to hit it earlier in the season in powder conditions next time. Definitely a worthy objective, and the access cannot be easier. Cornice is still there, as big as ever!


SolarAlex
User
Great day !
5/27/2016 11:37am
Thanks for another awesome day in the hills Bill...good write up too. My 2 cents on the line: I would say that the 30 feet from the summit to the top of the couloir was significantly scarier than any other line ive ridden. Its steep, off camber and as Bill said, absolutely no fall terrain. Once in the couloir, it was great steep turns. Pretty surreal being under that bus sized cornice too! Mayuary continues!


XC Snowboarder
User
Fat
5/27/2016 10:51pm
Bill, Glad you guys skied/rode it safely in great conditions! What's next?



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