Peak(s):  Red Pk B  -  13,189 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2016
Date Climbed:   09/15/2016
Author:  SolarAlex
 Shades of Red   

Living in summit county, Red Peak B looms large. Along with Buffalo Mountain, its visible from just about anywhere in the county. Red Peak is a massive mountain, with several sub-summits and one of the gnarlier ridge lines in the area in the Red Diamond Ridge. There are also a variety of ski lines, ranging from wide open bowls to steep, tight couloirs. When I first moved to Breckenridge 2 years ago, I came up with a fun project to summit the peaks that I can see from my house. It was a fairly simple list, which included Buffalo, Baldy, Guyot, Peak 1, Red Mtn C, Red Peak A, Hoosier Ridge and Red Peak B. At the start of the year, I only had Red Peak B remaining and made it one of my main goals to get to the top of it this year. As of the 10th of September, I have completed my project with a ski of big eyes in may, and a hike to the true summit in september, and managed to see 2 different sides of the mountain in 2 different seasons.

East East Red - What Big Eyes You Have Couloir
May 11, 2016
Frank Bowman, Matt Coye and myself

photo by Justin Ibarra

I debated about including this in my report, but since this line is pretty well documented on the web and included in at least one guidebook, I figured theres not much to give away at this point. Big Eyes is one of the crown jewels of summit county...Steep, deeply inset and long; its the kind of line that anyone who skis would salivate over. I can remember the first time I saw it, when a friend of mine showed me some photos of one of his friends skiing it. I was utterly blown away by how deeply inset it was, and by the color of the rock. At the time, my backcountry game was pretty weak, and it seemed like a lofty goal but nonetheless I put it at the top of my wishlist. I spent 2 seasons learning about snow safety and avalanche assessment, and improving my touring and riding skills. Gradually, I've transitioned from only riding powder in hippy meadows to climbing and riding steep couloirs. Towards the end of this past season, I felt like I was ready to go for some larger objectives and Big Eyes immediately came to mind.

This past spring was a good one...lots and lots of snow fell onto a mostly stable snowpack, and many face shots were had well into May. As my birthday approached, a storm moved in and dropped about 8-10 inches of new snow. I had seen a friend of mine's post about Big Eyes from a few days prior, where he had remarked that the snowpack was extremely stable. It seemed too good to be true, the possibility of getting to ride Big Eyes in powder conditions on my birthday, but I figured it would be worth a slog up there to check it out. I made a few calls and found a couple of friends to join me: Matt and Frank, a couple of my good friends and ski partners. After a night of fitful, anxious sleep , the alarm went off at 5am...After some stumbling around collecting my gear and drinking lots of coffee, I picked up Matt and Frank and we reached the trailhead a little before 7.

We started out hiking on a mix of snow and mud for about a mile before the snow became continuous enough to start skinning, although there were a few interesting sections. Frank had skied this line twice already this season, so he seemed to know the exact route up through the trees, which no doubt saved us some time route finding. After a steep climb through the forest, we popped out into the bowl above the "catchers mitt" and could see the rest of the route up to the summit of East East Red. It looked close, but looks can be deceiving. Frank is some kind of mutant, and set a skin track going straight up the ridge, switchbacks be damned. Its always a good feeling when someone is able to break trail at a faster pace than you can keep while following behind. Matt and I trudged along, trying as best as possible to keep up with Frank. I was certainly huffing and puffing, but in a way it was good...focusing on trying not to stroke out makes the time fly by.

Starting out hiking

Advanced skinning photo by Matt

The upper bowl

So much snow photo by Matt

Buffalo looking damn fine

I can see my house from here

huffing and puffing photo by matt

Matt getting close to the top

Frank finishing off the ridge to the summit

View of the Thorne from the summit

Summit view

Zodiac Spires

Mercifully, the end of the ridge appeared and we topped out onto the summit of E.E. Red. After a quick snack and attaching skis to packs, we navigated our way down a sub ridge to the entry to the line. Walking up to the entry and peering into the line is a moment I will never, ever forget. The entry was steep (~50 degrees) with a big cornice guarding the main entry to the line. Any questions about the conditions of the line were put to rest though. It was untouched powder! After some discussion about the entry, ski cuts and safe spots, Frank decided that he would go first and ski cut the top of the line. He rolled in from the right side of the entry, to a position almost directly under the cornice. He cut across, and other than a little bit of surface snow peeling off, nothing moved. He made another hard turn, and liking what he saw, made a series of beautiful turns to the first safe spot. He yelled up that it was good to go and then it was my turn.

Hiking down to the line photo by Matt

What dreams are made of

Guardian cornice

Frank under the cornice

Its always scary committing to a steep line. I don't know if its something that will ever get less intimidating, at least to me. Standing on my heel edge, staring down the fall line and seeing the valley far below, its always hard for me not to imagine what would happen if things don't go my way. Still, I knew I was ready and that this was the exact line, in the exact kind of conditions, that I had been dreaming about for years. I took a breath, and edged over the entry and dropped into the line on my heel edge. I made a hard cut and nothing moved. I made a turn and cut back across, and feeling nothing moving, linked a series of several of the best turns of my life. For the skiers/boarders reading this, Im sure that you guys know the feeling. It was almost an out of body experience , watching myself riding the line...Pure euphoria. I pulled over to the edge where Frank had stopped, and then it was Matt's turn. It was amazing watching him drop into the entry and rip turns in the powder...I've skied with Matt more than just about anyone else and we've made a lot of progress together over the last couple of years and Matt definitely wanted Big Eyes just as much as I did...really a cool moment seeing it all come together in a series of turns! Smooth turns and billowing powder and soon enough he was standing with us at our perch. I think all 3 of us were in a state of disbelief that we were actually riding this line in this type of condition.





Matt in the upper choke

Frank below the upper choke

I dropped the next section, which had a little bit of frozen slide debris underneath the new snow, but was still mostly powder. I rode down a few hundred feet, stopped and got some photos of Matt and Frank skiing. The next section, the "choke" was the one that dreams are made of...The walls were 60-80 feet high, and the line was absolutely stuffed with powder. It was full on faceshot magic! I got a photo of Frank in this section that may be my all time favorite ski photo. We took turns shredding down through the choke, hooting and hollering with every turn! All too soon, we were down on the apron staring back up at Big Eyes, in utter disbelief.

Matt in the white room

Frank throwing snow

The best part of the line

Photo by Matt

Frank getting the shot of the day

Frank again

After an "interesting" exit that involved plenty of split skiing and puddles and mud and downed logs and intermittent snow and perhaps a few profane utterances, we made it back to the truck and then it was beer time!

apron can almost see where i dented my board! Photo by Matt

Looking at the Thorne and Zodiac spires on the way out

Split skiing with a view Photo by Matt

I feel like its a rare thing to have something live up to the expectations that your mind creates during years of anticipation, but this met and exceeded my wildest dreams. And to get it with a couple of my close friends, on my birthday no less, makes it seem like it will be a tough one to top. I've ridden steeper lines and longer lines, and much deeper powder, but I'd be hard pressed to come up with a day that was more satisfying than Big Eyes. 32 certainly started off with a bang!

Red Peak B - Via South Ridge
Ella Greene and your humble narrator.
~14 miles and 4500'

After this springs successful ski endeavor, I still had the true summit of Red on my list. The weather hasn't been great this summer, but this past week was absolutely perfect. At a little BBQ with some friends at my house, we came up with the idea to hike Red the following day. There were many beers consumed that evening, so we settled on a casual not quite alpine start time of 9am. 9am turned into about 1030 by the time we started walking from the Buffalo Cabin trailhead. I felt pretty rough at the start, but bailing due to being hungover isn't in my list of acceptable reasons to bail, so I trudged on. Ella is an ultra runner, so I figured I was in for an ass whipping but she is still recovering from a 50 mile race, so thankfully she was content to hike at a moderate pace.

We hit the junction for the south willow connector and dropped down the hill to the gore range trail, which would take us over to Red Buffalo pass. We hiked underneath the Silver and Maximum Elvis (ski lines on Buffalo), which were starting to light up with fall colors. The gore range trail is a very gentle hike through a meadow with wonderful scenery and a cool perspective of Buffalo. We encountered some backpackers and a guy leading a string of llamas on our way up. Llamas are such strange looking animals...kind of like a combination of an ostrich and a mule, with a funny little smirk on their faces. Gradually we made our way to the end of the valley and stopped for a break at one of the lakes below Eccles Pass. We made our way up to Red Buffalo pass and the South Ridge of Red presented itself. I'd like to come back and do the full Silverthorne-Vail thru hike via gore lake some time, as the other side of the pass was beautiful. The view of the Red Diamond Ridge from this vantage point is impressive...wild to think that people have climbed it! It looks like a couple of those spires would collapse if you sneezed on them.

fall colors getting started


Looking up the valley

Ella enjoying a perfect day for a hike

The west side of buffalo...where is the elusive west side ski line?

Looking at the south ridge of Red

heading for the pass

view west from the pass

The ridge to the summit is rocky and looks like it could be challenging, but if you take some time to look at it, its easy to keep it class 2 hiking. The higher you climb, the more the surrounding views open up. You can see Lake Dillon to the east, the Gore range to the north and west and the ten mile/front range to the south. The weather was still perfect, with just a little wind. We hit the false summit and began making our way over to the true summit...this section was a little bit loose but still easy enough hiking. It was hard to pay attention to what I was doing with the views of the Zodiac Spires, the Thorne, and the countless other peaks in the heart of the gore range.

Ella starting up the ridge

a fun section of the ridge


more views

another fun section of the ridge

getting closer


Final steps

Topping out on Red was a great moment. My little project had reached its completion point! We sat on the summit lounging, having a beer and taking photos for a solid hour before heading back down. It was also fun to look at the summit register and see a bunch of my friends names on it already.

summit pano

Thorne and Zodiac Spires

pano looking west

Me on the summit

Ella on the summit

looking towards the start of the red diamond ridge, E red and E.E. Red

looking down towards the lake and town

Coming down in between the two summits, I had a close call with disaster. I wasn't fully paying attention and stepped on a loose rock about the size of a microwave and before I knew what was happening, I was riding the rock down the slope. I started doing what I picture to be pirouettes while I was trying to stay on my feet...those of you who know me, know that I'm not exactly built like a ballet dancer. I probably made 3 full rotations before stopping, somehow staying on my feet. I wacked my ankle/shin pretty hard but escaped any significant injury . It was a good reminder that even on an "easy" route, there is still plenty of hazard.

Slightly shaken, I resolved to pay attention the rest of the way back to Red Buffalo pass. Shortly after my near mishap, we saw a couple of guys running...turned out to be none other than Teague Holmes, a local ultra runner. We said hello, and they galloped onwards to the summit. Ella remarked that they would catch us before we made it back to the pass...I felt pretty content that we got down to the pass before them, only to find out that they were already well into a 70 mile 30000' gain mission. Oh well, its all relative, right? Ha. Once we made it down to the pass, there was some discussion about completing the loop around buffalo back to the car via eccles pass. Due to the time of day, and the fact that we didn't really bring enough food or water for a potentially long day, we went back the way we came. This ended up being a great idea, as we were in the shade most of the way. The early evening light was spectacular, and we made great time back to the car, arriving there at about 6pm.

Looking south towards eccles and deming>

red diamond ridge in the afternoon light

fall colors in the late afternoon light

seems like the colors got brighter by the time we returned

I realize that this was kind of a long trip report, so thanks for reading! I just wanted to give a sense of the different sides/seasons of this magnificent peak. I suppose now that my little project has been completed, Im going to have to come up with a new one. Maybe I ought to get serious about finishing the 14ers finally...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

Comments or Questions

Forget the 14ers :)
09/15/2016 16:05
Just kidding...sort of. Enjoyed the TR and reading about your experiences on Red. Big Eyes is an incredible line and wonderful ski pics on your descent


Stupid 13ers
09/16/2016 11:58
They keep getting in the way of getting more 14ers done.... Oh well, one more to add to the list!


Good Descent!
09/19/2016 09:37
Incredible! I have always admired this line. Well done!


Big Eyes
09/19/2016 12:01
Looks like you got it in great snow conditions. Congrats. Some fracturing in the storm snow or in the wind loading before you got there?


thanks guys
09/20/2016 10:36
Lodgling- we came to the conclusion that it was an old side on the skiers left side of the entrance, since there was no visible debris in the couloir. About 300 yards down at one of the mellower sections there was some frozen debris under the new snow.

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