Peak(s):  Grizzly Pk A  -  13,988 feet
Date Posted:  06/19/2017
Date Climbed:   06/16/2017
Author:  Jason Halladay
Additional Members:   CincyBearcats
 Grizzly Couloir Ski/Snowboard   

I had plans to do some solo trail running the Sawatch on Friday but an invite on Thursday from Andy and Sarah to join them on a climb/ski of the Grizzly Couloir had me digging out my stowed-for-the-summer splitboard gear on Thursday evening. They reported the road to Grizzly Reservoir had opened in the past week or so making for easy access to Grizzly Creek.
After the six hour drive from Los Alamos to the Grizzly Reservoir, we setup camp in the dark at a nice dry and flat campsite at the Portal Campground around 11pm Thursday night. This campground is apparently free but donations are accepted...kudos to that fee model. We donated some cash.

Up at 4:30am and on the trail by 5:30am we hiked up the Grizzly Creek trail in trail running shoes with skis/board/boots on our back. We carried skins but never skinned up so leave them at home. Around 11,400' along Grizzly Creek the dry trail gave way to frozen, sun-cupped snowpack. We found a good snowbridge to cross the creek from the east side to the west side. The snow was plenty solid but riveted with deep sun cups so we left the skins in the backpack but switched to our ski boots for more stability while hiking on the unforgiving snow surface.

Grizzly Lake was still plenty frozen so I took the opportunity to hike across it to the snow apron below the couloir. The three of us donned crampons around 13,000' but plenty of runnels and sun cups in the couloir made the footing secure enough we didn't feel like we needed ice axes out. We found a decent bootpack up the couloir and stayed in that as much as possible to the top of the couloir. One other group was descending the couloir as we ascended--one on foot, the other on a snowboard. We thought the snow still a bit too firm to make for a fun descent so we took our time reaching the summit. We were impressed with how filled in the couloir was at this point.
We reached the summit around 10:30am and lingered for nearly an hour to let the snow in the couloir soften up. Just before noon we clicked in and skied the couloir taking our time and enjoying it. The upper third was still a bit too firm for letting 'er rip wide open but still enjoyable. Lower down it was quite soft but the runnels and sun cups still demanded a slower ski.

Taking advantage of the still-frozen lake, we gunned it near the bottom and skied out as far as we could onto the lake before coming to a stop. A short bit of schnitzeling for the skiers (and hiking for me, the snowboarder) got us off the lake to the gully east of the lake where were able to ride down another ~900' vertical feet to about 11,500' before packing up the skis/board, switching back to shoes and hiking out.
I'd never been into Grizzly Reservoir before and it's an awesome spot. The summer day was perfect so we lounged around the campsite snacking with our beers for an hour or so before driving out and on to the rest of the weekend's outings.

Hiking on the firm snow around 11,800'

Around 13,000' in the bottom of the couloir where we put on crampons

Steep booting near the top of the couloir

To the moon!

Andy arcs a turn up on the side of the couloir with Grizzly Lake serving as a fine backdrop

Sarah lower down in the couloir

Finally some softer snow down low at about 13,200'

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

nice work
06/19/2017 14:22
That arc up the side is sick. Missed ya by a week!


You betcha, nice work!
06/19/2017 14:27
A fun climb, eh? Very nice pics!


06/20/2017 17:04
Great job and thanks for putting this up; Very helpful to me.

Jason Halladay

Right on
06/20/2017 22:36
Thanks for the comments, dillonsarnelli, Jay521 and Bill. I figure condition updates like this for routes like this are helpful (they've helped me!)

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