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Peak(s):  Babcock Peak  -  13,161 feet
Date Posted:  04/13/2024
Date Climbed:   04/09/2024
Author:  Jorts
 Babcock Coulie Hunting   

Start/Finish: Boren Creek

Start Time: 0900

Duration: 4:19

Total Distance: 8.5 mi

Elevation Gain: 4000 ft

Weather: 25F to 40F, bluebird

Partner: Susannah Young

In the summer of 2023 I first ventured into Boren Creek and Tomahawk Basin on separate trips to visit some of the La Plata 13ers. I was amazed by how much snow remained in August and September respectively in both the south and north couloirs draped upon Babcock and knew I had to come back in the spring.

The problem with the La Plata 13ers is they're tucked into the back of a narrow box canyon choked with snow well into June. A light 4wd is sufficient once the snow has melted to access the far trailheads but in winter and spring, you're either skinning the flat road for 4+ miles or taking a snowmobile - and the locked gate further enforces this. Upon a person's first visit to La Plata Canyon in the winter, the first thing you notice -besides the frigid inversion spilling out of the canyon- is the row of snowmobiles lined up along the road just inside the gate. There are more than a few cabins and houses inside the canyon that require winter access. But interestingly, many a rusted out, beat to shit snowmobile is parked there all winter long exclusively for accessing the far trailheads. Just my luck, my partner Susannah impulsively purchased a used sled on the cheap from one of the many snowmobile tour outfits for that express purpose.

After seeing our kids off to school, we met at the mouth of La Plata Canyon at the winter closure and she introduced me to her ride. I was expecting a trail sled but beyond that, it was also a 4 stroke. There would be no powder turns with this tank. I hopped on the back and we cruised along at 30mph making it up to the Boren Creek trailhead in 10 min. Sure beats an hour or more of hoofing a flat road.

The unobstructed sun quickly warmed things up as we started skinning but it stayed below freezing making for a quick approach to the end of the old mining road and to the bottom of the Babcock-Spiller cirque at treeline.

22507_10
Looking up from Babcock's south apron

We made our first kick turn at the bottom of Babcock about 1.5 hours in. The frozen surface was beginning to transition from refrozen crust to soft, somewhat saturated snow in the direct morning sun. The edgable snow allowed for a smooth, skins on ascent. We were surprised to see and hear a lot of loose wet slide activity flaking off the mountain at 12000ft shortly before 1100.

22507_01
Skinning up the apron (taken from some friends near the Spiller saddle)

Favoring deeper snow with a slightly more western tilt, we made it to the bottom of the crescent shaped south couloir at 1120. Both of us were nervous about the increasing wet slide activity but the non-surface snow still supported our weight in crampons and the western side of the couloir remained shaded. The deeper wet snow under the noonday sun slowed our progress in the couloir as we had balling on our crampons.

22507_09
Ascending the crescent couloir on the south side

3hrs and 10 minutes into our tour we reached the saddle between the middle and west summits of Babcock at 1220 and the top of both the south and north couloirs. We decided not to faff with summiting in the interest of time, as we had both summited Babcock before.

22507_04
Near the Middle-West saddle

After some snacking and pinching ourselves over the windless banger of a day, we decided that we would descend the cold snow in the north couloir and ski out through Tomahawk Basin. Looping it felt more aesthetic anyway. We still did not know if we'd find chalky windboard as a result of recent wind events or soft snow. The top of the couloir doglegged into the wider, longer bottom half from north to NE. We both felt good about the avy forecast but I skied conservatively in the uppermost wind affected portion. Only a couple hundred feet down I was on a flat table staring into the rest of the line. It was fat and sheltered with cold snow. I waited for Susannah to catch up and dropped in. After briefly testing the snow it became clear it was nearly perfect conditions. I skied the 1000 ft to the bottom with reckless abandon.

22507_03
Chalky, edgeable entrance
22507_08
Susannah dropping in

We admired our squiqqles then coasted through surfy firm but saturated snow to the road out of Tomahawk and back to the canyon floor. A couple miles of wet skating along the canyon road led us back to the sled just before 1330.

22507_05




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


Comments or Questions
Skimo95
That looked enjoyable
4/13/2024 8:32pm
Thanks for posting a sweet line on a mountain I have no clue about! Loved it


SnowAlien
User
Sick lines
4/14/2024 11:32am
Had the same thought, even before climbing Babcock last summer, but have no sled (sad face). Apparently there's a line off Spiller too. And I bet Hesperus skies well too. Also, there is a great coulie off Moss that I came up (class 4 at the top, so may need a rope to drop in that one, there's a blurb on that line on MP). I have CR with topo.


Jorts
User
Thanks
4/14/2024 8:08pm
Appreciate the info Nat. Id like to get up there for more of them this spring.



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