Peak(s):  Kit Carson Peak  -  14,167 feet
Date Posted:  05/20/2013
Date Climbed:   05/17/2013
Author:  SchralpTheGnar
 OB Couloir - Climb and Ski   

Pulled up to the Willow Creek trailhead at 8pm, sorted the gear, had a beer, set the alarm for 1am, and dozed off inside the car. Around midnight I heard someone outside screaming "Open the door!!" I pulled the sleeping bag over my face hoping the person would just go away. The scream came again "Open the damn door!" Slowly, I lifted my head and looked around but didn't see anyone. The headlamp shining outside just showed my reflection back at me. There was no one outside, it was a dream. Since it was 12:15 now and there was no way I was going back to sleep, I decided to just get dressed at hit the trail. By 12:45 am, I began the long approach up Willow Lake area.

Earlier that week, I had made some plans to try to ski Kit Carson with Bill Middlebrook of fame and bergsteigen of similar fame. While they had planned on doing the approach to the lake on Thursday, due to the vagaries that are my life circumstances I found myself relegated to doing a day trip, so we agreed that a 5am high camp meeting would work just fine.

Slowly I made my way up the long approach in the darkness, around 4:45am I arrived at the high camp. After making the introductions, I relaxed while the crew assembled the gear in the early morning light. By 5:30 we were heading up the trail, after rounding Willow Lake we got our first good views of the day.

Early morning light on Challenger and the Kirk Couloir.

Bill and bergsteigen skinning in the dawn's early light.

By 7:30am we were a the base of the OB Couloir and the bootpacking commenced, we took turns booting but bergsteigen did the majority of the work and for that I was extremely grateful.

Rich blue skies overhead and cold snow under my feet.

Continuing up the OB Couloir, the familiar view following bergsteigen

The bootpack up the couloir took a little longer than expected due to somewhat challenging conditions, nevertheless we crested the top around 9:30am. From the top of the notch you just want to drop down a little bit and contour around till the south face of KC comes into view. Here's Bill negotiating the most technical part of the climb, making it look easy.

Once the south face comes in view just follow an obvious gully till it reaches the ridge. While climbing be sure to enjoy the amazing views, such as this one as Crestone Peak, the magnitude of the landscape dwarfing Bill in the gully below.

We made it to the summit just before 11am, here's the official summit shot for the record.

Bill on the summit ridge, glancing pensively towards westward skies.

We were able to ski right off the summit, down the ridge with a little billygoating. After the slopes below the summit we traversed back over to the notch just piecing together patches of snow.

Once at the saddle we took turns making turns down the OB couloir, the snow was plentiful albeit a tad firm. Bill made it look easy with great style.

bergsteigen scouts the line.

Then she drops it.

Bill with classic form in classic surroundings.

After the couloir ended we wound our way down the basin, past the cliffs and back to the high camp around 2pm, where I pumped some water by the lower Willow Lake waterfall.

After a short break I bid farewell to Bill and bergsteigen as I was eager to get the hike out over with. I made it back to the car by 4:30pm, just shy of a 16 hour day. All told it was around 14 miles and 5,300 feet of elevation gain and I felt all of it arriving back at the car. Huge thanks to Bill and bergsteigen for making the day that much more enjoyable, both are great climbers and skiers, as well as polite, thoughtful and punctual. Hopefully we can do that again soon.

Comments or Questions
teener stoke
05/20/2013 19:18
Love the Teener Stoke

Great Day!
05/20/2013 20:03
Thanks again, Rob and Otina, for a fine day in the mountains.

I added a route description for Outward Bound Couloir which includes a bunch more photos, on the ”Photo Stash” tab.

Way to schralp it!
05/20/2013 20:19
But not too much gnar, that's always nice to see. Congratulations, looks like a great day.

16 hours... about the same as our trip from the Colony Lakes. I agree with Jordan's conclusion, those peaks are just a long way, from any angle.

Photo #7 - looks like the Crestones are tilting toward the east - has there been some sort of geological upheaval recently?

Looks nice, on a nice day.
05/20/2013 21:20
Did it look Kirk was still a go?

Gnar points later in the day...
05/20/2013 21:31
Great to get out with you for a ski, Rob! Never seen anyone rock the rocks in the basin like you! And thank you for the present left at my truck

cjw - Kirk is a go. Will have my TR out tomorrow. 4 day ski weekends means a lot of catching up on Monday!

05/20/2013 21:39
I was there two days before you, solo. Camped up by the Stupa overlook, camping at the TH looked nice though. But I did not plan to summit the peak as I was solo, beautiful weather last week.

Nice Meeting You
05/21/2013 20:07
We crossed paths on your hike out. I was the one that asked about Columbia. That basin took some work, but there are many fine lines up there.

Lookin' Good
05/22/2013 18:15
Love that Willow Lake area! Nice climb and ski, crew. Looks a lot better than I would have expected!

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