Tabeguache Mountain, North Couloir, Colorado
Gary & Lynn Clark, Chris Horley, Rich Strang
Leaving Los Alamos at 7:00 am Saturday, we drove to the trailhead SW of Buena Vista by about noon, including a detour to rent snowshoes in Salida. They asked "where do you think you'll find enough snow for these?", but we ignored this impertinent remark as we paid our money. Actually, we wouldn't have considered using snowshoes had it not been for our knee-deep floundering on the West side of Mt. Columbia just one week before. Surely all that snow couldn't have melted in just a week? Turns out it had, and we hiked dry trail all the way to a nice camp at 11,400' in the beautiful Brown's creek basin North of Tabeguache. The goal was to crampon the North Couloir, which goes almost directly to the summit. Horley hauled his 11 pound snowboard (and, of course, the snowshoes) all the way in and up (7 miles, 5200'), with the intention of getting an outrageous 2500' run down the couloir (rated "extreme: no-fall skiing").
On Sunday we were out of the bags at 3:30 am, and on top at 7:20. This was great for ensuring perfect cramponing conditions, but not so great for boarding. We'd have had to wait many hours on top for the snow to soften enough, and we didn't have the time. Chris wisely decided to walk a few sections where the slope was close to 40 degrees and the rocks below uninviting. While trying to photograph this epic descent with multiple cameras, Lynn managed to drop one - it was quite impressive observing the speed it attained while careening down the couloir. We all finally got down and out to the trailhead about noon, took the rental snowshoes back, and had pizza and microbrews at Vecino's in Salida before cranking the long commute back home. An excellent trip, a good team, in a beautiful place. Highly recommended as a late spring objective - see Dawson's guide for more info.