Posts Tagged ‘continental divide’

Trip Report: Splitboarding Herman Gulch 3/11/09

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009.
Herman Gulch, Arapaho National Forest

Herman Gulch is a popular backcountry destination for us front-rangers. With its close proximity to the continental divide, it offers a high elevation trailhead. As well, the gulch itself is very well protected from the wind. Lastly, the amount of available lines in one gulch alone are endless.

Although I had never been up here, a friend of mine had scouted out a long, broad, and steep powder gully on the north ridge of the gulch, not a very far hike from the trailhead.

When we arrived at the trailhead at roughly 9:00, it was under blizzard conditions. Forecast was calling for it to clear up at some point, but we had no idea when. Nevertheless, we suited up with goggles and face masks and headed up the trail.

Like many Front Range approaches, the first mile or so into Herman Gulch is relatively flat. While it makes for an easy skin up, a concerned splitboarder should make a mental note of the depth of snow, to be recalled later on when trying to ride out through the flat terrain.

After less than an hour, we arrived at the base of the gully. The first pitch looked steep, with trees on the left and rocks on the right. I couldn’t really see above the first pitch, both because it disappeared behind the steep face, and also because the snow and fog was so thick.

Entering the foggy chute

We started skinning straight up the gully. At first we cut a few switchbacks, but soon realized that our skins were able to grab and climb straight up the slope. The snow was variable, but in most areas there was about 3″ of fresh snow over a hard layer. Some spots were total hard packed. The wind was much softer than my previous excursion on James Peak.

I’m amazed our skins held on such a steep pitch

After the first pitch, the grand size of the gully came into view. It was a lot larger than I had anticipated, but I got even more excited about what I’d see at the top.

After about 1200′ of climbing, my partner was at the top, and I was just below him. This was the hairiest part of the climb. The slope was hard and icy, and I started to lose the glue on one of my skins. Frustrated, I took off my boards and bootpacked up the final 100 feet. Since I hadn’t anticipated any steep exposure today, I was a little jittery from that little experience, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I was safely at the top.

Although it was still foggy and snowing, I was able to take a few pics of the surrounding areas. We could barely make out Pettingell Peak and the Citadel to the West.

Right before our descent, as if on cue, the clouds started to disperse. Perfect timing! The high peaks to the West came into view, and we identified some very sweet couloirs to add to the tick list. To the South, the large hulking mass of Torrey’s Peak appeared out of the mist, right before our eyes.

A quite ethereal photo and rare angle of Torrey’s Peak from the Northwest. Tuning Fork Couloir is dead center. (Call me out if I’m wrong.)

Looking down at my line

When the skies opened, we both took off down the slope. The snow was better than I thought. I pretty much let my Voile do all the work, and straightlined it down the mountain, making very short, snappy turns in about 5″ of powder. It has been a long time since I’ve had a long, sustained, 1000′+ vert on a constant powder slope, without having to make a sketchy jump turn, or traverse around some rocks. There was plenty of “whooping” going down the mountain that day!

My partner skiing the broad slope. Thats Pettingell Peak on the continental divide in the background.

As I look back up at the skier making wide S-turns, I thought about how different our riding styles are depicted based on the tracks!

Yours truly, holding “the stash” in my hand



Narrative and photos by Adam L. Reiner