“Mount Valhalla” 13,180′ Palomino Point Couloir 8/4/2017 – The Gore Range Delivers Amazing

Last weekend I had some good adventures. I did a fun 36 mile ride from the house that included Galena Ditch, Rock Island, Yellow Brick Rd, Sally Barber, Bakers Tank, Aspen Alley, the Peaks Trail and Gold Hill. I didn’t get what I wanted which was Gold Dust due to rain and lightning but it was a fun ride and I was on the trail for almost 7 hours with all the breaks to enjoy the beauty. The next day I went to the hot springs and saw this line going up over Ute Pass. I was inspired by it; so much so that when I went up to ski Skyscraper Glacier the next day I was left with the feeling of why would I want to ski Skyscraper and all that dirty nasty snow. So I turned around and bailed on that idea.

I got a late start from the Rock Creek Trailhead at 7:45. I made good time to the mine at 2.6 miles in 35 minutes. From there I followed the trail as best as I could but eventually lost it. From there I had the pleasure of talus hopping for the next 3 miles to the base of the couloir. This was actually pretty fun as the large talus was mostly stable and it just turned into a couple hours of balancing and hopping, it almost got hypnotic. At the base of the line it became clear that there would be weather. The Garmin Fenix 2 had me at about 5.8 miles to the base so I was going to ski at least some of it, the weather would dictate how much. I pulled my axe out and strapped on the crampons. The main couloir was very similar to North Star on North Arapaho. The upper arm was steeper, in the low 50s I’d say. I basically ran up the couloir, covering the 1200′ of vertical in about 40 minutes. I guess all that biking is paying off on a fitness level. At the top I was struck by how beautiful this place was. The Traverse Peak’s Ridge was breathtaking with its serrated grandeur. Valhalla’s main summit looked fun and very green. Deluge Lake beckoned and I must visit it at some point; perhaps to summit Valhalla, Snow and Grand Traverse. After taking some pics of the line I headed back to the top of it and entertained the idea of summiting Valhalla. As I picked up my pack I was greeted with the sound of thunder. I guess the summit would have to wait till next time.

I hiked down to the snow and transitioned to ski mode. The top snow was icy, steep and narrow with fall consequences so I took it slow. Being solo changes your perspective on making mistakes. Getting hurt or falling is not an option. Once through the crux I opened it up and enjoyed softer snow. In fact this was some of the best snow I’d ever skied in August. I milked it through the lower choke and dealt with a modest runnel. Then I turned them loose again at the lower apron. At the bottom of the line I looked back up and smiled at the sight of my tracks. I pulled out my jacket as the grauple started to fall. I made a hasty transition back to hiking mode and got myself out of the alpine and back to talus dancing, the rhythms of Jerry Band setting the beat of the steps on my exit. This was one of the finest August skis I’ve ever had.

The wild flowers on the trail were amazing. I’ve never seen flowers like this outside of Crested Butte. It took my breath away, or maybe that was my pace and lack of water. The GPS said I did 14 miles and 4100 vertical. When I plotted that to Google Earth it said 10.9 miles and 4800 vertical. Not sure about all that. I managed to make the round trip in 10:12. It was far but it was so worth the journey. Can’t wait to go back for more. There’s gotta be some other lines that need some ski track signatures. I just gotta find them.

Valhalla, Keller and Solitude (Left to Right) From Ute Pass Road
Checking out the line and the Traverse Ridge
Grand Traverse Peak to North Traverse Peak
Valhalla, Snow Peak, Deluge Lake and Grand Traverse Peak

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