Notchtop Couloirs

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 40.31880°N / 105.6941°W
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: AI2, Moderate Snow up to 40 degrees
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


Notchtop May 22, 2006

There are two or three couloirs on the south face of Notchtop, across Odessa Gorge from the North Couloirs of Flattop and between Ptarmigan Glacier and Notchtop's summit. The left most line supposedly stays in good condition well into Fall, but the right line is supposed to melt out. Slope angle of the right line is in the mid-30's most of the way, topping 40 degrees in a few spots. The left line appeared a little steeper and more sustained. These couloirs would be a pretty sweet spring ski descent.
Furthest Right Notchtop Couloir

Getting There

Hike up from Bear Lake towards Lake Odessa. Before reaching Lake Odessa you will come to Lake Helene, just below Notchtop Mountain. We travelled to the left around the lake, up into the Gorge. Continue up over a bench until you reach a small tarn. You will see the Flattop Couloirs on the south side of the gorge and Ptarmigan Glacier at the Head of the Gorge. On the north side of the gorge, the south face of Notchtop and the Notchtop Couloirs will be visible. The approach is approximately 4 to 4.5 miles.

Route Description

This description is specifically for the right couloir:

From the tarn, pick your line up the couloir and start climbing. The first few hundred feet start out with a low 30s slope angle gradually steepening to a bench where the slope levels out. This makes for a decent rest point.
Lower Section, Notchtop Couloir

Continue up the slope as it steepens again for another few hundred feet, possibly reaching slope angles in the low 40s.
The middle section, Notchtop Couloir

Chris on a steeper section of Notchtop Couloir

Middle section, Notchtop Couloir

As you approach the top of the couloir angle to the left side of the couloir, as the top of the couloir may have larger cornices to climber's right. About 50 feet below the top there is a nice low angle spot to assess how best to top out.
Last 50 feet, Notchtop Couloir

In May, 2006, there was a break in the cornices to climber's left, and the top out was an easy climb straight up from this point. Length of couloir may be about 800 to 1000 feet. Enjoy the views from the top.
Topping Out, Notchtop Couloir

Essential Gear

Ice axe, crampons, helmet. The right couloir approaches 40 degrees and we did not require a rope. The left couloir looked more sustained and possibly steeper. Depending on your comfort level, you may prefer to rope up and place gear.



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