West Couloir

Page Type
Colorado, United States, North America
Route Type:
Technical Rock Climb
Time Required:
Most of a day
Class 4

Route Quality: 3 Votes

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Created On: Aug 11, 2004
Last Edited On: Aug 12, 2004



Route Description

From Lower Ice Lake Basin – follow the well worn trail to the upper basin.

Pilot Knob West Couloir photo_id=101586   photo_id=101572   photo_id=101571   photo_id=101570
Follow the trail around the south side of Upper Ice Lake. You can follow the stream up the slopes to the southwest. You will see a steep scree slope that is red in color on the right side of some rock buttresses. The slopes to the left are gray. You can really take either side to gain access to the saddle between Pilot Knob and Yellow Mountain. I would recommend putting on a helmet before climbing this section of the mountain. There are many rocks that will be knocked loose along this stretch coming up. You want to head towards the base of the summit block of Pilot Knob on the very north side of the ridge buttress.

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From there you will traverse across the northwest side of the summit block on gray colored talus. The rocks will be loose but there is a fairly well packed trail across to the other side.

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Once across the gray talus, turn and head south on the west side of the summit ridge. You will climb approximately 200 feet south along the west side of the summit ridge at the base of the cliffs. There are some small ledges, and lots of loose rock here. Watch your step.

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You will be looking for a class 3 gulley or couloir. When I climbed this route – there was actually a cairn marking the route. The couloir is very fun to climb and not terribly long either. I would estimate it at less than 100 vertical feet. It is divided into 2 sections. As the rocks are quite loose in this area, I would recommend going up one at time through each section to avoid rock fall. At this point you should already have on your helmet so you will be protected.

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At the top of the couloir, you are in a notch on the summit ridge approximately 200 feet south the true summit. The ridge is quite exposed with lots of loose rocks. Roping up at this point is highly recommended. The lead climber can set a fixed rope that following climbers can clip into. For this ridge traverse, this is an expedient and safe way to execute this exposed portion of the route. Other than the lead climber, no belaying is required.

Looking north from this spot, you will see a high point. This is the intermediate summit. It may look like it’s easier to go to either side of this high point, but it actually is no problem just going right over the top of it. You can easily climb down the other side and once over the intermediate summit, the traverse to the true summit is easy.

Follow some small ledges along the west side of the summit ridge. When you get to the summit block, follow a small talus ladder on the south west side of the summit block. Once at the top of the talus, you will step out onto a cone shaped summit which is covered with fine sand. It is easy walking to the actual summit where the summit log can be found. The summit isn’t very large but you can easily walk around on the cone shaped, sand covered area there. Footing is good. Be sure to take a look over the north side of the summit at the dramatic face of rock there.

Pilot Knob  photo_id=101582 Pilot Knob  photo_id=101585 Pilot Knob  photo_id=101584
Once you are ready to descend the mountain, you can retrace your steps across the summit ridge back to the couloir, or you can rappel down to the ledges on the west side. We didn’t find any good rappel stations on the north side of the summit block. Retrace your steps back to the high intermediate summit. You will see a horn of rock on the west side. We left our webbing there so you may actually see where we rappelled from. From there it is approximately a 150 foot rappel on a steep face of rock. There is a lot of very loose rock here. There should be good communication from climbers down below with climbers above. Due to the acoustics of the rock and the distance, 2 way radios are recommended for safe rappelling in this area. Climbers, who are done with their rappel, should move away from the area directly underneath the rope to avoid the constant rock fall. Some of the falling rocks will be quite large.

Elevation Gain: 3,900 ft.
Distance: 9 miles round trip

Recommended protection pieces: mainly size 2 and 3 camelots

Essential Gear

Helmet, harness, rope and pro in addition to the usual day hike gear.

Miscellaneous Info

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West Couloir

2 Climber's Log Entries 2 Comments 0 Additions & Corrections


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