Colorado Indian Peaks Wildernesss Touring

South Arapahoe Peak, Skywalker Couloir

The county plowed the road to 4th of July campground on Thursday so we got up early Saturday morning to go ski Skywalk Couloir before the weather turned to rain for the weekend.

It has been a grey and wet spring in the Front Range. The forecast for Memorial Day weekend, starting around noon on Saturday, was thunderstorms and heavy precipitation through Monday, but there was a short window of sun Saturday morning that looked like we could squeeze something in. We started from the trail head at 4th of July campground just before 7am and hiked up a trail that was equal parts dirt and snow.

Nice day!

It took an hour to get up to the base of the couloir at 11k with the skis on our backs. Here we transitioned briefly to skins and split for a few hundred vert before strapping up the crampons and throwing the boards back on our packs. We also saw a moose here which was cool.

Once you are in the couloir starting about 11,800 it has a pretty consistent pitch of 45°, ramping up to 55° at the very top. Although it faces south southeast, the walls shield it so it stays shaded until later in the morning. Because of this it was just starting to warm as we climbed softening the snow gradually but preserving it well for climbing.

David taking a breather on the climb

I believe we finished on the Princess Leia variation (direct) but I did not see where the alternative or standard finish went. At this point the clouds were moving in and we were beginning to hear thunder in the distance. We transitioned and dropped back in on skis just before 11am, retracing our climbing line.

By the time we started skiing, the snow had softened giving nearly perfect top to bottom conditions. While the crux is at the top, the whole thing is a steep ski for 1500ft that doesn’t ease up until the apron.

Will skiing midway down Skywalker

At the bottom we threw the boards back on our packs and hoofed it out, getting back to the car just before 1pm and right as the first big drops oof rain started to fall. Just barely snuck it it.