By Kim Havell
"Well, do we do this thing?" Dave said, looking over to the rest of us. I pulled out the binoculars and studied some of the couloirs. They all looked tricky. "We have options,” I mused, out loud. “But we should probably just stick to our plan and give it a try. It looks like it goes.”
"Do or do not, there is no try," Dan replied in his soft-spoken way.
This past winter, three of us—"Dr." Dan Hehir, "Climber" Dave Marcinowski, and me—stood on a high ridge and looked across the narrow Bear Creek valley at our objective. It looked rocky, thin, and exciting. Dan was right, sort of: Once in the line, you are committed and need to feel really good about it.
Several hours later we found ourselves on the top of the ultra-classic route, Grandfather Couloir Direct, on the Little Wasatch Ridge of the San Juan Mountains near Telluride, Colo. Off of this long ridge, at around 13,000ft, lie some of the world's most challenging, exposed, and exciting couloir skiing. Some of these lines require rappels, rock hops, duck walks, and various other maneuvers to navigate close-outs in the terrain. Boys and girls, this is a no-fall zone.
We made it through the couloir that day. The Grandfather Direct had not yet been skied for the season, and so it was with excitement that we cautiously entered. Armed with ropes, crampons, ice screws, tools, harnesses and the like, we felt well-equipped to tackle obstacles that might be encountered. The couloir, protected from the sun by towering rock walls, held some great snow as well as some exciting moves with a rappel out the bottom… some two thousand-plus feet below.
The San Juans, after all, are “young” mountains, a quality that lends itself to jagged and pointy peaks with fascinating routes. This photo gallery shows just a few of the fun opportunities that the area offers, and of course there are many, many more to discover.
To read more about Kim Havell's exploits in the San Juans, read the Powder Girl column in Volume 40 of Powder.