Horseshoe Mountain -Boudoir Couloir (Horseshoe Loop)

elevation: 4,236 m. height gain: 720 m.
area: Fairplay, Colorado, USA map USGS 1:24;000 Mount Sherman, CO
         39106B2
2017-May-05


Ref: 14ers.com
horseshoe mountain


 Horseshoe Mountain and its couloir are visible from the Leavick Site.
Scramble: RT 9.5 (includes Finnback Knob and Peerless Mountain); 4.5 up. I had just hiked a full day in the Mosquito Range when I decided on a whim to drive to Fairplay to attempt the Boudoir Couloir the next day, this would be my first real snow climb in Colorado. The forecast called for a replica bluebird day and I couldn't pass that up. Although I was feeling a bit tired, I knew I'd be resting the following day and I had a sneaking suspicion that my weekend climb with Tim wouldn't be a really long one because of deteriorating weather. Once in Fairplay, I grabbed some Subway, prepared my backpack and called it a day. I left early morning, I had to drive to the trailhead and reach the couloir at a decent time. I knew that I had an additional 1-2 kilometers of approach because the Fourmile Creek road wasn't totally clear of snow yet. Despite my efforts to start hiking really early, pre-dawn light was upon me when I left the truck. I tried to hustle but I didn't have much "jam"; thankfully, the snow was mostly supportive. When I got to the base of the couloir, I donned crampons; it was 7:45 AM when I started climbing. The recent snow felt stable but there was a bit more than anticipated, it was mostly wind-pressed with boot-top penetration. While climbing, I probed with my axe feeling for hollowness and layers. I was attentive to subtle changes and signs of slab formation knowing that those changes would likely be seen higher up near ridge line if they were present. Being solo didn't instill great confidence but I trusted that all the years spent ski mountaineering and assessing snow would prove useful in recognizing potential hazard and making the right decisions. I was focused on the task and didn't stop much. The snow consistency during the ascent remained pretty much the same, maybe a bit firmer higher up. As I neared the ridge line, I climbed along the side avoiding the middle of the collection zone; soon thereafter, I stepped onto the ridge. I was pleased and relieved at the same time, way to go Jo! I continued a short distance to the shack where I had a well-deserved break. Today was shaping up to be yet another stellar day in the Colorado Mountains.
veering off fourmile creek road

Veering left from the Fourmile Creek road, ahead are Mounts Sheridan and Sherman (right).

last bit of shade

Last bit of shade as I travel towards Horseshoe Cirque.

horseshoe-shaped cirque

Horseshoe Mountain's horseshoe-shaped cirque and Peerless Mountain on the right.

boudoir couloir

Getting closer to Boudoir Couloir, clearly visible left of the rockbands.

looking back

Looking back.

my first couloir in colorado

There it is, my first couloir in Colorado ...and solo to boot!

i've come prepared


I've come prepared.


snow feels stable


The snow feels stable, I've got this.


consistent snowpack


Midway the snow is a bit deeper but isn't hollow, probing with the axe reveals a consistent snowpack.


upper couloir


The upper section of the couloir is more confined.


looking down


Looking down the moderately steep slope as I near the top of the couloir.


view north-east


View north-east over White Ridge.


cresting on the ridge line


Cresting on the ridge line.


easy snow ascent


From here, an easy snow ascent leads to the top.


northern mosquito range


Peaks of the Mosquito Range to the north.


laplata peak and mount elbert


One of my favorites, LaPlata Peak (left center) with Twin Lakes in its foreground. Mount Elbert on the right is always distinguisable.


view south-west


View south-west with more Sawatch 14ers.


busted up shack


This shack needs renovations...


southern view


Southern view over Ptarmigan and Weston Peaks.


summit cairn


View of the Sawatch Range to the west with Mount Elbert (middle), Mount Massive on its right and LaPlata Peak on its left.


north-western view


North-western view with Homestake Peak in the foreground and Mount of the Holy Cross in the distance (far right).


view north


View north with Mount Sheridan and Dyer Mountain on the right. The view extends to the Gore Range in the distance.


broad valley to the east


The broad valley to the east.


Continue on to Finnback Knob
Back to home page