Sayres Peak, Grand Central Couloir


I spotted this one when approaching La Plata in 2001. It looks very good! The summit (left of photo) is 13738' and the north face is impressive. On July 2, 2002, Jonathan Kriegel and I climbed the couloir in partial shadow on the left with ice ax and crampons and got a good look down the grand central couloir from the summit. In fact, it is not terribly steep at all. There is a curious USGS benchmark on the summit with an engraved altitude that is 1000 feet too low. Photo taken from the trail up La Plata on June 15, 2001, after a large snowstorm.

Well, it took three or four years and two tries, but finally I attained the (west) summit of Sayres with skis on my back (May 23, 2004, with Jonathan Kriegel). We then skied the Grand Central Couloir (also known as the North Couloir route). What a beauty! Conditions were perfect and I did 101 turns on descent. The approach is a bit heinous, with a bushwhack from the La Plata trail into the valley and then, for us, a long bit of step-kicking up the W side of the valley to gain the saddle to the right in the photo below. It might well be more efficient to just boot up the couloir, perhaps with an ice ax (later parties have done this; one fellow went up the steep terrain just west of the grand central couloir and reported it as "sketchy post-holing hell"). The valley, peak, and couloir are well worth a visit, but it would be nicer if the willows were covered with snow, meaning an earlier date. But perhaps an even better approach is to climb the peak from the south and, after the descent, climb to the La Plata - Sayres col (easy) and return to the start.

We got a good view of a couloir, and debris, on the W side of La Plata that claimed the life of a hiker (glissading, with ice ax) in March 2004 when it avalanched. The photo below shows Jonathan on the approach hike. Our ascent route was via moderate ground on the far right of the photo. The enthusiast will notice that there are steeper lines that one can take from the true summit, notably the direttissima route dropping straight off the top. (See X Rated report.)


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