Buffalo Mountain: The Caldera

This is one of the widest couloirs anywhere, splitting the north and south summits of Buffalo, and eminently visible from Silverthorne, Dillon, and Frisco. On April 14, 2010, Jonathan Kriegel and I skied all but the uppermost reaches, this avoiding the crux cliffy section. We climbed to 12350' on Lakeview (summit is 12770) and then dropped into a steep chute (about 40 degrees) of excellent snow, and found a moderate way into the basin below the giant cliff. The terraced slopes then provided an excellent descent to the woods, and quite easy going back to the car. Under four hours for the round trip. I stare at this route from the windows of my house and have climbed it several times in the summer all the way to the south summit, so it was very satisfying to finally be in there on skis.

The view from my window:


The view from Jonathan's house:






In the caldera:



Here is the view across the caldera to the main summit of Buffalo.


Take Two: On April 18, 2010, Jonathan Kriegel, Bob Portmann, and I skied this from the S summit. The ascent went very well -- 3 hours total -- and the snow in the woods was supportive at 8 am. The descent was a bit hairy. Bob entered a steep way and started an avalanche of the previous day's snow with his third turn. It knocked him off his feet, but no harm done to him. However, it continued down and exited through the cliff gully that was our planned passage (see photo below). Jonathan and I entered a bit from the side (not very steep) and there were small avys, but nothing of concern. Bob, below us at the head of the cliff, could not see a good way through, so we resorted to Plan B, which meant traversing far to our left, up against the cliff from the main summit, and through a not-too-steep snow-filled gully. That took us to a route that I have climbed three times and is not very steep. That worked, but there was a lot of debris on that side. Nothing came down while we were there. An alternative appears to be to stay far skier's right; the snow would be better there too.

Then the rest of the descent was fine. But the woods were really awful with very rotten snow. So an interesting day.




The following shot, taken by Forrest Thorniley on April 10, 2010, shows a dramatic couloir that finishes below the troublesome cliff. Looks worthy. Also looks like an "h" so h-chute is a good name, in contrast to the well-known J-chute.


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