A Yellowstone Steep Skiing Classic- Abiathar North Couloir

Our fourth day in Cooke City was our last. Doug was tired out from the day before and hightailed it back to Bozeman, while Brittany came down with a cold and decided an easier day at Bridger Bowl was in her future. That only left Tony and I- and Tony had to be at work at 5. No worries, we still had time for this local beauty of a line:

Our approach to the face was aided greatly by an older skintrack, weaving its way through some of the burn areas from 1988. We transitioned at the base of the couloir and started booting up. There was a bit of wind, so we kept getting hammered be spindrift avalanches falling off the cliff faces above, giving the ascent a strong alpinism flavor. Tony:

The interesting thing about this couloir is that the end of the couloir is basically overhanging, looking something like this:

This was easily one of the more interesting spots I’ve ever been in my ski career- simply medieval in character and a tremendous location at the top of an amazing line. Hans Saari, Kris Erickson, and Stephen Koch continued to the summit of Abiathar via the “AC traverse” from here, but the vast majority of skiers will skip that climb/downclimb/traverse and ski from the top of the couloir. The start of the AC traverse:

Tony gave me first tracks, which I happily accepted. The first 50′ or so were fairly steep, around 50*, and a bit affected by the spindrift and platform digging. Below that, however, it went super blower.

Tony in the steep and deep:

Continuing into the abyss…

Spot the skier exiting the cooler…

Abiathar’s North Couloir easily ranks on my list of top 10 couloirs, even though it’s pretty short and it doesn’t start on a summit, or even a ridge. It’s simply very aesthetic. We made our way down and passed this near the trailhead:

I told myself it was a wolf kill- they are plentiful in the area, and the scat on the skintrack looked a lot like a dog’s- but with fur in it. Tough to say, though, since I’m no scat expert. At the very least it was nice to be in an area where even the possibility of it being a wolf kill was real- something that sadly cannot be said here in CO. The drive back to Bozeman took us through Yellowstone and plenty of wildlife:

Traffic jam in Mammoth Hot Springs:

Thanks for reading- there’s still more to come from Cooke City…

Cooke City Posts:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.  He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing.He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

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  1. Sweet! The top of that line is impressive – super powerful place to find yourself and your skis. Had to be fun to share that experience with a good friend. Thanks for the stoke, Frank and Co.

  2. Ever think you may pop your airbag if deployed with the ice axe pointing up? Nice looking run.

  3. Yep, Yes, I think that is a problem for sure. Here in CO, we normally don’t get on routes that require an axe until spring, at which point we switch to non- airbag packs, so it’s a non-issue then. On both this Cooke City trip and an earlier one this season to B.C., I was aware that my axe was probably significantly impacting the airbag’s ability to work. If I was skiing in areas where this was a concern more often, I would need to come up with another method- and I have to admit that I’m not sure what that method would be with this particular pack.

    Thanks for noticing and pointing it out- I was curious if anyone would. Share your method if you’ve got one.

  4. Don’t really ever need and axe as I’m not on anything that steep. If I did I suppose I would sew on a strap in the middle upper of the pack and put the axe right side up with the adze below the zipper line or just carry a shorter axe. I have a black first year BCA float and that would work on that one.

    Enjoy the posts you guys put up, thanks again.


  5. No airbag pack here, probly didn’t need the axe either but last time up that line I could have used one and forgot to bring it.

  6. I was kind of wishing I had used my axe on that climb, Tony- just for the leverage factor. That’s why I was doing that goofy upside-down poles trick for the last 200′ or so…

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