(Last Updated On: March 13, 2016)
In mid-May of 2012, we skied the four couloirs that drop into American Basin from American Peak. And every time we summited, it was impossible not to take note of the skinny couloir that was melting out just to our southeast.
Like so many other lines, we filed this one away for another day. With avalanche danger minimal throughout the second half of February, this line started to climb its way to the top of my list in the upcoming days. Then I was talking to my friend Cory, who had just been climbing an ice climb called Open Casket in the area. And as luck would have it, he even had a photo of the line, and it was in!!
I knew a handful of other people had skied it, and at least one group had ascended the backside and dropped in from the top. We decided to do the same, since we would lessen our exposure to both rockfall and other hazards that way. On top of that, my hand is still in a cast so neither an ice axe or a whippet are currently ideal. We found the top of the line on Google Earth, and marked the top of the line on our Gaia GPS app. For those of you who haven’t discovered Gaia, it’s $20 well spent, at least on Android. I don’t know if it’s on Apple as well. Anyway…
We followed the well-travelled climber’s trail through the forest, with views of Sunshine Peak behind. Too bad this South facing line seldom goes to the valley.
Once we made it to treeline, we were on terrain I know well- my favorite bike trail on the planet, Cataract Ridge.
We passed this sweet mini-golf zone of spires, though it’s a long way to go for such short lines.
We found the top of the line and admired the Jones/Niagara/American/Handies group of mountains.
Enough scenery, time for the 150′ downclimb into the belly of the beast:
The Dead Squirrel couloir offers nearly 3,000 vertical feet of couloir skiing, and we were excited to see what was ahead. Brittany:
The couloir was both wider and less steep than it appeared from American. The entertainment factor was off the charts, however, with twists and turns and rolls on what felt like a neverending line. Brittany:
Conditions were what one might expect after a long dryspell- variable. Still, there was enough snow to move around, especially in the last quarter of the couloir. Frank:
Finally, we neared the bottom of the Dead Squirrel couloir. Brittany:
Here’s what the couloir looks like from the bottom:
Knowing that others had skied the line before, we posed the question, “Does anyone have a name for the line?”. Unless the skiers who made the first descent want to chime in, we’ll call it Dead Squirrel. Chris Miller and Scott Krankkala skied this line a couple years ago and found a frozen dead squirrel near the top of the line. Their slough kept pushing the squirrelsicle down the line, so at least the little guy got a good descent. So until someone comes up with a better name, we’ll stick with that one.
Those of you paying special attention may have noticed that I’m using next year’s Tecnica Zero G boot. I’ll get a review out of it soon. In the meantime, check out the Zero G 108: