“A steep and technical couloir from the summit of Pikes Peak.”
— Chris Dickson
The Pikes Peak Highway closes at various time depending on the season/weather conditions. Make sure that you are your car are off the mountain in time to avoid fines.
Need to Know
The best approach (if you want to climb the couloir first) is to utilize the Hero Traverse, which takes you below the large rock buttress, the Corinthian Column. This is a high-consequence path with a lot of no-fall zones.
This is quite possibly the most classic ski mountaineering objective on Pikes Peak. But, despite its short approach (thanks to the highway), this climb/ski should not be taken lightly. Best skied in the Spring, when avalanche conditions are safe, this couloir will give you a full-on mountain experience within a mile of your car and the summit donut shop.
For the full experience, park on the side of the highway before it ascends the final summit switchbacks. Walk east to the ridge and carefully identify the start of the Hero Traverse, which you'll utilize to intersect the couloir. Follow this snowy ramp (which feature high consequence terrain where a fall could be fatal) towards the north face of Pikes Peak. You'll quickly be able to see a large rock buttress with two gullies on either side of it, this is the Corinthian Column (which features some excellent ice and mixed climbing). You'll travel below this feature on a large snow apron, continuing to traverse towards the north face.
Once you have passed the Corinthian Column on your right, you'll traverse over one more rock and snow rib before arriving in the Y Couloir. Once you are in the couloir, assess the snow conditions and decide if it's worth the climb. If things look good, begin bootpacking up the side of the couloir. This climb can easily be done with just ski boots and poles, but depending on the conditions, crampons may be helpful. Also, a mountain axe is highly recommended to help you self-arrest if you fall (otherwise you would slide for a long ways over some sharp rocks). Continue climbing the couloir until you see a large rock band in the middle of the couloir (in big snow years this can become covered, but it is usually melted out by Spring). Bypass this rock step by climbing steep snow to the right. You have not arrived at the fork of the couloir, where you can choose to go right, left or straight. To ascend the middle fork, continue up and slightly left to follow the most obvious line to the summit.
You'll end the climb in the parking lot, surrounded by tourists, who will dumbfounded as to how you got there. Then, click in to your bindings, point your tips downhill and ski the line as far as you want to!
History & Background
This has long been a favorite Spring skiing objective by many of the Colorado Springs locals. A must do for the aspiring ski mountaineer!