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A Park Classic! A long, sustained line in an epic cirque.


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Map Key

0.4

Miles

0.6

KM

Ski Line

12,193' 3,716 m

High

11,078' 3,377 m

Low

0' 0 m

Up

1,114' 340 m

Down

53%

Avg Slope (28°)

87%

Max Slope (41°)
Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry

Overview

The Notchtop Couloir is a 1,200-foot-long cut on the southeast aspect of Notchtop Mountain. This is probably the most obvious and sustained line in Odessa Gorge.

Description

The best beta for this route can be found in Kelly's "Backcountry Skiing & Ski Mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park." The beta here is much more basic.

There are multiple options for the approach and it should be noted that many do not climb this couloir before skiing it due to a large cornice.

First option, if wanting to climb the couloir before skiing it, one can take the same approach as Banana Bowls > Ptarmigan Glacier. Once you enter Odessa Gorge, the Notchtop Couloir is the most obvious southeast-facing line that begins to appear the minute you enter the cirque. Note that it is the *second* southeast couloir you'll encounter on Notchtop; the first being the Notchtop Spire Couloir, a more technical line with an ice bulge and more dangerous cornices. The Notchtop Couloir is much wider and should look like a much more continuous line.

Climb the couloir, ski it down. Note that the final pitch of climbing will be very steep and will likely require climbing over the edge of a cornice.

IF you tour to the base of the line and the cornice looks too intimidating to want to climb the couloir, but you're still looking for a snow climb, have no fear - a second option is to climb the Ptarmigan Glacier, which should be much more secure, tour across the flat summit of Notchtop, drop into the couloir and ski out the approach line (Ptarmigan to Banana Bowls).

A third option, with less thrills, but what is suggested in Kelly's guidebook, is simply to climb the Flattop Mountain Approach to the Flattop summit, ski over to the top of the Notchtop Couloir along the divide, and to drop from here.

Depending on avy danger, snow conditions, weather, etc., any of the three options above could be the better approach for the day.

Contacts

Shared By:

Jake Albright with improvements by Jacob Winey

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote

#240

Overall
  5.0 from 1 vote
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Ski Line Rankings

#63

in Colorado

#240

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Photos

climbing the upper portion of the couloir - it's steeper up top.
Apr 10, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Looking down skis about halfway down the couloir.
Apr 10, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
A look at both the Notchtop Couloir & the Notchtop Spire Couloir. Notchtop Couloir is the wider & more sustained line at lookers left.
Apr 10, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Skiing the middle pitches of the couloir.
Apr 10, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Booting the lower pitches of the Notchtop Couloir.
Apr 10, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
Climbing the lower half of the Notchtop Couloir in April.
Apr 10, 2023 near Grand Lake, CO
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