North Star Couloir
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Michael Smith muggs on the descent.
This gem of a snow couloir winds its way up the secluded West face of North Arapaho Peak (13,502'). Climb this route early in the spring during a good snow year as the upper section of the route melts out and reveals an unpleasant steep scree field. You might be accessing this climb from a busy trailhead, but you leave the crowds behind once you cross onto the western face of the Arapahos.
It is a long way to the North Star, 8 miles round trip from the Fourth of July trailhead, so a high bivy might make sense to ensure you arrive at the couloir when it is still firm and stable. However, due to the northwesterly exposure and the deep inset of the couloir, the route remains in the shade most of the morning. An ice axe and crampons are recommended to prevent a high speed pinball descent down the rock lined walls of this twisting couloir. Expect steep sections to approach 45 degrees, especially near the top, depending on the year.
Start from the Fourth of July trailhead and follow the directions as if you were going to climb the Skywalker Couloir on the South Face. Once below Skywalker, follow the drainage north to a col between South Arapaho Peak and Quarter-to-Five Peak. Descend the other side to about 11,400' and contour under the spectacular west face of South Arapaho and North Arapaho. Look for the hidden entrance to the couloir on the north side of the west face of North Arapaho. You've gone to far if rock cliffs of the face turn to the south and bar further contouring. You can identify the North Star because it jogs left behind the rock walls past the entrance.
Once you're in the couloir, you'll wind up the face loosing sight of the bottom and top on a sinuous journey to a notch at 13,200'. The upper section of the route is exposed to harsh winds and is often scoured, expect some steep climbing up loose scree to the notch. The views from the notch are breathtaking with the North Face dropping steeply below on the other side and the backside of the Brainerd Lake complex looming across the gorge. To the north is Longs Peak dominating its domain, and to the south and west miles and miles of white capped mountains. A short scramble up moderate gullies leads to the huge North Arapaho cairn. Descend your ascent route (recommended on skis or snowboard) or complete a loop to South Arapaho along the South Ridge route and descend the Southeast Ridge to the Fourth of July trail.
Ice axe and Crampons
Alex Green climbing the couloir.
Smith entering the couloir - good beta shot here f...
Where the snow turns to scree...yup, it is kinda s...
Looking down from near the top of the couloir.
Skiing steep crud in the middle.
Climbing up the couloir, this is near the start. ...
Climbing the middle of the couloir.
Crankin' teles down the couloir.
The Northstar couloir is mostly hidden in this pho...
BETA PHOTO: Climbed Mt. Neva to look at the North Star route. ...
BETA PHOTO: Around 1000 ft of excellent quality snow climbing,...
|Comments on North Star Couloir
From: Tabernash, CO
May 27, 2013
Just climbed Northstar this past weekend. Still plenty of snow! Also lots of wetslide debris. Death cookies everywhere. Sat on top for a few hours and didn't ski until almost 11:00. Was still very hard snow. Overall, great trip and fun climb!
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Nov 10, 2004
It is mysterious that comments on this route keep disappearing.