Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loveland Side Country: Porcupine Ridge, Trelease, & Golden Bear Skiing

Porcupine Saddle and Mount Trelease represent the southern and northern boundaries of Loveland Ski Area, respectively, and as such are very visible to Loveland skiers all season. They are neither the gnarliest or most aesthetic lines around by any means, but I think they have a certain appeal to most Loveland skiers because of their location. Golden Bear anchors the northwest corner of the ski area and has fun backcountry skiing, invisible from the ski area, that drops high into Dry Gulch. Over the past couple of years we have camped up in Loveland Basin after the ski area closed and this is when we have skied some of these lines.

Nick Allen skins towards camp
Snow man jibbing
Photo: Jordan Scheremeta
Sunset the previous evening over Mt. Parnassus

Porcupine Ridge:
Porcupine Ridge is quickly accessed from E-Tow cabin by skinning the reverse route of how you would ski Porcupine Saddle, then following the ridgeline east to the summit of Porcupine Ridge. This 1500’ vertical climb takes no more than 1.5 hours. From the top one can select from the 7 or 8 obvious fingers of snow that descend back into Loveland Basin. We skied one of the larger ones starting right off the summit, but many of the lines to the east looking pretty interesting, with some unique rock spires rising along the descent. Each one of us skied the line non-stop, enjoying not having to stop and wait for the group to catch up. At  the top there are some fun wind lips to jump off, but as I learned when I came flying off one, one needs to be careful for all the sharks in this area!
Josh Nunnamaker
Photo: Ethan Vimont
Jordan Scheremeta
Photo: Ethan Vimont
Rachel Ertz
Photo: Ethan Vimont
Mike Records
Photo: Ethan Vimont
This is definitely a must ski for a Loveland skier, but otherwise not particularly outstanding. It does have consistent pitch through the whole line, but the shallow snowpack makes it hard to really open it up. Also, its aspect, exposed to the wind, but generally protected from the sun limits the windows of quality snow on it. These lines can be accessed during the ski season, but because there is no BC gate at porcupine saddle, they must be accessed by a long traverse/climb from the chair one BC gate.

Trelease South Chutes:
During ski season the long ridge of Trelease and its south facing chutes can be clearly seen from most of Loveland, especially chair 8. It should do noted these can slide big, and because of their long path length and terrain trap type nature, triggering a slide here would be very high consequence. In the past it was completely acceptable to ski from the top of Trelease back into Loveland, but after a particularly large and scary snowboarder triggered avalanche a couple seasons ago Loveland has done an excellent job making their policy on this area very fuzzy. However, if one were to ski down Trelease and back into the ski area they would never cross a boundary rope, so I'm not really sure what Loveland's gaper ski patrol would do, other than suck at skiing.

This zone on Trelease is most easily easily accessed from the BC gate near the top of chair 8, however as we skied it after camping near the E-Tow cabin our tour over there involved a long traverse including a very exciting downhill skin across  the South Chutes.

Passing the top of chair 8

Once past the BC gate and onto the ridge it is possible to skin all the way to the top, but a bit difficult. It is an easy climb up the ridge that is quite enjoyable because of the beautiful views into Dry Gulch.

Looking into Dry Gulch
The Citadel
Adam Buckwalter and Josh following the ridgeline
Looking back at Rachel and Golden Bear peak 
From the top, just like Porcupine ridge, there are many chutes of snow to chose from. They all offer similar pitch, but the ones slightly farther east provide longer vertical. Because of their southerly aspect these chutes corn up early in the day and reach a spring-like snowpack earlier in the season.



Heading out
And, of course, the lines end at the cattrack out of Awesome. From here you can take the lift back up or ski back down to the base area.

I actually really enjoyed this zone: its reasonably long, plenty steep to get up some speed, gets great corn, and has easy access.

Golden Bear's North Face:

Golden Bear, or Thirteen-Ten (13010 ft) as its called by the ski area, marks the northwestern boundary of the ski area. Its eastern face is inbounds, but rarely open, which is a shame as its quite steep and doesn't experience the same level of extreme wind scouring that much of the ski area does. On the north side of Golden Bear, just below the summit, are several wide 1000 vertical foot chutes. I've skied this area several times now, and have found that because this mini zone extends essentially continuously from the top of Golden Bear to the Hagar, there a plethora of bowls and chutes that can be easily accessed.

These chutes can be quickly reached through the BC access gate near the top of chair 8. From the gate, one can follow the ridgeline that connects Golden Bear and Trelease to the summit of Golden Bear. Depending on the time of year and the depth of the snowpack, this ridge can be grassy and bootpackable, or snow-covered and  skinable.

Jordan looks north towards The Citadel
Because of its unique location at the edge of Loveland Basin, Dry Gulch, Clear Creek County, and Summit County, there are great views of many prominant and fun BC lines from the top of Golden Bear. These include Hagar and The Citadel of Dry Gulch, and Coon Hill and Buffalo in Summit County.

Coon Hill's north face, Buffalo Couloir background left

A small slab I triggered with a ski cut on a short easterly aspect above Golden Bear's north face. The chutes themselves should be approached with more caution as they are long, experience significant and consistent crossloading, and are terrain trappy.


The really cool thing about skiing the north chutes of Golden Bear is that it puts you in great position to quickly regain the small pass between Golden Bear and Trelease, and then follow Trelease east until reaching a place you'd like to drop. One can drop into the south chutes of Trelease, east towards Loveland Valley, or even north back into Dry Gulch. There is some really great terrain on the east end of Trelease dropping north back into Dry Gulch which I described here.

Jordan boot packs up Trelease's West Ridge, Gold Bear in the background

Love at Loveland Valley
Here is a short POV edit from a day in 2010 when Ethan, Jordan, and I skied a different bowl, farther north on the ridge between Golden Bear and Hagar. This was a fun run because after the initial alpine bowl, there a bench, followed by another fun shot deep into Dry Gulch. If you descend this far into Dry Gulch you are essentially committing yourself to existing through the terminus of Dry Gulch down to I-70. One needs to be a more careful here as there are many large slide paths dropping from Trelease into Dry Gulch which should not be crossed under during high avalanche periods.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet Mike!

    Thanks for posting these...some great memories in there :)