What's in this Area?
Submitted By: adrenalated on April 29, 2010
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|- Skin Track:||Moderate|
|Starting Elevation:||10,850 ft.|
|Elevation Gain:||3,415 ft.|
|High Point:||14,265 ft.|
|Max Slope Angle:||40-45 degrees°|
There are two options for approaching Cristo Couloir.
The first is to climb the East Ridge route. This is probably the most common way to approach Cristo, but does not allow you to preview conditions in the couloir. This is the best approach when Blue Lakes Road is snowcovered. See that route's description for details on the climb. The ratings above for distance and elevation gain assume that you are using this approach.
The second is to climb Cristo. This is the best option if Blue Lakes Road is clear of snow, and you have sufficient mountaineering ability to handle the climb. To climb this route, drive to the dam at Blue Lake (or as close as you can). There is an excellent view of the route from the south end of the dam. Cristo is the wide snow gully directly north of the dam on Cristo's south face. Cross to the north side of the dam and begin bootpacking directly up the snow. The couloir is 2,575' and leads directly to the summit. Climbing the scree on either side of the couloir is not recommended because it increases erosion of the slope. In lean snow conditions, the top 1/3 of the line may be melted out.
If climbing the East Ridge, skins or snowshoes will be required. Crampons may be needed for the final pitch from 13,700' to the summit. An ice axe is probably not needed, but would not be a bad idea to have along.
If climbing Cristo Couloir, crampons and an ice axe and/or self-arrest poles are necessary. Timid climbers sometimes rope up. Skins or snowshoes will be needed if Blue Lakes Road is snowcovered, but will not be needed if you can drive all the way to the dam.
Cristo is a fairly wide snow gully, and is not particularly technical to ski. That said, it is steep enough to demand advanced ski abilities.
Cristo is rated D8 or D9 depending on snow conditions. For information on the D rating system, see here: http://www.wildsnow.com/articles/ratings/ski-board-d-rating-system.html
In good snow conditions, Cristo can be skied right off the summit. Depending on snowpack, there may or may not be a few rocky patches to navigate. The gully has a few rollovers, the steepest reaching 40-45 degrees. The slope has a double fall-line, and is generally a bit mellower if you stay towards the skier's right side. While not a true no-fall zone, the double fall-line nature also means that a sliding fall in the couloir could be dangerous.
Cristo Couloir is a very large avalanche path and has claimed it's share of victims. As such, this route is recommended as a spring descent in times of good stability only. Also, whether you're driving or skinning up Blue Lakes Road, be aware that several major avalanche paths threaten the road near the dam.
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