It was a clear, sunny, March day and the CAIC rated avalanche danger for the central mountains at low on all aspects and elevations. I had been looking at this line for years and decided today was the day to do it. This line is notoriously avalanche prone and has claimed several lives in the past but on this day it was set up well. This is one of the classic big mountain descents in Colorado. The Silver Couloir drops off the east ridge of Buffalo Mountain just a couple hundred feet beneath the summit to the north. The top of this line makes a Y with two entrances. Do not mistake this line for the Black Death Couloir which drops directly off the summit also to the North. This line cliffs out halfway down.
I live in Avon and the rest of the group is based out of Summit County or Boulder so we all met at Blue Moon bakery to get some breakfast on the go and then we drove ten minutes to the Buffalo Cabin trailhead. From here we skinned up a well established skin track for a ways. Eventually the trail disappeared and we continued up into an east facing avalanche path. I had just gotten Voile skinning crampons for my Venture splitboard and these came into use very quickly here. While Mike and Vanessa had to zig zag across the avalanche path, I was able to skin directly up the 38 degree average pitch with Scott who was snowshoeing.
photo-Zach Taylor skinning up the east facing avalanche path on Buffalo Mountain. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
The snow was hard and wind-compacted. Over the last couple weeks we had not had much snow and had also had a decent bit of sun to set everything up. In most situations in the winter I would never skin up an avalanche path but today avalanche concern was not there or we would not be on the line we were headed to anyway. We continued up to treeline and got onto a more defined east ridge above this avalanche path. It was getting a bit windy at this point. I watched several snow tornados spinning around on the mountain. We got up to the first(lower) finger of the Y entrance to the Silver Couloir. After looking at this line for so long from I70 it was awesome to peer down into it. We continued up to the summit to take some photos and enjoy the view before dropping in to make some turns.
photo- Zach Taylor(front, left) and Scott Humphrees(back, right) making their way up the east ridge of Buffalo Mountain near the summit.
photo-Zach Taylor on the summit of Buffalo Mountain. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-Scott Humphrees descending the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo-Vanessa Logsdon in the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo-Zach Taylor riding out the bottom of the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-Zach Taylor coming out of the bottom of the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-two shots of Mike Bannister descending the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
We dropped in riding one at a time, stopping several times in safe zones to regroup and take photos. When we came out of the bottom of the couloir we put on our skins and traversed back around to the east slopes of Buffalo and descended back to the trailhead to go crash Scott's hot tub in Summit and drink beer. All in all this is one of my favorite descents I have done. While not on a 14er this line stands up to some of my favorites on many 14ers. It is a couple degrees over 40 at its steepest sections. The line is deeply inset into the North face of Buffalo. It has a great alpine feel with some steep turns that are fun and somewhat technical without being scary steep. This is a line I will do again.
photo-Scott Humphrees in the upper part of the Silver Couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
members of trip:Mike Bannister, Vanessa Logsdon, Scott Humphres, and Zach Taylor