ascent and descent route: Shit for Brains Couloir, Black Mountain
Shit for Brains
"Shit for Brains" is a prominent couloir that drops off the continental divide between Loveland pass and Arapahoe Basin ski area. This is a line that every person who goes to ski at A-Basin can see from the chairlifts. Viewed from the mountain it looks far to steep and narrow to ride. It is a steep descent but not as steep or narrow as many think. I have also heard this line called "Nun's Cunt" for obvious reasons. I have heard several different stories about where the name Shit for Brains came from. The most obvious is that people who look at that line from across the valley think that it is so steep and narrow that you would have to have shit for brains to try and ski it. I have also heard a story that dates back 10 or 20 years ago. I do not know this story to be true but i have heard it told several times by A-Basin locals. Supposedly 10-20 years ago(depending on who you talk to) two guys were riding the line and triggered an avalanche Victim A ended up on top of the runout at the bottom unharmed and victim B was buried. Neither of these two carried avalanche rescue gear nor did they have much snow knowledge. Victim A yelled a couple times, listening for Victim B. He did not hear anything so he quickly descended to call for help. When the rescue group arrived they quickly found victim B dead from asphixiation with a hand sticking up out of the snow. If Victim A had bothered to just look around the accident site he would have seen the arm and quickly uncovered Victim B. Therefore he was branded as having shit for brains. The name of this line then came to be known as Shit for Brains instead of Nun's Cunt. Again, I do not know this story to be true. CAIC accident reports do not go far enough back to confirm or dismiss this story. It is an interesting possible part of the areas history however and an example of how easily stupid mistakes can happen in the wilderness.
Mike and I decided to do this line a couple days before. He had skiied this line several times prior to our trip. The Summit County mountains had been in a strong freeze-thaw cycle for a bit now and it was time to ride this line I had looked at for a long time. I met Mike at the A-Basin parking lot around sunrise. I quickly discovered that I had left my jacket at home in Avon. Damn. Fortunately Mike had a jacket I could use. "Wow, this is a great way to start this adventure," I thought sarcastically. We hopped in his car and drove a mile up the road to the "trailhead" behind the CDOT building and the winter closure gate for Loveland pass. We skinned up quickly into the basin beneath the Couloir on frozen spring snow. We threw our skis and board on our backs at this point and put on axe and crampons for the steep climb.
We climbed up into the gradually steepening couloir. I had just gotton new snowboard boots and my crampons were not fitting well to these boots. They kept on coming off as I ascended the line. I finally got them secure about halfway up. We climbed up through the narrow choke and near to the top of the couloir. As the pitch angle began to mellow, we decided to drop in. The route to the summit from here involves a loose unpleasant 4th-class rock climb to the top of Black mountain. We had come to ride the line we so geared up here.
We dropped in one at a time. This is a super classic steep line. Beautiful 45-50 degree jump turns through most of the couloir. The pitch angle mellows a bit as you get to the bottom. Jump, turn to toes. Jump turn to heels. Classic steep riding. This is a great line! We took turns in the couloir riding one at a time stopping to take some pictures. We rode down to A-basin and took the chairlift ride to the top of Pali to admire our tracks from across the valley. This is one of the most classic steep lines anywhere around Summit county. Despite my jacket and crampon troubles we had a great time and made some awesome turns!
photo-Zach Taylor riding out the bottom of the shit for brains couloir. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-Zach Taylor gearing up to drop into the couloir. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo- Zach Taylor riding in the upper part of the Shit for Brains Couloir. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo- A look down into the Shit for Brains couloir. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo-Zach Taylor riding the couoir. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-Zach Taylor riding out the bottom of the Shit for Brains couloir. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-Mike Bannister getting ready to drop into Shit for Brains, photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo- Zach Taylor climbing into Shit for Brains. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.
photo-A view of Shit for Brains. This is the most prominent steep and narrow snow line. photo by Mike Bannister, 2009.