Type: Snow, Alpine, 1200 ft
FA: Bob Bliss and J. Herrington, August 7, 1993?
Page Views: 1,025 total · 9/month
Shared By: Dougald MacDonald on Jun 7, 2009
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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This is the central couloir on the big, steep northeast face of Paiute Peak. The face is about 1,500 feet high. Jack Roberts and I started on a snow-free bench on the left side of the face and climbed about 1,200 vertical feet on June 6, 2009. We started late, because of a very long approach, and soft snow allowed us to kick steps unroped up most of the couloir. The couloir appears to end at a large, ominous headwall below the top, but a hidden, six-foot-wide slot snakes up to the left and pops out just a few vertical feet below the summit. We belayed one pitch in this slot for a short step of ice, and then continued simul-climbing to the top.

I haven't found any record of an ascent of this face, but it's a big target and I presume it may have been climbed at some point. Nonetheless, Jack and I feel this great route deserves a name, and we propose the Ghost Dancer Couloir. The climb was excellent, with good snow right to the summit on June 6. By mid-June it would not be nearly as enjoyable.

See more info and photos from the climb at themountainworld.blogspot.c….


What makes the Ghost Dancer Couloir difficult is not the climbing but the approach. The only practical way to reach the northeast face of Paiute in snow-climbing season is by climbing from the Mitchell Lake Trailhead over Mt. Audubon and then down to the Coney Lakes basin. This requires bicycling from the winter gate to the Mitchell Lake Trailhead, hiking up Mt. Audubon, and then descending at least 1,000 feet, before you start the climb. We descended north from a saddle on Audubon's east ridge at around 12,700 feet, and diagonaled across Audubon's north face for about 1 mile. This was arduous and a bit dangerous. There might be two better options. 1) Continue over Audubon's summit (13,200-plus) to the Audubon-Paiute col (or climb to the col from near Blue Lake), and then descend more directly to the base of the northeast face, mostly on steep snow; crampons and ice axes necessary. 2) Or, from the saddle on the east ridge, descend straight down steep snow to Upper Coney Lake at around 11,000 feet, and then walk up the drainage to the base of Paiute's northeast face. Either way is long: A fit team in good conditions will likely need at least 4 hours for this approach. Start early!


Light rope, small rack.


Mike S  
Made a ski descent of this route on 5/5/11. Used two short raps to bypass rocky chokes in the upper couloir. Fixed anchors are present. Would recommend bringing 35m of rope. Skiing was really cool, upper couloir in the 55deg range and lower face 40-45. Make a long traverse left at the bottom to avoid the lower cliffs.
I approached from the road closure and climbed the S face. After skiing the NE face, I booted up one of the couloirs to the Paiute-Audobon saddle, climbed the E ridge of Paiute (super cool snow ridge and 3rd cl rock) and skied the S face. Amazingly, the snow was still cold on that side. 14 miles round trip and ~6,000 vert made for a long and rewarding day. The snowpack in the Indian Peaks right now is incredible. All you Boulder schralpinists need to hold off on the mountain bikes and go check out your backyard! This spring ski season is going to be one for the books. May 13, 2011
J Herrington
Livermore, Co
  Mod. Snow PG13
J Herrington   Livermore, Co
  Mod. Snow PG13
Bob Bliss and I did this route on August 7, 1993; and we did the approach over Audubon. We found good conditions with pretty firm snow and ice even at that late a date, but we climbed less as the lower part of the coulior had melted out.

I think you are right about the best approach being from Mitchell Lake. We did the Left Coulior a year earlier from the Cony Lakes drainage. There is a trail to the upper Cony Lake, then its brush and willows in the bottom of the canyon. We got out of the canyon and skirted the brush on the scree on Audubon and traversed then onto the lower face.

We found no evidence that anyone had been on the routes before and yours is the only posting I've ever seen. As you say, it's a big target; but its hard to get to and hard to see from anywhere but the north east, like Fort Collins.

JH Jan 30, 2014
J Herrington
Livermore, Co
  Mod. Snow PG13
J Herrington   Livermore, Co
  Mod. Snow PG13
I don't think it's the same Bob Bliss. Bob mostly climbed in Colorado and Wyoming. (Bliss-Carlson on Hallett in RMNP and many other "firsts" in the Park in the '60s and '70s.) He's such a humble guy that almost every time we went climbing I'd find out he'd done a major climb and then not told anyone. So it might be the same Bliss, but he never talked about the NW.

jh Jan 30, 2014
Matthias Holladay
Shiprock, Navajolands
Matthias Holladay   Shiprock, Navajolands
Oh, thanks. A certain B.B. is cited as one of the FA party on the North Face of Storm King in the South San Juans, CO. Jan 31, 2014
I was the "other" with Bob Bliss on the FA of the North Face of Storm King in the San Juans north of Durango, CO. I was the incompetent novice following his every lead, Bob the quiet, humble, seasoned climber. May 1, 2018