South Face Couloir
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Looking down the approach slopes. The Sneffels Hi...
This is the very obvious, skinny couloir that threads up through the very center of Dallas's South face. Depending on your viewpoint, part of the couloir is obscured behind the prominent cliff face which forms the upper right half of the South face.
The route starts at a rockband parallel to the bottom of the huge cliff face on the right. This can be climbed directly at low fifth-class or skirted on the left on snow. The angle decreases slightly as the couloir passes right behind the cliff face, before steepening again. The several cliffbands above are climbed through on short stretches of vertical waterice, AI3/3+.
At the final cliffband, trend right to the slot between the huge "thumb" on the skyline and the main summit. It looks as if a direct finish is possible from this point by climbing handcracks straight up solid granite for 100' to ledges below the summit. A preferred finish if you brought enough rock gear. Otherwise, climb through the notch, down a little ways on the other side and back up and left to the East ridge. Several variations exist; the easiest in the snow conditions we encountered brought us through a tiny hole behind a chockstone, 4th Class.
The final 100-150' from ledges on the East ridge to the summit is vertical and the only spot we used the rope. Connect ledges to gain the blocky skyline on the left in one 50' pitch to a large ledge on the South face, which is situated directly above the slot behind the "thumb" below. The direct variation from the top of the couloir proper will deposit you here. A steep and exposed 20' chimney leads from the ledge to the summit, 5.7.
Approach from the south as you would for the standard route (which crosses below the huge cliff face that forms the mountain's upper right side, over the East ridge and summits from the mountains north side on easier ledges. A description can be found in 13ers.com
and summitpost.com). Drive to the end of Mill Creek Road (one mile west of Telluride), and park at the Deep Creek Trailhead. Hike to and up the Sneffels Highline Trail above the switchbacks and about a mile across the traverse into Mill Creek Basin. It is obvious when you should head straight uphill to the base of the route.
Descent: there are slings around a huge boulder on the east side of the summit. Rappel east back to the East ridge. A 30' rappel gets you to a large ledge and another 30-50' rappel gets you out of vertical terrain. From the East ridge, reverse the standard hiking route, or downclimb your way down and east through the large cliffband below. A fair amount of eastward, exposed traversing is necessary to link steep, skinny couloirs to a final wide couloir that leads to the scree slope above the Sneffels Highline Trail.
Rock gear can be had to both sides of the couloir in pretty solid rock. The least fractured and best quality rock in the whole Telluride area. It is possible to rappel the entire couloir on rock gear if necessary.
Dallas, Blocktops, Gilpin.
Looking up the start of the couloir, which goes up...
Alpine ice low in the couloir.
The exit couloir after downclimbing and traversing...
Fike topping out the final 30' chimney off the le...
The upper East ridge of Dallas, just prior to the ...
Fike stepping out to the final verticalness below ...
BETA PHOTO: Jon Fike getting into the business, on the East si...