Colorado Backcountry: Jones Pass / Butler Gulch

Jones Pass - Butler Gulch

Location: Jones Pass Cirque
Riders: JP, iskibc, Kya, RJ
Start: 6am - 4pm (at car)

The anticipation started early monday as I was sitting in my office watching the storm dump over most of colorado. Loveland Pass reported almost a foot and a half and some spots in the northern central rockies got more then two and half feet. I knew the following day tour would be epic, if not brutal.

Jones Pass - Oct. Storm [Video Clip/Sound.wmv]

I met up with some backcountry skier friends from TGR in empire at 6am. The previous day we decided on doing a Jones Pass - Butler Gulch super tour. We rolled out of empire on the way to henderson mine, we decide to push it and see how far we could four wheel the trucks up the Jones Pass road in 20" deep snow. We made it almost to tree line before getting RJ's 4runner stuck in a ditch off the side of the pass road.

GPS Route & Waypoints

Lucky Kya had a tow rope and we latched it up to the Landcruiser and yanked him out. At that point we decided to park and start the slog. Afer a qiuck beacon check, the day started partly cloudy and we were stoked to see blue skies, that quickly changed after the first few switch backs above treeline. It was still dumping snow and windy as hell, vertigo had set in a while ago and visibility was non existent. The vertigo was really bad and we had no barring on landmarks or anything for that matter. After postholeling up to my waist for the last hour i was white knuckkling the GPS and topo maps. We hit the ridge and jone pass summit at 12,500' and had to wait for a weather window before we could drop the first run. Finally we could see down to the flats below and we took off. Short run, great powder, but just a warm up for what was in store. Traversing the flats toward the southern ridge on jones pass basin we boot packed straight up this gnarly couloir filled with snow.

It was a brutal climb and very slow after the 3 mile slog. We reached the small cornice at the top and made our way along the ridge to a spot we saw earlier from the slog in. The weather broke as we were planning the descent, Kya dropped first and we all had smiles watching him rip lines through endless blower pow. Run 2 was so good we forced ourselves to boot pack back up the avalanche chute we just hit for another lap. The snow was great, lots of coverage and face shots if you wanted them.

Overall the snow was a bit on the wet side but plenty slashable. We admired our fresh cut lines on the slog out and ended up tracking almost 3,500ft of powder turns and a little over 6 mile slog in deep colorado powder.

GPS Route Elevation Profile


Some Highlights:
* watching RJ explode off a rock jump, core shot
* watching Kya and iskibc rip killer pow lines and turns
* getting pissed at iskibc for telling me i wouldn't need my snowshoes
* freezing our ass off at the jones pass summit in white out conditions
* finding my handwarmers stashed in my bc pack. (thanks mom!)
* dropping off a small rock into untracked powder chute in october
* ripping face shots having half blower/half wet pow stuck on your goggles
* the slog out wondering if we'll make it back to the cars before dark
* the miller highlife and coolranch dorritos waiting at the cars