Trip Report
A Satisfactory Failure: Hallets Peak (the other side)
Saturday May 24, 2014 12:52pm
The north face of Hallets Peak dominates a postcard canyon that holds the appropriately-titled Dream Lake.

Credit: Rick A

For a cliff that contains a Fifty Classics alpine rock route, the approach is quite reasonable. The other side of Hallets, the gentle south side, is not nearly so popular, partly because it is has a nasty approach: up the jumble of house size boulders that fills the also appropriately-named Chaos Canyon.

But in a good spring for snow like this year, the boulders are mostly covered and you can waltz up Chaos Canyon on skis or splitboard. The south side of Hallets contains a 30-45 degree slope that is a ski mountaineering descent in a superb location.

Ed and I went up with this goal last Sunday, but a warm spell had come in Saturday and the temperatures were rising. The forecast called for 39 degrees at night in Estes Park , but we figured it had to be a lot colder up high, so we drove up to the Park and started up. The avalanche danger at this time of year is that the notoriously unstable Colorado snow pack has not yet consolidated with a regular freeze/thaw cycle; freezing nights are necessary for safe travel.

At Dream, the trail switchbacks up and around a buttress into the southern cirque and more jaw dropping views.

Credit: Rick A

Credit: Rick A

We got to the base of the route in a safe zone mid-morning and things were not looking good. My pole would regularly plunge a foot or two through soft wet snow to a hard base. When Ed proposed that we shouldn’t go any farther because of the danger, I had just come to the same conclusion. So we decided to have a bite to eat and head down.

Credit: Rick A

We were having a leisurely breakfast when a ripping sound akin to a rock fall made us turn our heads to the ascent route behind me. We watched as a slab of snow fell off a rock slab underlying it and hit the main ski descent path, a shallow gully. In seconds, the wet snow liquified before our eyes into a river of concrete, moving with surprising speed. What is hard to describe is the noise. There was not a sound before the slab let loose: no wind, no birds, nothing. Then the whole cirque was filled with a roaring akin to being on the banks of the Colorado during spring runoff.

When the silence returned, Debris three or four feet high poked out of a concrete channel as can seen here.

Credit: Rick A

The snow was slow and catchy on the way down, so the ride down was forgettable, but Ed and I were quite happy. A nice day in the mountains, and while falling far short of a summit, we found satisfaction that this time at least, our decision-making had been tested and found to be sound.

  Trip Report Views: 2,539
Rick A
About the Author
Rick A is a climber from Boulder, Colorado.


Trad climber
The state of confusion
  May 24, 2014 - 02:39pm PT
Knot a failure, Rick---you guys had a beautiful day and
had fun, right???

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  May 25, 2014 - 11:07pm PT
Good decision Rick! Glad you guys only viewed the slide from afar :-)

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  May 26, 2014 - 12:06am PT
Notta failure; you lived through the experience. Good work!


Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  May 26, 2014 - 01:30am PT
Cool little vingnette.

Trad climber
  May 26, 2014 - 01:34am PT
Glad you were out of harms way, Rick. Still looks like a great way to spend a day.
Justin DuBois

Trad climber
estes park co
  May 26, 2014 - 09:47am PT
Nobody climbs back there, not sure why. Maybe all the pebblers scare the old geezers off?

climbed this line on Hallet south face about 8 or 9 years ago.

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  May 26, 2014 - 10:08am PT
Good story and photos, rick A! I am always awed by these "what if" experiences, and I thonk to myself, in 100 parallel universes, I died a hundred times.

Trad climber
  May 26, 2014 - 12:01pm PT
Glad you weren't in the path of that sucker, Rick!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 26, 2014 - 12:11pm PT
Nice job, way to stay out of the slide.
duke of puke

boulder, co
  May 26, 2014 - 08:42pm PT
I was up there last Tues., and it wasn't long before I came to the same conclusion. Even if coming in from the top, there looked to be only one line from the summit, and a bit iffy one at that.

As per climbing back there and the picture... It looked from afar that the rock was going to be a bit choase, but it's cool to hear some of done that buttress. I was surprised to see it and not ever have it come mention for climbing.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  May 26, 2014 - 08:58pm PT
He who skins and skis away, saves his skin for another day.

Way to not talk yourself into trouble.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  May 27, 2014 - 12:07am PT
Very nice, I just wish Hallet and I got along. I asked an old Roma
palm reader about it once and she just stared at me. I was afraid to ask.
Big Mike

Trad climber
  May 27, 2014 - 12:11am PT
Any escape from a slide is a good escape. Good job listening to your intuition!