- CJ Wolf
Skiing Hayden Peak Couloir
Hayden Peak is the crown jewel of peaks along Mirror Lake Highway. It is by far the most impressive and intimidating peak. As your drive over Bald Pass heading east, you turn the corner and Hayden is staring right at you in the distance. As a skier, your eyes are immediately drawn to the western couloir that screams, “ski me if you can”. This narrow strip of white goodness had been calling my name for about 3 years before I actually conquered the beast. I had been preoccupied skiing closer and more accessible lines in the Uintas like Murdock, Reids and Watson but Hayden remained an obsession that I would fascinate about every time I would go snowmobiling in this zone.
Last year, a few buddies and I did attempted a snowmobile recon mission to the base of the chute on a big powder day. To get to the apron requires some boondocking up a hill and after several failed runs up the hill- I hit a tree pretty hard with my snowmobile. Needless to say, I was done for the day so Hayden would have to wait another year.
Spring skiing in the Uintas is the ideal time to bag bigger lines as the avalanche danger is typically lower. This spring day was perfect because we were in a nice freeze thaw cycle which makes it ideal for corn skiing. I recruited my nephew in-law, Sean, and his buddy, Connor, to join me. We fired up the snowmobiles from Soapstone but within 3 miles of our journey, one of my sleds was overheating. Instead of waiting for it to cool down, we consolidated to two sleds and continued with our mission.
To get there, go over Bald Pass and continue for a few more miles until you pass Butterfly Lake on your left (west). You will see a sign for the the Highline trail and parking area. Exit highway 150 here and start heading east towards the couloir and you should cross over two small lakes. The hill was very manageable on this day because the snow was firmer so we were able to get the sleds to within about 500 yards of the apron. We put on our skins and commenced the climb. We were able to skin most of the way up the apron before it got too steep. At this point, we ripped the skins and put crampons on our boots. Some parts of the boot back were still frozen so having crampons was a must. I carried my ice axe and although it wasn’t necessary- it was reassuring to have as an asset. We expected the hike up the chute to be about an hour but it took closer to 90 minutes as it was slow going up the steep pitch. The couloir is not a no fall zone since there are no overhangs but if you fall- you would definitely go for a long, uncomfortable ride.
At top of the couloir there is a small saddle that provides ample room to take in the view and to transition back to your skis.
When we got to the top, it was around noon and the temps were warming up into 40s but because this is an western facing line- the top part hadn’t softened up yet. It is always hard to time corn snow but an additional 30 minutes of cooking might have done the trick. The top part was firm and chattery but as we descended the snow softened up and the bottom half allowed for some buttery, smear turns.
This chute is a classic Uinta line which looks more intimidating from a distance than it really is. The steepest section is probably mid 40 degrees and since there are no major consequences- it should be on everyone's bucket list.