• Date - 05/31/2019
  • Elevation - 13,078'
  • Route - Whale Tail Couloir
  • Miles - 6.5
  • Elevation Gain - 3,030'
  • ACME Mapper - Link
  • CalTopo - Link
  • Partners - Not Applicable


I climbed the Whale Tail Couloir on Whale Peak northwest of Kenosha Pass.  I left my house at 3:30 and was able to drive within a quarter mile of the Gibson Lake Trailhead.  A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended after the Hall Valley Campground on County Road 60.  I was hiking by 5:15 and didn't need to use my headlamp.  I quickly got to the Gibson Lake Trailhead and there was snow on the trail from the start.  I only hiked a short time before deciding to put my snowshoes on, which I used all the way to the base of the snow climb.  I didn't feel strong due to low blood sugars and being out of shape and didn't get to the couloir until 8:00.  There were a few small gusts on occasion, but the wind and temperature were reasonable for the most part.

There was debris from a large wet slide in the couloir, but overnight temperatures were fairly cold and I decided to make an attempt and see what snow conditions were like.  After gaining a couple hundred feet, I thought the snow was near perfect as I was able to kick firm steps up the couloir.  It was a relatively short climb, but I felt it was worth it.  I reached the summit at 9:10 where I only stayed for 15 minutes due to wind and cold.  I was able to glissade back down the entire couloir and was back near Gibson Lake within minutes of leaving the summit.

I put my snowshoes back on for the hike out, which went quickly.  I was back at my vehicle by 11:00 for a car-to-car time of 5 hours and 45 minutes.  I don't ski, but there appeared to be a lot of skiable terrain in the Gibson Lake Basin.  If you are looking for an easy snow climb fairly close to Denver, Colorado, with reasonable statistics I would recommend the Whale Tail Couloir.


TrailheadSunriseTrail ConditionsWhale PeakWhale Tail CouloirLooking down approximately one-third of the way up.Looking up approximately one-third of the way up.Looking down approximately two-thirds of the way up.Looking up approximately two-thirds of the way up.The top of Whale Tail Couloir.Looking down the Whale Tail Couloir.Summit PhotoGrays Peak and Torreys PeakBreckenridge Ski ResortGibson Lake BasinWhale Peak on the hike out.