The Pearl Couloir


Sean skiing the Pearl Couloir.

Earlier this week, a group of us went out for our first real backcountry ski day of the season. Better late than never.

Sure, we’ve been in the backcountry on mellow tours through moderate terrain, but conditions and snowfall haven’t been suitable for taking on anything more. Now that we’re into spring and the instabilities that existed through the winter have been nullified somewhat by the melt-freeze cycle, it was time to go skiing.

Sean, Pierre, John, and I went up to ski the Pearl Couloir on Cathedral Peak. The coverage was thin and the approach was dry, but we had a great day. Not surprisingly, most of us agreed it was our best backcountry ski day of the year.

Hopefully there will be at least a few more days to come. From the looks of things up high and with temperatures nearing the 60’s most days, the whole season in the high country here could be wrapping up very soon. We’ll see.

Here are some more photos from the best day of the season.


Pierre Wille and John Doyle make their way across Cathedral Lake en route to the Pearl Couloir. There isn’t a skiable line on Cathedral’s big face, and Electric Peak out to the right looks even drier. The top of the Pearl Couloir is visible, descending from the col down to the right of Cathedral’s summit.


Pierre starts up the couloir.


John nears the top of the couloir and Pierre documents the event. It’s pretty steep where it tops out and was actually a committing first turn of the season.








It was just fun to be out in real terrain.


Like I said, better late than never.


The route, marked in a photo taken during one of the recent big snow years . It’s quite a difference when compared to the photo near the start of the post.

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10 comments to The Pearl Couloir

  • Rod Nash/ Arlene Edwards

    We’ve been using the words “milkin’it” to describe what we all did; squeeze the last drops out of a sub par snow year. Beautiful day up there for you. Rod

  • Beautiful pix as usual. Was on Garret Peak w/ Bob Perlmutter (your couloir’s name sake – although “Kirk’s Couloir” has an alliterate ring to it but “Pearl” is better) Saturday AM. Pretty good coverage and skiing. Bomb proof snow. Great to be out and up high. Dirt walk wasn’t so bad. Glad we brought our hiking shoes. Nothing wrong with milk.

  • Pretty good first tour of the season when you can ski from roughly 13,900. Great day in the Elks again.
    Let’s go again before we can’t.
    High quality documentation – Thanks Ted.

  • Bob Perlmutter

    Wow, time marches on. It’s been almost 30yrs. since Kirk Lawrence and I first skied what has been dubbed by others as the “Pearl Couloir”. I skied it again the following year with Chris Kessler. Great to see others still enjoying it. Both of those times we skied off the summit and entered the couloir looker’s left of the big outcrop of rocks at the end of the summit ridge in your last photo. Still the steepest skiing I have ever done. Once we were in the couloir it felt like a sanctuary. Glad those Ramers never prereleased.

  • ted

    Thanks for the retrospective, Bob. That was a long time ago and well ahead of its time. We’re all glad those Ramers held. Any photos in your archives?

    I’ve always wondered if you originally called it the “Perl Couloir” and it just morphed into “Pearl” through the years?

    A few years back Christy and I climbed Cathedral to the summit along the route you describe skiing, it was super-steep along the top there. It has such a great mix of steep snow and skiing options, you can pick all sorts of different routes and always have fun. Once melted however, the loose rock has always kept us away.

    Glad Garrett’s was fun.

  • Bob Perlmutter

    The name just morphed over the years as no doubt has my memory. I don’t remember if I had a camera or not but if I did I was probably too gripped to deal with taking any photos. Certainly this is not the year for adequate coverage to ski off the summit. Still hope to get a few more days in up high before it all goes away. Cheers.

  • Nice Job! Call me next time. Hein and I skied Sopris on Sunday (with 15 others on the hill). Fun! Thanks for a cool blog!

  • ted

    Thanks Tom. It sounded like Sopris was busy on Sunday. Looks like we’ll have a short return to winter through the weekend, maybe we can put something together next week.

  • Andy Crisconi

    Looked like a great day out on Cathedral! One of my favorite 13ers.

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