Nokhu Crags 12,485'

Nokhu Crags from the east.  Photo: Rob Writz

The Northern Never Summer Mountains are blessed with abundant couloirs to climb and ski. Nokhu Crags stands guard at the northern end of the range and greets drivers as they crest Cameron Pass on Highway 14. The name is derived from the Arapaho language, Neaha-no-xhu, meaning “Eagles Nest”. The mountain is laced with couloirs on its south, east, and west sides. Nokhu Crags calls to ski mountaineers, but its best routes are hidden from the highway view.

The eastern ramparts of the peak are comprised of vertical towers that are separated by steep and narrow chutes. All winter long these couloirs are filled with snow, and the spring powder skiing in this basin is world class. Three Sisters, Grand Central, Nokhouloir, Breakfast Couloir, and surrounding chutes are short on vertical feet, but this means you can climb and ski multiple lines in one trip.

The west side of the Crags is windswept all winter long. It takes several significant spring storms to fill in the myriad of chutes on this side. Rock for Brains couloir is the most well known of the west side chutes, but it doesn’t get skied often. Rock for Brains and Nokhouloir share a col Nokhu's South Summit.

There are more couloirs on the south side of the long east ridge extending from Nokhu Crags and above the Snow Lake Basin and headwaters of the Michigan River. Each aspect of Nokhu Crags has an adventure in waiting!

+ ROUTES

Shared Approach to 11,400’ below the East Face

All of the routes on the east side of Nokhu Crags share this approach. From Lake Agnes Trailhead, ski down to the Seven Utes snowmobile trail (note the orange markers), take this east and down to the bridge over the Michigan River (0.65 miles from the start). Follow the blue signs for the Nokhu/Agnes Cabins. A few turns up and there is a sign on your right for the Crags Campground. The sign is showing that the Crags Campground is to the left. Turn left here and follow the angling forest road gently uphill. This road is paralleling the Michigan Ditch and eventually intersects it after crossing several avalanche chutes. It is about one mile from the left turn at the sign for Crags Campground to the Michigan Ditch. Go east on the Ditch to the basin below the east side of the Nokhu Crags. If the approach was covered in snow on the way in then you should be able to quickly ski the same path on the way out.

Climb the low angle streambed southwest to 11,000’. On the way up you will catch glimpses of the Nokhu Crags. Above 11,000’ is a steep headwall. Climb this on the right side, and then access the low angle terrain below the Nokhu Crags. It is approximately 3 miles from the trailhead to the base of the Crags below the Nokhouloir and Grand Central Couloir.

1A, 1B, 1C – Three Sisters

  • Rating: II D8 – D12
  • Season: Spring,
  • Exposure: East
  • Vertical: 600’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,700’– 12,140’
  • Approach Distance: From Nokhu Hut and Agnes Lake TH: 3 Miles
  • Base of Route Waypoint (Middle Sister): 40.4871, -105.8916

Three Sisters are the three distinct and narrow couloirs that are at the north end of the east side of Nokhu Crags. The Right and Middle Sisters (1A, 1B, D12) are narrow chutes, and there is even a steep chute between these that forms in really good snow years! The Left Sister (1C) is separated from the other two chutes and is wider. This chute is also steep at the bottom, but the majority of the chute is not as steep as its sisters (D8). These chutes all face east, but they are deeply inset and thus stay in the shade for most of the day.

2, 3, 4 – Grand Central Couloir & Nokhouloir

  • Rating: II D6 – D9
  • Season: Spring,
  • Exposure: East, Northeast
  • Vertical: 800’
  • Approach Elevations: 9,700’– 12,330’
  • Approach Distance: From Nokhu Hut and Agnes Lake TH: 3 Miles
  • Base of Route Waypoint (Nokhouloir): 40.4845, -105.8911

These three couloirs are uphill from Three Sisters and around the main buttress of Nokhu Crags. From right to left, the chutes are Grand Central Couloir (2, D9), Nokhouloir (3, D6), and Breakfast Couloir (4, D9). Grand Central and Nokhouloir are on either side of Nokhu Crag’s South Summit. Grand Central is not visible until you are at the base of the chute. The Grand is steeper than Nokhouloir, but the top of The Grand faces east and is often affected by the sun during the winter. The very top of Grand Central is quite steep, but this pitch only lasts a few turns. The steep turns at the top add to the spiciness factor! Breakfast Couloir is the chute that doglegs to the right. When you are standing at the bottom of these chutes, turn around to find even more options on the East Ridge!

It is a Class 3 scramble from the top of Nokhouloir to the South Summit, and a Class 4+ climb from the top of Grand Central. The rock that comprises Nokhu Crags is extremely loose. Climbing this with regular boots is challenging enough, let alone ski boots! Most ski mountaineers forgo the summit and ski the chutes.

+ TRAILHEAD

Nokhu Hut and Agnes Lake Parking (9,700’)

Cameron Pass is about 68 miles from Fort Collins and about 31 miles from Walden on Highway 14. The Nokhu Hut and Agnes Lake Parking is 2.5 miles west of Cameron Pass on Highway 14. The Nokhu Crags are in State Forest State Park, and there is a self-service kiosk at the trailhead to pay the$3 individual day pass to access the state park.

+ MAPS & PICTURES

Below we have included a link to a Google interactive map and a curated list of photos of the mountain.

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website

Clicking on map above will open interactive Google map website