Witter Peak 12,884'
Witter Peak is a windswept ridge extending east from the Continental Divide and Mount Eva. The winds are not kind to Witter and they peel off every ounce of snow on the ridge. Luckily, there are two leeward aspects that pull this snow back in. The most prominent line is the Welcome Couloir, and this occupies most of the Northeast Face. Witter Peak can be quickly accessed from the Rainbow Road, and it is often combined with the bowls on Mount Eva for a longer day.
Shared Approach to Chinns Lake
The Welcome Couloir and North Slope share a common approach to Chinns Lake. From the point you parked on the Rainbow Road, hike up the bumpy road to the intersection with Chinns Lake Road. This is seven tenths of a mile from the road’s intersection with the Continental Divide Trail. There are two options here. The first is to continue on the Rainbow Road one mile to the Fall River Reservoir. Locate the creek on the southeast shore of the reservoir and follow this uphill several hundred vertical feet to Chinns Lake. The other option is to take the Chinns Lake road one mile directly to the lake. If this road is snow covered you will be travelling over angled snow slopes that will make your left hip and knee feel shorter than your right by the time you reach the lake.
Route 1 - Welcome Couloir
Rating: II D7 - D11
Exposure: East, Northeast
Vertical: 1,00' - 1,200'
Approach Elevations: 10,225' - 12,884'
Approach Distance: From Rainbow Road at 10,225': 3 miles
The Welcome Couloir is a series of chutes that comprise the Northeast Face of Witter Peak. These are some of the best steep skiing south of James Peak on the Continental Divide. The looker’s left couloir (D8) is a straight forward shot to a notch on the ridge below the summit. The looker’s right couloir (D11) is accessed from the summit and splits two rock faces, has a cornice entry, and several cliffs in the lower line. In between these two chutes is a line moving from skier’s right to left that connects with the couloirs. There are other lines to explore on this face.
Once you reach Chinns Lake as described in the shared approach, stay on the south side of the lake and continue past Sherwin Lake and then up the east facing headwall to about 11,400’. The couloirs are above you at this point.
Route 2 - North Slope
- Rating: II D5
- Season: Spring
- Exposure: Northeast
- Vertical: 700'
- Approach Elevations: 10,225' - 12,600'
- Approach Distance: From Rainbow Road at 10,225': 3.5 miles
The North Slope is an excellent option that can be combined with the Welcome Couloir or with the routes on Mount Eva. This broad chute starts steep at the top but then moderates for big sweeping turns. The views from this point to the Mount Eva Basin and beyond the continental divide are amazing.
From Chinns Lake, make your way right through the forest to Slater Lake and then continue up and across a flat basin to 11,800’. On the hill to the hiker’s left of Slate Lake is a large boulder framed with a wind barrier as a memorial to RJB that can offer shelter if it is a windy day. Continue to the base of the slope and climb up from here.
Rainbow Road Continental Divide Trail (10,225’)
There are two possible trailhead points on the Rainbow Road depending on the snow conditions and private land. This road is located 6.6 miles from the Fall River Road exit 238 on Interstate 70. Follow the Fall River Road 6.6 miles to the major switchback. Exit the paved road and go straight on the dirt Rainbow Road. The majority of this road is in private land. Please respect this private land and do not park on the edges of the road that borders this property. The best options for parking are at the Rainbow Road and Fall River Road junction, at the first switchback, at the intersection with the Continental Divide Trail (10,225’), or at the Chinns Lake Road intersection. The snow and your tolerance for rock crawling will dictate where you park. In the late spring you can usually get a high clearance four wheel drive to the intersection with the Continental Divide Trail. The road gets rougher after that and the Chinns Lake Road is an off camber jeep road.