The finest ski tour in RMNP? Keplinger’s Couloir to Flying Dutchman

A bold claim, but one that I’ll stand by for the various tours that I’ve done in the front range.

For whatever reason, I tend to obsess with how ski tours look on a map. For that reason, loops and logical link-ups tend to get me way more excited than simple out and backs. In spite of all the skiing we’ve done in RMNP the last few years, I hadn’t yet skied from the summit of Longs Peak. For clean ski descents there are generally only two viable options from the summit: the North Face and Keplinger’s couloir. Both are very appealing. The North Face wins for position and exposure, but is very short when it can’t be linked past the camel or the boulder field. It is also rare for the NF to go clean.  Keplinger’s isn’t quite as steep, but is around 3x as long and in a remarkable location. Both runs are fickle, sometimes coming in for only a few days, and other years not at all. Both runs also have fairly long standard approaches, so it makes sense to ski something else when you’re in the area. That brings one to the question of what link-up looks the best on a map, and provides the correct aspects for a solid day of good skiing. Ideally the day should start with S or E facing runs and end with N or W facing. After some thinking, I decided that a link of Keplingers and the Flying Dutchman would be the best choice, possibly including a run on the North Face if time and conditions allowed. In the end, there wasn’t time for the N Face, but the rest of the tour was awesome.

Our approximate route is below:

At around 7000′ of vert, it isnt much more than the standard wild basin approach to Keplinger’s (6kish), but it has the added benefit of mixing in the awesome run down Flying Dutchman and a bit of proper climbing on the NF.  The only other consideration is that it is probably prudent to bring a rope, harness, and super light rack on this tour, both for climbing the NF of longs, and for rapping the crux on Flying Dutchman.  There’s also the risk that Keps will be out, but there is plenty of other snow sliding to do in the area if you look past the desire for a summit descent (Trough, Notch, Lamb Slide, etc).

Gear notes in addition to the standard ski kit:
1x whippet
1x lightweight ice axe
1x Al crampons
2x 30m x 7.8mm ropes
1x 0.5 Camalot
1x set of nuts
1x ultralight harness/belay device/carabiners
and most importantly, carry over your approach shoes for the hike back to the loft. That kind of talus is no fun in ski boots.

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As the last pictures below might allude, you can no longer get gas 24-7 in Lyons, so plan accordingly or face a very stressful drive home.

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