Shit for Brains Couloir is a classic line that kept coming up time and time again over the last couple of years in Google searches for backcountry lines in the Colorado Front Range. It is also one that's not very hidden as it can be seen from Arapahoe Basin and from the drive up U.S Highway 6 heading up to Loveland Pass from A-Basin. So naturally it's been on my short list of backcountry objectives for some time now. Nic and I were actually discussing possibly attempting it this Saturday.
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016, rolled along and I texted Brent Meyer to see if he wanted to link up to ride the following day. He asked if I was up for a hike. I said sure and he told me to meet him at the main A-Basin parking lot at 7 am. That's when it clicked and I asked if he planned on heading up to Shit for Brains. He was surprised I even knew what Shit for Brains was and we discussed the plan a little further. The one concern that I had was that it wasn't supposed to go above 32 degrees until 11 am and the couloir is westerly facing so it wouldn't get much sun until later in the day to soften up the snow. Brent reassured me that it was a good thing and that we are better off with bulletproof snow than with snow that had been sunbaked in terrain like that.
Wednesday morning I woke up bright and early, stopped by Moe's Broadway Bagel, which is phenomenal, for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch and headed out of Denver for A-Basin. At about 6:30 I was crossing Loveland Pass and stopped every so often to take pictures of our objective and the surrounding area. I highly recommend doing that whenever you can so you have points of reference to navigate later in the day. At 6:45 I pulled up the A-Basin to find out the lot was still closed for another 15 min. So I parked at the entrance and went inside to use their bathroom and throw on my boots in the warmth.
At 7:00 I parked in the main lot and Brent had let me know that he was running behind so I took my time getting the rest of my gear together and then sat there rocking out to Krystal 93 while I finished the rest of my coffee. As I sat there, one thing they had mentioned really stood out. A-Basin had gotten 2" of snow in the last 24 hours and 11" over the last 3 days and that the East Wall would be open. This was huge as the East Wall needs good snow to open and has similar terrain to Shit for Brains but a slightly different aspect. I quickly realized we might have picked a perfect day for this objective.
Brent rolled in at 7:45 and we left my car in the Early Riser Lot and took his up to Upper Lot. It didn't take long for him to get his stuff together and off we went at 8:20 am. There are multiple approaches to get up to the top of the couloir with the most popular being to hike to the base of it and climb directly up it. We opted to go lookers left and follow the ridge line to the top then traverse a couple of saddles over to the top of Shit for Brains.
We were hoping to find some tracks to follow but none were to be found so we hooked left through the trees and came out at the base of a gully. We usually wouldn't hike up a gully as that is a terrain trap but the snow was very firm and we felt pretty good about it. A few hundred feet up the gully it was time to start making our way towards the ridge line to our right as the gully was taking us farther left than we wanted to go.
Brent led the way and I followed. Brent was carrying his board and using it as leverage to distribute his weight and didn't have too much trouble climbing. I, on the other hand, had my board strapped to my pack and at times sank up to my chest in the snow. This one short section was the most difficult part of the ascent. I had to bushwhack through some trees and use them as anchors to get myself up.
Once we got to the ridge line at 10:20 am it was smooth sailing. The snow was firm enough that we weren't sinking through and we found some tracks to follow so we didn't have to work too hard to get solid footing up until right before the top where we had to kick our toes in a few times. To traverse over from the top of the ridge to the top of the couloir required climbing over some icy rocks so I threw own my crampons but Brent was able to get by just fine in just snowboard boots.
We reached the top of Shit for Brains at 12:20 and quickly got ready to drop in. Not only did Brent have somewhere to be in the afternoon but there were some clouds rolling in that would have killed the lighting. Brent took the honors of dropping first and crushed it. I dropped second and to my delight the couloir was filled with pow. I was so excited to be getting face shots that I didn't even notice the slough that was forming next to me. I went to speed check and thought I simply slid out from hitting ice underneath the snow but upon reviewing the footage I had crossed the slough and it took out my feet. Luckily I was easily able to get off to the side and let it run out before continuing my descent.
I met up with Brent at the bottom of the couloir and we split up to head to our cars. I followed some tracks riders left that led into the trees and Brent went high riders right to make sure he could get back to the Upper Lot. My tracks took me through some fun out of bounds glades before I ducked a rope onto a groomer down to the lot. I got to my car at about 12:45 giddier than a schoolgirl. With a massive grin on my face I took one look back up at the couloir and, realizing just how lucky we had gotten with the snow, I simply got back in the car and rolled back on down to Denver.