- Created on Wednesday, January 09 2013 16:08
- Last Updated on Wednesday, January 09 2013 22:39
- Written by Matt Lemke
- Hits: 292
- Created on Sunday, December 02 2012 13:29
- Last Updated on Sunday, December 02 2012 13:38
- Written by Matt Lemke
- Hits: 290
Ice Mountain Information
Ice Mountain has a long reputation for being a dangerous and loose climb worthy of the heartiest climbers. Overall this reputation lives up however there is a route on this mountain that has much less class 4 climbing then the standard Northeast Ridge route. This is the southwest face. Although the climbing and traversing is much more sustained on this route, is is technically easier and less exposed than the standard route. There are two ways to do this climb depending on the season. I will describe them both. In the spring and early summer, variation 1 is recommended which takes advantage of the Apostle couloir. In late summer and fall, variation 2 is recommended which takes you up and over West Apostle from Lake Ann.
A map of the routes is shown below:
The approach for this route is the same as the one for the Refrigerator Couloir and North Apostle. Start at the South Winfield trailhead (same as for Mount Huron) at the townsite of Winfield which lies at the end of Chaffe County road 390 12 miles from Highway 24. This road is a good gravel road suitable for almost any car although it is almost always washboarded. From Winfield, the Huron 4WD road continues up Clear Creek for two miles which is passable for higher clearance passenger cars (like a Subaru Forester). My 2WD Toyota Camry stationwagon made it just fine. 4WD is certainly not required for this road as it is not very steep...just rocky.
Variant 1 - Apostle Couloir
From the trailhead described above, (where a green gate can be found and room for about 20 cars) there are two trails, the one that heads left up the hill is bound for Mount Huron. This is not the trail you want instead head streight ahead as the other trail follows Clear Creek on fairly flat ground. Follow this for 1.2 easy miles to a sign right before it crosses Clear Creek and heads up towards Lake Ann. This signed junction is key to the entire approach. Roach's description for this area is way off so ignore his approach description. If you are bound for this variant (The Apostle Couloir) you must take the left fork following the well established boot path into Apostle Basin.
Follow this trail as it crosses the stream that drains Apostle Basin right before it converges with the main Clear Creek drainage. There are some minior ups and downs before the trail makes a steep 50 foot climb up to a small ridge seperating these two creeks. From this little vantage you can peer down either side at two different creeks right as they converge. It's a cool place.
Continue up this trail as it follows on the right side of the creek often with a steep drop on the left into the creek. You will eventually emerge into an open meadow area where the trail becomes less defined just below treeline. You will cross back to the creeks' left side then you will likely have to do a little bushwhacking through the willows but if you head for a small island of trees it will save you some effort. From this small elevated area with trees (great campsites) you will have a perfect view to the south of the Apostle Couloir. To get to it, climb steeply for about 50 feet up the terminus of a large rock glacier and follow the talus up towards the saddle of Ice Mountain and West Apostle.
The rock glacier is pretty loose but if you're here early enough in the season it may still be snow covered. Continue up the rock glacier until about 12,400 feet where the terrain begins to get considerably steeper. Ideally, there will be nice snow in the couloir above you. Put your crampons on and start climbing the couloir which gets gradually steeper with the steepest parts around 40 degrees near the top. Whenever you are faced with a split in the couloirs,always stay to the left. This 800 foot couloir dumps you right at the 13,200 foot saddle between West Apostle and Ice Mountain.
From the saddle, climb up the class 3 headwall to the east and begin a long traverse across the southwest face of Ice Mountain. There are not many cairns on this traverse but as a good rule of thumb, you should gain about 200 feet in the first initial climb out of the saddle, then stay more or less at the same elevation (about 13,400) as you cross at least 5 small ribs and gullies. Keep in mind you are constantly traversing above a huge set of cliffs that guard the lower part of Ice Mountains' south face. Although the traversing is mostly class 2+, care must always be taken to avoid a casual slip. I felt the crux of this traverse was right after the climb out of the saddle when we crossed some smooth slabs that would be pretty slick if wet. This was also the spot with the most exposure as we were right above the lower cliffs as oppsoed to a hundred or so feet above them on the rest of the traverse. The rock throughout this traverse was generally pretty solid on the ribs and loose in the small gullies. A helmet is mandatory though.
As you continue the traverse keep picking the easiest way through the gullies and ribs by doing short ups and downs while maintaining around 13,400 feet in elevation. You will eventually come across a set of two much larger gullies (trust me, you will know it when you see it - these gullies are WAY bigger than the ones you traverse across). These two gullies are seperated by a large rib (much larger than the ones you crossed) and either of these two large gullies will work for your final 600 foot ascent.
The Left Big Gully
Note: This is not the standard way up but I believe it is both safer and more fun
The one on the left (first one you get to) is much more solid but steeper and has more class 4 climbing near the top where you will hit the saddle between the false and true summits. If you decide to take this left, more solid gully, you will have to traverse the west ridge of Ice slightly until you reach a 40 foot overhanging cliff which marks the top of the rib seperating the two large gullies leading to the summit. This 40 foot cliff also lies right over the notch that the Refrigerator Couloir route brings you to. To avoid this cliff Drop down to the south (class 4) and get into the right gully 100 feet below the summit which then takes you directly to the top (class 3).
The Right Big Gully
This is the standard way up
From the end of the long traverse, cross the first big gully you see (described above) and cross below the large rib seperating them (you may have to descend slightly to do this) then start your final 600 foot ascent up the right gully. This gully is VERY loose so i would advise everyone in your party to climb together. The difficulty doesn't exceed class 3 but keep in mind, I thought this gully made Thunder Pyramid feel like solid granite! The nice thing though is that the rocks are mostly scree and small cobble sized so knocking a 500 pounder down isn't as likely. This gully takes you directly to the true summit.
When I climbed Ice Mountain, we ascended the left gully and descended the right gully. Return the way you came on the traverse. If you feel up to it, from the saddle above the Apostle Couloir, the ascent up West Apostle is an easy (class 2) 400 foot climb and the views of the southwest face on Ice Mountain are remarkable! When snow filled all the way to the bottom, the Apostle couloir makes a great glissade or ski for those who have the skill and experience to do so. Small rocks that have fallen from above can be scattered around though.
Variant 2 - Lake Ann/West Apostle
For this variation, which is better done in late summer and fall when all the snow has melted brings you past Lake Ann. This is a much longer day and required more up and down. From the signed trail junction 1.2 miles from the 4WD trailhead, instead of heading left up the Apostle Basin trail, bear right, cross Clear Creek immediently and continue up the very well established trail to Lake Ann. From the lake, you will follow the West Ridge Route on West Apostle to the summit. See Larry's description via the link. Basically you start climbing talus eastward from the lake, cross one N-S ridge and climb south up the second one to a small saddle in the main west ridge of West Apostle. You should see a small tarn just to the east below the N-S ridge you climb.
Continue up the class 2+ west ridge to the summit of West Apostle. You can preview the southwest face route from here very well as well as take a good look at the weather. Plan on at least 6 hours round trip from here. Descend the class 2 east ridge of West Apostle to the saddle above the Apostle Couloir and continue on the route described in Variant 1. Return the way you came.
If you do the Apostle Couloir, bring axe, crampons, stiff boots and approach shoes of some kind (for the rock and trail approach). Otherwise, a sturdy pair of boots, standard hiking gear and a HELMET!
A lot of mountaineering experience particuairly on loose rock would help as well as a perfecr weather day. Escape off Ice Mountain is very limited.
Who: Josh and I
What: The Three Apostles
Where: Sawatch Range near Mount Huron (but way better)
Why: Sawatch Range capstone peaks
How: Apostle couloir and SW face on Ice with a seperate solo ascent of North Apostle
18 total miles hiked and 7,500 total elevation gain - Overall my favorite Colorado climbs to date
Climbing the Three Apostles has always been something I looked forwards to as kind of a "Sawatch finisher". Last year at this time I never thought I'd have the skills to climb Ice Mountain but after a year of hiking and climbing I have grown more comfortable with harder and looser terrain. My friend Josh (as well as many others Colorado natives) had always told me that Ice Mountain was a class 4 ascent however, me being the true believer in the accuracy of Roach's books, I argued my point to death that it can be done with only class 3 climbing. People gave me so much grief on 14ers.com for thinking this as many great mountaineers have been turned around on this mountain usually on the so called NE ridge (traverse from North Apostle). All I have to say is, do not do this route. Why this is the standard route on Ice is beyond me but it shouldn't be. It is hardly ever free of snow and when covered it is a very dangerous and difficult climb.
Anyways, I was ready to tackle the Three Apostles and my adventure began solo on May 28th where I climbed North Apostle. For this I was mainly looking to get a lay of the land and see what the best way up Ice would be, as well as climbing one of the centennial 13ers. On May 29th, I hiked the trail to Lake Ann to see the conditions on that side of West Apostle and lots of lingering snow below treeline and around the lake made me decide not to go over West Apostle to climb Ice. I got good look at the Apostle couloir and the NE ridge on Ice mountain from North Apostle and my climb was decided. I would climb Ice Mountain using the SW face route with the Apostle Couloir. This would prove to be the best climb I've done in the Sawatch.
May 28th 2012 - North Apostle
I started by driving to the Huron trailhead to which I was surprised to see that my trusty 1987 Camry made it all the way to the end of the 4WD road at the gate. Since the weather was so nice, my casual 12 noon start wouldn't matter. I began hiking up the nice trail and entered the Collegiate Peaks wilderness after 0.6 miles and hit the signed junction for the Apostle Basin trail after 1.2 miles. I was greeted with fantastic views of the Three Apostles as I walked up the wide and lush valley.
I hiked up the Apostle Basin trail and was glad to see the trail was snow free all the way to the base of the large rock glacier extending down from Ice Mountain. Since my goal for the day was North Apostle, I hacked my way through the willows and followed the base of the rock glacier to an open 300 slope to the left. Climbing this talus and willow slope got me to the base of the large spire at the base of the west ridge.
There was some easy snow to climb to get to the base of this large spire that seemed to dominate my view to the southeast. Once at its base, I traversed around it on talus and made my way along the south side of this ridge crossing snow slopes and talus. Below me to the south was a small still frozen tarn and a high and wild basin still full of snow. Views to the north of Mount Huron were stunning.
Eventually I was able to locate the Refrigerator Couloir and was awed in amazement. It was still holding snow but thinning out fast. How anyone would climb this amazes me as one would have to be very accustomed to rockfall. I noticed a handful of Volkswagon sized boulders just chilling at the base of this couloir. Wonder how they got there???
As I climbed higher the talus got looser but not too unbearable. I located the choke I had to climb to gain the saddle between Ice and North Apostle. I saw moderate snow slopes for about 400 feet below it and put my spikes on to negotiate these slopes. Since it was around 2pm the snow was pretty soft but still firm enough to avoid postholing.
Climbing through this choke would have been a cakewalk if there was no snow but it was more fun with snow. After a couple class 3 moves to avoid the ice that had covered much of the rocks I was on my way up the final few hundred feet to the saddle. From this saddle, views down to the east revealed a part of the Sawatch very close to me, the Emerald Group. My first climb in the Sawatch was Iowa from Clohesy Lake via the loose west ridge in fall 2009. At that time I was in no way a climber or peak bagger and I ended up traversing around Emerald while my friend climbed it. I didn't think it was worth summitting and we descended to the small mining shed below Emerald before hiking back to the lake. Looking at these peaks brought back great memories of my first Sawatch sufferfest a few years ago. As I write this, I still have to climb Emerald, which is my last Sawatch centennial I need.
Climbing the final few hundred feet to the summit of North Apostle provided even more views of Huron, the Emerald group, and Ice Mountain. Man Ice was beautiful from this little perch and the standard route looked sketchy as hell. It was such a nice warm and calm day I sat here in complete solitude for over half hour before descending.
The descent was rather uneventful although I did manage some nice glissades below the choke. Hiking back down the trail back to the trailhead gave me some fantastic views of the Three Apostles and getting one last look at the Apostle couloir cemented my plans to climb Ice and West Apostle from this couloir in a couple days time. I got back to the car at 6:30 pm to see all the Huron hikers gone. Since this was Memorial day there was at least 20 cars at the trailhead. They were all on Huron though and I didn't see a soul of any of the Apostles. I cooked myself some dinner and camped by the car to a peaceful and warm night.
May 29th 2012
I woke up and decided to make a quick hike up to Lake Ann to see the conditions up that way. It was an easy hike to about 400 feet below treeline where lingering snow in the trees made it a pain to get to the lake. It wasn't very hard as it was warm at night and the trail was completely hidden. I never actually reached the lake shore but I knew from the day before it was still frozen over. The snow in the trees pissed me off even more so I just turned around. This even further cemented my plans to go back to Apostle Basin and climb the Apostle Couloir. I drove back to Golden and invited Josh to join me on Ice Mountain. Since he had always been interested in this peak, he happily joined and so we had a good meal and decided to leave at 3am from Golden the next day. We had a fantastic weather forecast and were full of excitement.
May 30th 2012 - Ice Mountain and West Apostle
The alarms went off and by 3:45 we were on our way. I got to drive the 4WD road again and got more funny looks from campers along the road. Even had one guy tell me great work! By 8:00 am we began up the trail again and I could feel the anticipation in the both of us. Not only would this be a great Sawatch capstone peak for both of us, this was Joshs' first snow climb. I told him he would like it as you can gain elevation so quickly, which is one of his goals...to see how fast he can gain elevation. The approach was the same as it was for North Apostle but when we reached the base of the rock glacier, we climbed up on it and walked along it all the way up.
Around 12,400 feet in elevation we took a break, changed our footwear from approach shoes to mountaineering boots and put our crampons on. We hiked on the snow for a short distance to an old snow slide where the couloir got steeper and I ate a final snack knowing this was going to be a fast climb. Josh started his watch and we were both off. 800 feet of 40 degree snow lie ahead of us and a mere 19 minutes later, Josh made it to the saddle without stopping once. It took me 24 minutes as I had to take the occasional 10-15 second breather.
The couloir started around 35 degrees and ended at about 41 degrees. Upon reaching the saddle we were greeted with breathtaking views to the south and was glad to see the initial climb out of the saddle dry. We rested, boasted our climb times and took our crampons off and switched footwear again. The climb out of the saddle was a straightforward class 3 pitch and our long traverse across the SW face of Ice began. Rib after gully after rib after gully we continued the tedious traverse gaining little elevation. We had to keep on our game the entire time as there was the cliffs below us all the time. This traverse kind of reminded me of the ledges on Longs Peak. I guessed we crossed 7 or 8 ribs and gullies all of which were small. Some of the gullies held a little snow but overall the whole traverse was dry. We were looking for a significantly larger double gully system that would lead us right to the summit. I soon spotted a large gully ahead after an hour of traversing and we got into it. It had a distinct left and right fork though and we didn't know which one was correct so I took a glance at the first one (the one to the west) and said "this will work".
We began scrambling up this steep gully and to my great surprise this was pretty solid rock. I had been warned by the absolutely terrible rock on the south gully but as we climbed the rock seemed to just get better. The last couple hundred feet was blocky and solid making for enjoyable scrambling. This whole gully was sustained class 3 climbing. Just as we were approaching our last hundred feet though, Josh let loose a 40 pound boulder that instantly went roaring down the gully taking about a hundred other rocks of all sizes down and over the cliff at the bottom. What a sight this was. Good thing no one was below us...it would have been certain death as the entire gully was flying with large rocks below us. I can't stress this enough...DO NOT climb below anyone anywhere on Ice Mountain. Although the gully seemed solid (we ascended the wrong gully...more later) there were the hidden disasters waiting.
We soon reached the ridge somewhere between the false summit sppire and the true summit. It was at this point I realized we ascended the wrong gully as the one further east went straight to the summit. The false summit looked badass as it was a spire with one large boulder sitting on top!
The remaining route involved the only class 4 we would have. We scrambled along the ridge towards the summit and peered down the "fridge" couloir and were again awed. What a fantastic but dangerous route! We came to a cliff in the ridge that was overhanging forcing us to downclimb about 60 feet (4th class) to go around it. This dropped us into the correct gully for the route and the final hundred feet was a loose talus climb to a small summit. I was now sitting on my favorite mountain to date without a cloud in the sky at about noon. It was calm and warm and we spent 45 minutes sitting in this grand place admiring the views and what we accomplished. Taylor Reservoir to the south, Huron and company to the north and all the remaining Sawatch 14ers to the southeast. Looking down on North Apostle was pretty cool.
It was painful to leave this place but the time came and we began the long descent. We decided to descent the correct gully only to find that this was one loose place. This gully was by far the loosest place I've ever been. So loose I told Josh we would descend one at a time in 100 foot intervals. Even with my best efforts to keep rocks in place (which I consider myself very good at), I send hundreds of small rocks down the gully. Good thing no one was coming up...although it is likely rare to have more than one party on this mountain per day if any. We kept alternating on the descent down this gully until we got back to the place we entered the first gully just to the west where we re-traced our steps along the traverse. Maroon Peak seemed like solid granite compared to this stuff! Some long thin snow patches on the north flanks of each gully proved to be more problematic on the way back for whatever reason. We saw another huge rockslide across the valley in the upper Texas Creek basin before finally making it back to the saddle above the Apostle Couloir. We took another break, stashed our packs and began the east class 2 ascent up West Apostle. What a breather this was compared to Ice. Views of the SW face on Ice Mountain got better and better and looking at it from a distance made us think "How the hell did we cross that!" We reached the summit of West Apostle fairly quickly around 3pm and took another 45 minutes here admiring the views of Ice Mountain. I thought the views from this perch were better since we got a broadside view of Ice and the view directly down the valley was stunning. To the west lie Lake Ann.
As the day was winding down, we made the quick descent back to the saddle but we soon realized we have much more excitement to come. The snow in the Apostle couloir softened up enough to glissade so we donned our nylon pants, gloves and axes while putting everything else away and I was the first one to head down. It was one very fast glissade. Even though the run-out was completely clear of rocks, there were small rocks that had fallen into the couloir and just sitting there so I kept a firm grip on the brakes to avoid these rocks. Sometimes I would spot them ahead of time and turn myself! This made the descent back to the rock glacier very quick and fun. The remaining hike out was filled with talk about how great the climb was. By 4 pm we were on the trail heading back down through the trees. Clouds finally started to block the sun on the hike down but it didn't matter now. Once back at the car, there was no one else at the trailhead and the long drive home was capped with a stop at Subway in Leadville...my typical post-climb food.
I would highly recommend these peaks to others but I must warn everyone that experience on loose class 3 and 4 terrain is required as well as snow climbing experience. Make sure you go on a perfect weather day as escape from these peaks is difficult at best during a storm. The gully to the west of the main gully on the SW face is a better ascent option as it is much more solid. Descending either gully will work fine. Though people will disagree with me, I recommend this route over the standard NE ridge route. It isn't necessary to traverse from North Apostle to Ice in order to have loads of fun.
I hope everyone found this trip report useful...now I'm off to climb Emerald: one of my last Sawatch centennials and to reflect at how far I've come since 2009...and how far I still have to go to climb the mountains of my dreams.
- Created on Friday, December 21 2012 14:44
- Last Updated on Wednesday, December 26 2012 18:22
- Written by Matt Lemke
- Hits: 305
IntroductionSo my long trip to Montana had just finished and Stephan and I finished our trip with a climb of the Grand Teton before he headed home for a while. I saw a post by Kevin asking for partners for jagged Mountain in the Weminuche Wilderness. I had hoped to do this peak in 2012 so I jumped on the chance and quickly responded. Since I was still in Wyoming I mentioned I would just meet them in Durango. Coincidentally, I had friends who were in Vernal and since I was passing through I decided to meet with them and we did a long day climb in the Uintas covering six 13ers including Kings Peak. But that's another story.
As I went on my way south to Durango, I made another stop in Grand Junction so I could reserve tickets for the Silverton-Durango Narrow Gauge train. Since Kevin and Keegan wanted to take the train I agreed to do the same. I finally met them in Durango where we found a free place to park and boarded the train. Just before we started we had someone get a ridiculous group shot of us. Don't we just look like the perfect group of people a well groomed family wants to sit next to on the train!
Off to Jagged Mountain and Beyond - August 16thSo while on the train I spoke with a bunch of nice people. Some people really liked hearing my stories of the places I recently have traveled to. Not before long though we arrived at Needleton where we were dropped off and started off on the nice trail....not!
The first thing we did was leave the trail and parallel the Animas River for over a mile through bushes, trees and cliffs. We were trying to get to Noname Creek and ascend that valley. Once we crossed Ruby Creek we figured we were close but we still had 0.6 mile to go! Once we finally got to Noname Creek (after getting lost a few times in the swamps!) we took a nice break and prepared for the climb. I was carrying too much gear....once again but i didn't know it at the time. I thought for sure we needed two 30 meter ropes and a half rack of cams with draws.
So up we went...luckily we were able to quickly locate the trail heading up the climbers left side of the creek. We knew we couldn't get suckered into the creek itself. It was a long slog with all my gear but to my surprise the trail was actually in great shape. After a couple hours slogging up the trail under the hot sun with no wind to cool us off I saw Knife Point for the first time and the valley opened up into a large meadow and we arrived at the Jagged Cabin. We still had an hour or so of daylight so we pitched the tents and made a nice dinner to prepare to climb Jagged Mountain the next morning. Views that evening of Jagged Mountain, Animas Mountain and Knife Point were all incredible!
The next morning we woke up about 4am and was quickly off. It was really warm which got me a little worried about storms later that day. We continued up the boot path up Noname creek and managed to get to the base of Jagged Pass without too much issue. The sun rose just as we passed the small tarn at the base of the final ascent to the pass. The sunrise on Animas Mountain was spectacular. The final talus slope to the pass was very loose but we stayed right to try and find better footing, to some avail. Once we arrived at Jagged Pass I was in awe at the surrounding beauty. The early morning sun lit of the north face of Jagged Mountain very nicely. and the lakes below us to the other side were perfect. We noticed another group of people with about 4 tents camping there and just getting ready to start. We ditched some gear and started traversing to Jagged Mountain.
We quickly got to the first crux which is an option between a 4th class ledge which is exposed and often wet or a 5.3 chimney which is steeper but usually dry with better footing. We took this option since the 4th class ledge was indeed wet and dripping with ball bearing scree. We simply free climbed it without the rope and continued on our way weaving up from one grassy ledge to the next. We passed next to the deep couloir but never really entered it. Following Kevin who had perfect route notes (which I wasn't much a fan of) we easily got to the second crux which was a 4th class chimney which had a weird finish as I had to grab a patch of grass for a handhold. Just beyond this chimney we reached the small saddle where we crossed over to the other side of the mountain and traversed right across a very exposed but wide ledge to the base of the final class 3 chimney right to the summit. We all made it up safely and easily and I was very excited to have made it! What a beautiful view we had as well. We saw every big peak in the Weminuche including Arrow, Vestal, Sunlight and the rest of the Chicago Basin Peaks.
Shortly after we summitted and while we were eating breakfast, a solo hiker just arrived. I was very shocked to see him because we never saw him on the route up and he wasn't with the big group below us who was slowly making their way up (that was a guided group). He said he passed them and was probably off route the whole time. To my surprise this was SP member Blueshade! He was in the middle of a 2 week Weminuche trek similar to the one I had planned out but never did yet. I talked with him for quite awhile since he had done Rainier with my friend Josh Lewis a while back and knew a lot about me through SummitPost. We all descended Jagged Mountain together. The vertical photo above shows everyone crossing the exposed ledge just below the summit. Kevin and I wanted to rappel the crux right below the notch but right as we got back to that point the large guided group was making their way to the notch so we waited for them to pass before we rapped.
We continued down the same way we came up and got back to Jagged Pass around noon. From here Kevin, Keegan and I went to climb Leviathan Peak. The traverse was nothing more than very easy class 3 and we were on the summit with a perfect view of Jagged Mountain in no time. I decided to relax here but Kevin wanted to continue to Vallecito Mountain which I had no interest for. "Blueshade" went off to climb Peak 6 as he already did Leviathan and Vallecito the previous day.
I returned by myself to Jagged Pass where I started back down. It wasn't long before I saw his pack since he left it to run up Peak 6. I waited for him to get back and we hiked back down to Noname Creek where he decided to set up camp just below Knife Point. I relaxed there with him and waited for Kevin and Keegan to return and we hiked back down the rest of the way to the Jagged cabin where we had a great dinner and went straight to sleep.
Off to Chicago Basin - August 17thThe next morning we got up early once again and here is where I would depart for Chicago basin myself. Kevin and Keegan wanted to climb other nearby 13ers while i wanted to bag the four centennials so we went our separate ways. I headed up the valley towards Twin Thumbs Pass while Kevin went up the valley towards Knife Point. For me, the initial bushwhacking through the willows was horrible and it took lots of energy especially carrying a heavy pack. Eventually though I got above the bushes and slowly slogged up to a beautiful tarn below Twin Thumbs and Glacier Point. I was finally able to locate Twin Thumbs Pass and began climbing straight up towards it. I was getting very tired with the pack and at times the talus was very loose. The final 500 feet though I got into it and before I knew it I was 40 feet away. This final 40 feet however was very loose ball bearing scree so I had to carefully ascend on a narrow ledge. Once I topped out I was greeted with panoramic views of Twin Lakes below, Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak. I dropped off the other side towards Twin Lakes about 100 feet and ditched my pack and began traversing towards Mount Eolus. I had to really study the may since this area was confusing but after a bit of traversing I met with the deep gulch draining a small tarn. I ascended this class 3 gully just on its left edge and abruptly arrived at a beautiful tarn over 12,500 feet in elevation. From here it was easy flat walking for awhile which was very nice. I easily made the saddle between Eolus and North Eolus way before any of the day hikers made it from Twin Lakes. This was funny since I have come from the Jagged Cabin that morning.
The final traverse over the "catwalk" to the summit of Eolus was well marked and simple class 2+ if you stay on route. I was the first to summit on this day but many would follow me soon after. Just as i returned back to the saddle, 5 people met me here asking me how the final ridge was. After exchanging some stories I quickly went up North Eolus and was able to run all the way back down to my pack. After a quick drink I finished the descent to Twin Lakes where the ranger there greeted me with a big "How did you get here?" I laughed and told him where I came from and he must of thought I was crazy. Since storms were brewing and many people were on their way back down Sunlight and Windom, I waited at Twin Lakes for a few hours while the storms passed then at about 3:30pm I covered my extra gear and started up the trail towards Sunlight. I was the only one up here by this point as everyone else headed down. I had to wait out another brief cell in the high valley between Sunlight and Windom. Once the rain stopped again I made my way to the saddle between Sunlight Peak and Sunlight Spire and onward towards the summit of Sunlight Peak but just before I reached the crux I had to wait under a large rock for another cell to pass. Luckily this one just grazed me but I saw it really dumping on Chicago Basin getting all the campers wet! It was a good thing it mostly missed me though since I was near the crux at 14,000 feet...talk about playing with the weather!
After that last storm cell passed the sun actually came out briefly and I had some beautiful afternoon lighting on the surrounding mountains. I finished the climb up Sunlight Peak through the pinhole and to the final summit blocks. Since they were wet I took my shoes off and just bare-footed it up the final 10 feet. This was far less exposed than I thought it would be it wasn't even a concern. I quickly descended and went back down to the high valley where I waited out the other storm. It was 6pm at this point and I still had to ascend Windom so I started up the talus as fast as i could. I reached the standard west ridge in good time but heading up the long ridge took longer than I thought it would. It was only class 2 but kind of tedious especially since I was so tired. At 6:45pm I made the summit, snapped a few photos and started down. I was very satisfied with the days effort. Starting in Noname creek, over Twin Thumbs Pass and up Eolus and North Eolus then up Sunlight Peak and Windom while juggling storms. I basically ran down the trail back to Twin Lakes and packed up my stashed gear, threw my pack on and ran down into Chicago Basin where the camping is allowed. Right as I found a nice place to camp that wasn't taken it got completely dark and I went right to sleep.
Jupiter Mountain and out - August 18thThe next morning I slept in just a little bit and didn't get started up Jupiter Peak until about 8am. I was headed for the standard route which starts by heading up the Columbine Pass trail. Right as I passed by an old mining shed, I saw one of the same people I spoke with on Eolus the previous day. He had just got of Jupiter and pointed me up the correct slope to gain treeline efficiently. His beta really helped me get up Jupiter quickly. I was also feeling great this day and made it up the southwest slopes in very good time and was on the summit in just over an hour from leaving the trail. The traverse to Windom Peak looked awesome and scary at the same time. Maybe someday I may do this. I had great views of Eolus and Windom from the summit.
Once I got back to the tent I packed up and started the six mile hike out the Needle Creek Trail to Needleton. The train is scheduled to arrive around 4pm but I made it back to Needleton by 2pm to see a lot of people waitng. We killed the time by telling one another stories about the climbs we have done and where we have been to. Lots of nice people here. When the train did finally come (30 minutes late!) the ride out was very relaxing. The last bit of walking I had to do was from the train depot to my parked car in Durango, a distance of 6 blocks. I didn't like that at all lol!
ConclusionThis was my final climbs in Colorado before I headed back to Washington in the end of August. I had already made plans with Josh for some trips in the North Cascades and I honestly was very excited to climb there. After I ate a big meal in Durango that evening I drove straight back to Washington through the night to see all of Idaho, Oregon and my home state literally burning down in some of the worst forest fires ever. It wasn't until I crested Snoqualmie Pass the smoke cleared and it was so bad in Boise and the Tri-Cities I could barely see the cars in front of me!
Also see Kevin's Trip Report Here on 14ers.com to see how the second half of his trip went!
Stats for this trip are as follows:
6 peaks, 4 days, 30 miles, and lots of fun!
- Created on Tuesday, December 04 2012 02:04
- Last Updated on Tuesday, December 04 2012 03:41
- Written by Matt Lemke
- Hits: 312
This trip certainly was a defining moment for me in my ever so fast paced and quickly evolving mountaineering career. Here I would be tested mentally and I needed to use my previous experience and knowledge to make this trip the success it was, despite not making the summit. I had been getting messages on the NWHikers forum from someone who has been wanting to go on a climb. However since he was a true vagabond he wasn't up in northern Washington until later in September. The time finally came when he made his way north and I tried to think of a potential group of Bulgers in the North Cascades we could do knowing he was new to snow travel and such. I thought about the Ragged Ridge Traverse, Mount Logan, Golden Horn and Tower Mountain but I finally decided halfway to Burlington that we should do Primus Peak. This decision was both good and bad but turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. Below is the story about our adventure and a good accomplishment for me despite missing the summit.
We made our way to the Thunder Creek Trailhead where we gathered up our things and started up the trail pretty quickly. Paul was carrying a whole lot of stuff and after 15 minutes on the trail he realized he forgot his food in the car. I thought to myself how that was possible he was already carrying almost as much as he could carry. So I wait for him to go grab his food and he comes back with an enormous bag of homemade yams, apples, pears and bananas. Now he did tell me he never eats wheat or grain products so I expected him to bring fruits and veggies however he brought enough to feed an army for over a week!
As we continued up the trail it was very evident we were not going to make the climb up the steep ridge of Tricouni Peak that day so we decided to just hike to the McAllister camp after seven miles and bring bivy gear up the ridge the next day. Thank goodness there is a bridge over Thunder Creek here or no one would ever get across this raging river like creek! I told Paul he needed to leave half his stuff and food behind or he would never make it. So we rolled into camp, cooked a nice meal, built a six foot cairn along Thunder Creek and went quickly to sleep. The weather was very warm and the sky was clearing. The dense canopy of trees made it dark much earlier than I had been used to all summer long. But the season was winding down and the days were getting shorter.
After a nice rest, we re-packed, hung the spare food and started up the long, long ridge. This ridge is technically called the "lower north ridge of Tricouni Peak" and it sure is a real pain in the ass. We ascended 800 feet on a steep boot path (which was a surprise to find) to an opening where we saw our first views across McAllister Creek towards Snowfield Peak. This climb just got steeper as we had to skirt around a series of cliffs but eventually we got to an area where the trees were very small and very close together where the terrain flattened slightly. But it got worse quickly and the worst part of the climb was an area of bad slide alder right before a big view point. We stood atop a nice rock for our first panoramic views of the trip. I was in awe at the immense beauty I was looking at. I was home...
Just beyond this viewpoint, the ridge became flat for a ways where the boot path was harder to follow. I just stayed on the crest of the ridge and when it steepened once again the trees began to thin out and we started to see much more color. This was what I had been waiting over two years for! Finally I got to see for myself the true Cascades fall foliage. First I saw bright red in the maples down low, then the small bushes closer to treeline were orange and red and finally, as we rolled into the bivy site at the base of Tricouni Peak I saw my very first golden larch trees.
I was speechless and at a loss for words at what I was seeing. Certainly far more beautiful than anything I have seen in Colorado. When the nice soft dirt and shrubs turned into rock and talus on the ridge we located the bivy site and set up shop for the night. By the nature of the clouds that afternoon I knew we were in for a sunset of just epic proportions. So I waited and relaxed at one of the best places I have ever been. A beautiful green colored lake lie at the base of the dying Borelis Glacier. The route up to lucky pass looked difficult at best and I was unable to locate a nice route up through the ice or the loose rock to the climbers left which was to my disappoint but in a place this beautiful, I could hardly complain. I was so in awe about the beauty the summit just seemed secondary.
The Reason I Climb...
There are many reasons why I climb mountains however one of the biggest reasons is to see for myself the wonders of this Earth we live on. I am not going to say much because words cannot describe what I saw during those next 15 hours. The phrase a picture is worth a thousand words carries great weight here and I invite you to enjoy for yourself the beauty of this place that I want to share through my photos. Although they do no justice, I hope they can bring joy to others during the holiday season. They are the best photos I got in 2012 which says a whole lot because I have been to a lot of places this year.
We slept under the stars that night and it was very moist in the air. It was a bright full moon but at times we saw fog roll through. Our stuff was very wet and frosty the next morning but this sunrise ranked the best sunrise I haveever seen without a shadow of a doubt. The crystal clear air, the gorgeous colors, the fog below us in the valley, and the rugged peaks surrounding us all came together perfectly.
My Primus Attempt
Paul decided he wanted to stay back and relax but I had to at least make an attempt at climbing Primus Peak. With the route to Lucky Pass out, the standard east ridge which is nothing more than a walk wasn't available. I scouted out other options. The north ridge from what I was able to see from our bivy didn't look too bad so I started by hiking east around Borelis Lake and climbing up to the crest of the North Ridge. I went up beautiful meadow land with alpine larches at their peak which then turned into gentle snow slopes until I reached the crest of the north ridge. The gentle look of this ridge I saw from camp changed into a jagged, serrated loose pile of crap ridge that certainly was at least 4th class. So I decided to cross over and try to find a way up on the west side of the ridge. I tried traversing the rock above the unnamed glacier on the peaks NW side to no avail. This rock was all very loose and I even sent a big one tumbling down the glacier. Next I tried travering in the big moat trying to get to the West ridge which I knew was only class 3. However I ran into bullet ice on the rock from dripping snow above me and I could not risk falling deeper into the moat and risk getting stuck deep under the glacier to freeze to death. I was already underneath massive amounts of snow as it was. So I retreated and tried to traverse the glacier on the edge at the surface. If someone was with me this would have been very easy as I could have just traversed across to the west ridge and scrambled to the summit. Although I may have been fine doing it solo especially since the snow was so hard I just didn't want to walk across a glacier alone. The west ridge was so close but I saw huge cracks in the glacier and knew if I went across and something broke it wasn't survivable.
Without further adieu, I tried my final option...the North Ridge direct. I knew nothing about the route but inside I hoped it wasn't 5th class. I started my way up the really loose rock and quickly made some 4th class moves. The exposure was increasing dramatically as I ascended. I got to a notch and traversed left onto the east side to avoid a cliff but soon came to a steep jump in the ridge that was most certainly 5th class. With no one to belay me I was stuck. The route looked 5.6 with no alternatives so I was forced to retreat. I even had to set up a couple rappel anchors as I had climbed up things I didn't want to down climb. Luckily I brought my 30 meter alpine rope with me which came in handy. I conceded and allowed Primus Peak the victory this time but noted I would be back during a weaker time for the mountain...when it is sealed closed under lots of snow. Late September is just way to late in the season in this area. With that the case though, I still captured part of Primus Peaks' soul within my photos that I hope you enjoy.
So I retreated back down to camp where I met up with Paul once again. He had a great time relaxing and enjoying the scenery. He was very happy to have joined on the trip and was satisfied with his time in Washington. We talked a lot about where he was going to be headed in the next couple years. He had plans to head to South America, Europe and Asia and was traveling the world. I was very envious. We started back down the ridge (which I was NOT looking forward to descending) and almost instantly we got off route and into major bushwhacking. Why is it that going down you always manage to miss the route I don't know but for some reason it always happens. We had to side hill on very steep bushy terrain to get back to the ridge crest and continue down the right way. We got back to the flat section of ridge and quickly made our way across. The rest of the descent was long and uneventful all the way back to McAllister camp where it got dark on us and we spent a second night there. The next morning we packed up and hiked the 7 miles to the car.
As I said, although I didn't summit anything on this trip and upon reaching the car I branded this trip a failure, I soon realized especially after reviewing the photos at home that this was one of the best trips of the year for me. This was a blessing in disguise. See below for a map of Primus Peak and its routes and our approach.See below for a map of Primus Peak and its routes and our approach.
- Created on Wednesday, December 05 2012 23:36
- Last Updated on Wednesday, December 05 2012 23:37
- Written by Jake Robinson
- Hits: 329
Planning a successful trip
As a 17 year old kid, it's often very difficult to find people to go into the mountains with me. Luckily both my parents enjoy hiking, and my dad has some mountaineering experience. Over the years we've done a few peaks here and there, but nothing to the caliber of Mount Constance. So when my dad mentioned that he might be interested in climbing Constance, I jumped on the idea. He had climbed it a few times, the last being around 1990, so he was somewhat familiar with the route. The forecast looked OK, he was able to find some time off work, and with some insistence we got my mom's permission to go. Everything seemed to be in our favor.
The worst part of the climb: The approach
We arrived at the washout in the early afternoon, shouldered our packs and hopped on our mountain bikes. We had about 4 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain of biking to the trailhead. The grade was steadily uphill, and balancing on a mountain bike with a 35 pound pack wasn't an easy task. After about 45 minutes of biking, we reached the trailhead, completely out of breath. My quads were already burning and we hadn't even started the climb yet! We joked that the ride was enough of a climb in itself. After soaking our feet in the small stream, we stashed our bikes and began the hellish ascent of the Lake Constance "trail." (Although most people refer to it as a trail, note that the sign says "route," which seems to be more accurate).
In the two hours that it took us to make it to the lake we had to deal with loose rock, nettles, and exposure. At one point I had to use some serious veggie belaying to prevent myself from peeling off the trail and falling hundreds of feet into the valley below. Finally, we made it to the campsites on the north side of the lake and set up our tent.
We awoke at 5:30 AM with perfect weather. Excited for the climb ahead, we wolfed down our breakfast, packed our packs and got to work. The first part of the climbers path crosses scree and boulders as it meanders its way through Avalanche Canyon. The scenery was spectacular; all around there were huge basalt cliffs and house sized boulders.
Once we reached "the thumb", a large rock formation on the west side of the canyon, we angled our way up a scree chute towards the Cat's ears. Near the top I found it easier to scramble along the right side of the chute, which contained more solid rock than the middle. We crested the chute and were greeted with a view of the Puget Sound and the Cascades. Although the sound was socked in, visibility was great above the clouds and we were able to see all the way to Mount Stuart clearly.
We dropped down a few hundred feet down a gentle snow slope and then angled north up another scree chute. The scree was very loose here, and it seemed to take forever to reach the top. Once we did, we were faced with a large snow finger we needed to descend. It looked doable with crampons and self belaying, so we donned our crampons and began to go down. Soon however, it became clear this wasn't going to happen. The snow was ROCK solid. Even my brand new crampons were barely able to get any purchase at all in the ice, and my axe wouldn't sink in more than an inch. Both me and my dad agreed that this would only be safe with a belay. My dad rigged up an anchor with webbing and rock, and slowly belayed me down the slope. Near the end it got very steep, around 60 degrees, and he was mostly lowering me since I still couldn't get much use out of my crampons. When I got to the bottom I spotted a narrow, east facing rock rib next to my dad. I yelled up to him that it looked climbable, and he agreed. He made quick work of it and soon was on the other side. I ascended up steep snow (luckily, not as solid as before) and we both wondered how we hadn't thought of scrambling in the first place.
We traversed some exposed ramps and soon found ourselves at the beginning of the "finger traverse." The first move, getting into the crack, looked like solid class four with huge exposure. I was confident I could do it but my dad said he wasn't comfortable with me trying it, as a slip would likely mean death. Luckily I brought along a route printout from summitpost that described a variation called the FT Bypass. The first move descended a west facing chimney (on the west side of the rock that the finger traverse is on) and from there traversed about 50 feet of exposed ledges to meet up with the end of the finger traverse. Although this was only class 3, knowing that a fall would put me thousands of feet down in Avalanche Canyon was a sobering feeling. Carefully, we made use of the plentiful handholds for balance and worked our way down the ledge to meet up with the standard route.
From here, we plunge stepped and glissaded down steep snow to meet up with the ramp used by the "Terrible Traverse" route. We walked up the ramp and slowly contoured our way around to the northeast side of the mountain. From here we scrambled up some class 3 rock to meet with the summit block. Routefinding is tricky here; make sure you know where you are going and take it slow.
At the block we ditched our packs and picked our way up the class four rock to the summit. Luckily these moves weren't as exposed as what we'd faced previously, and in no time we were on the summit. I couldn't believe it. For as long as I can remember I've looked at this mountain, fantasizing about climbing it but doubting I would ever be able to do so. It was a great feeling for both of us, especially my dad. He'd been worried about being able to make it, but surprised himself by having no trouble at all in any parts of the route. In fact, it was only five hours from the time we left the campsite to the time we arrived at the summit. Kudos to him for taking me on this trip, I definitely wouldn't have made it without him.
Downclimbing the block was tricky but we managed, and from the top of the second chute (with the snow finger) to the lake was incredible scree skiing. In no time we were at camp.
By the time we broke camp and shouldered our packs we wanted to be done, but we knew an awful descent awaited us. After carefully climbing down the exposed parts of the trail we practically jogged back to the trailhead, making it down in about an hour. Biking down the road was incredible, and five hours after making the summit and over 7,000 feet lower we arrived at the car, completely wiped but happy for a successful climb.