Monday, September 1, 2008

Sunday, 08/31/08 North Apostle and Ice Mountain

N. Apostle (13,860) and Ice Mountain (13,951)
9 miles
4,000 vertical
Jeff Valliere, Dave Hale, Dave “Hoot” Gibson, Dale Peterson, Sierra and Shep

Starting from our campsite ~.3 miles below the 4wd TH above Winfield, we got off to a prompt 6am start and headed up the road at a good pace. I was familiar with the Lake Ann trail to just above the junction of the Three Apostles Trail and was a little uneasy about how easy it would be to follow the route up into the basin, as I have read numerous TR’s where people have had mixed results finding the route.

Roughly .2 miles past the junction, the Three Apostles Trail crosses the creek on a large log. Beyond this, the trail continues to be well worn and very easy to follow along the West side of the creek up into the basin to 11,300. At around 11,300, the trail crosses over to the East side of the creek and loosely meanders through the willows S/SE to the base of a large rock pile below the headwall. From the large rockpile, we headed East up a steep grassy slope, until we saw a cairned route head SW up the hill toward the lake at 12,100 feet, exactly as described in the Roach guidebook.

Up the talus and scree we went to the saddle under less than inspiring gray skies. We topped out at the saddle after a surprisingly long ~2:40 from the campsite where we bumped into a solo climber named Ryan who asked if he could join us. He seemed like a nice enough guy and he immediately meshed well with our group as we made the short jaunt up to N. Apostle. The peaks were in/out of the clouds and this did nothing to relieve my trepidation for Ice Mountain.

Dave, Dale and the dogs opted out of Ice., while Hoot, Ryan and I carried on. The climb up the ridge is very straight forward and is easy class 3. I was starting to think Ice was cake and a bit over rated until we reached the crux. We got to the first gulley and Hoot went up and checked out a steep chimney. While I was waiting, I traversed over a minor rib at the top of the same gulley and found the route as described in the guidebook.

I crossed the gulley and started up the right side and reached the class 4 crux. The rock in this section is loose and the move up the crux was a bit awkward. Once past the crux, I missed the crossover on the right to the class 3 finish and kept heading up the gulley on ever steepening rock. Hoot noticed this and pointed out my mistake, but I was committed at this point. Up I went, testing and retesting each small and suspect hand hold. A few grunts, some foul language and a few stemmed out stretchy moves on knocking knees saw me to the top safely, arriving about the same time as Hoot who had taken the easier way.

I was a bit on edge and did not linger. I followed Hoot down to the class 4 crux down climb and knowing how awkward that one move was going up, I opted to find a better way down as Hoot accompanied Ryan to the top. I was able to gingerly descend the exposed rib to a point where I could cross over into the gulley below the crux. In my opinion, this was easier, but it was exposed for longer with many loose rocks and ledges to negotiate.

Once we were below the crux, it was easy street back to the saddle. Unfortunately, I let my guard down a bit and stepped on a rather large rock that looked stable, but just the slightest bit of weight from me stepping on it set it into motion. I surfed it for a foot or so until I was able to leap to solid ground and avoid going off the edge with it. It crashed 20-30 feet down the mountain and stopped just short of the big drop. This really startled me and I was ready to be done. From then on, I was on a heightened sense of alert as we picked our way back to the saddle and then the valley floor.

The trip out was a cruise and I sped ahead to catch Dave, Dale and the dogs and we walked the last mile together, arriving at camp around 1pm.

N. Apostle and Ice did not disappoint. As advertised, Ice is more dangerous than it is difficult. If you take your time, you can keep it at class 3, but it certainly is loose and a good bit of care needs to be taken.


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