| Roach *Classics:* The Refrigerator & Grizzly Couloir
These *classic* lines in the Sawatch Range were climbed on consecutive days (respectively) over the 4th of July weekend, and the latter climb was part of the CMC’s Centennial Celebration Climbs for which I was the trip leader. Below is an account on each climb.
Resources Used For Trip Preparation: Gerry & Jennifer Roach’s Colorado’s Thirteeners guidebook. If you don’t own it, maybe you should.
Gear (for both days): daypack w/Essentials, ice axe, crampons, helmet
Saturday—July 2, 2011
Ice Mountain (13,951’)
Climbers: Joe Carberry & Darin Baker
The Three Apostles
(l. to r., North Apostle, Ice Mountain, & West Apostle)
Trailhead: South Winfield (4x4 parking—same TH used for the 14er, Huron Peak)
Route: The Refrigerator Couloir w/descent of NE ridge—for part of it anyway
Elevation Gain: ~3350’
Special Notes: In my opinion, this climb deserves the accolade of being a classic. For starters, The Three Apostles are stunning mountains that stand out in this valley, as well as from summits throughout the central Sawatch Range.
Secondly, the aesthetic line of the Refrigerator on Ice Mountain lures a climber in, and once there, it’s hard to walk away without a smile on your face. At least that is what the Refrigerator did for me.
The ‘fridge’ is an inset couloir that is a sustained (high 30/low 40 degrees) snow climb while the top portion probably approaches high 50’s to low 60 degrees; followed by class 3 rock scrambling that leads to the summit. (Note: I didn’t measure the slope, only guestimating.)
And the excitement continues while on the descent of the NE ridge with the occasional exposed class 3-4 move, on a series of ledges that traverses in and out of gullies and around corners, which is mostly on the face not on the ridge proper.
With the variety of the aforementioned climbing, it easily falls under the category of *classic* and it’s a climb that I would do again.
Lastly, the views from the top of Ice are fantastic as well!
Currently, the trail leading into the Apostle Basin is mostly snow free, and snow shoes are not necessary. Once in the basin, it’s almost all snow for the remainder of the approach to the climb. The snow was firm for us, so we did not have any issues with post-holing. It may have helped that we started from our trucks at the 4x4 TH at 3:30am.
Furthermore, the trail is obvious and easy to follow in the dark, albeit with an occasional down tree that might throw one off course. I’ve also been in the Apostle basin twice before so I’m familiar with the approach, however Joe did most of the leading and he didn’t get off course. If there was snow on the trail, I think route-finding could be a different story.
Looking N up the valley used for the approach, with the waves of a glacial rock moraine below
Quick Stats: base of the couloir proper at 6:50am; topped out at 7:50am; summit at 8am-ish. Looking back at these times now, it appears we moved at a somewhat slow-to-moderate pace.
Snow Conditions: firm snow for most of climb—crampons were worn from the bottom of apron to the top; step-kicking was efficient most of the time, other times a dagger (w/ice axe) and front pointing on hard snow was the technique of choice; soft snow towards top of couloir—but it did not have much moisture in it; lastly—this couloir does not receive sunlight until 8am-ish or so—and even then it’s not fully exposed to the sun for a while later.
Looking up the couloir
Joe out in front
Looking down & out of the Fridge
The angle relents for a bit
But then the snow gets steep again: Joe approaches the finish
Feet don’t fail me now!
Joe is at the exit
The exit is the steepest portion of the climb, and it can be exciting! For us the left side was the steepest, as it was a short (~6ft?) headwall of snow that was plenty hard enough for a self-belayed axe and a couple of kicked steps to get over it. Climber’s right was lower angle and offers an alternative exit as well.
Once at the notch at the top of the couloir, a short scramble to the summit awaits. Just turn left and go!
Joe at the start of the summit ridge scramble
Joe stayed closer to the ridge proper, and I went below it on the S side. I also stayed in my crampons, making the fun scramble interesting with points on, enabling me to edge on smaller holds than I would use in just boots.
Joe scrambling to the summit
A summit visit of 40 minutes or so ensued, with beautiful blue skies and a slight breeze. Mountains & valleys, peaks & dreams, basins & fantasies surround us.
Joe scouting the NE ridge descent line
The last and only other time I was on Ice was probably in 2003 or ‘04, and I was probably on the borderline of being scared silly. Early on in my scrambling days, the climb of the NE ridge was at times nerve-racking and intimidating.
Today looking down at the start of the NE ridge from the summit, it didn’t look nearly as intimidating. Racking up more scrambles since my last visit here has greatly improved my mindset for what’s to come on our descent.
We start off shortly before 9am, and make our way down the route. Most of it is out on the NW side of the ridge; only the start is truly on the NE ridge itself. At least that’s what we did.
Joe coming down from the NE ridge
Ledges lead to more ledges
Exposed 4th class corner down-climb
And what’s a mountain without rubble?
As we descended this route we could see a series of ledges that would lead us back to the Refrigerator, so we started heading back that way so we could descend the snow near the bottom of the couloir. I had hopes of it being soft enough for a good plunge step down. Not so much though.
Joe re-entering the Fridge
The down-climb from our re-entry point was a workout! We faced in and kicked steps down until the angle eased up near the bottom of the couloir proper (i.e., top of apron). We didn’t feel the need for crampons because it was soft enough to kick in. Sometimes I stayed in our tracks from the morning, but at times I found it easier to move towards the sunny side of the couloir where the snow was getting softer.
A couple of times, tired of down-climbing, I had the ill-advised brilliant idea of glissading. I would face out and get into position only to realize that was a stupid idea. I did let myself go at one point, only to go a foot before my senses came back to me and I stopped.
Ok. Face back into slope, plant pick into snow, step down and kick, repeat process!
Lower down on the apron I did glissade. It was a rough & bumpy ride and not worth it. Should have just plunged it. I tore the cordura that was sewn on the ass of my soft-shell pants. Oh well. Duct tape will fix it, for now.
In the above picture, The Refrigerator can be seen splitting the N face of Ice Mountain (center of pic)
We were back to the TH at noon-ish. I ran into Darrin (kansas), Otina (bergsteigen), & Kelly (moon stalker) in the parking lot and told them of the conditions we found. They were backpacking into the Apostle basin to do the same climb the next day.
I also saw some CMC’ers getting ready for their climb of the Apostles scheduled for the next day. I had met a couple of them before (John Raich and Debbie Welle-Powell), and Tom Pierce was with them too but I only knew him by name from on both 14ers & 14erWorld.
Now, off to the next TH to another Roach *classic* a little northwest of here….
Grizzly Reservoir and peaks to the S
CMC Centennial Celebration Climb
Sunday—July 3, 2011
Grizzly Peak (13,988’)
Climbers: Joe Carberry, Tom McClernon, Andy Linger, & Darin Baker
Trailhead: Grizzly Reservoir TH
Route: Grizzly Couloir w/descent of west slopes
Elevation Gain: ~3400’
Special Notes: Roach also describes this route as a *classic* and perhaps equally as good as the Refrigerator. In my opinion, the route is enjoyable but it does not compare to the Refrigerator.
However, climbing the Grizzly Couloir is far more interesting and fun than other routes on the mountain. The first time I hiked Grizzly Peak was from McNasser Gulch, which was an ok early fall hike, but it does not compare to climbing moderate to steep snow!
Additionally, on this trip we descended the west slopes route, and that is not a route I would want to ascend because of the scree but it makes for an easy & straight forward descent.
And like Ice Mountain, the views from the top are fantastic!
Familiar peaks from the previous day
The 3:30am start has been working well for me lately, so again I set that as our start time. We headed up the Grizzly Lake trail with warm temperatures, and hoping for firm snow. This valley is holding far more snow than the approach to the Apostles, but luckily the snow fields were firm.
At the raging stream crossing, we discussed our options of how to get past it safely and without too much discomfort (i.e., walking barefoot through it). We could see a couple of rock hopping possibilities, but it looked risky. Andy suggested we continue up the river in hopes of finding a better alternative. That’s what we did, and soon enough we had a solid snow bridge to cross! Sweet.
Andy & Joe ascending a short snow slope on our approach to the Grizzly Couloir
The N face of Grizzly Peak at first light
(Note: the Grizzly couloir is mostly out of sight in the above picture.)
We took our first significant break at the vantage point of the above picture. It was also at this point we decided just to crampon up for the traverse over to Grizzly Lake. I got my axe out too, but stowed it between my pack & shoulder blades for quick access when I wanted it.
Quick Stats: mid-apron—6:50am; topped out of couloir—7:40am; summit at 8:10am-ish
Snow Conditions: snow surface has sun-cups & shallow runnels at the bottom & it was soft for us; some avy debris in the middle near the bottom as well—probably from a cornice collapse; further up couloir the snow firmed up in the shade—front pointing ensued in that stretch; the top portion of the climb became softer because it had been in the sun, but it wasn’t as soft as the bottom of the climb and was in good shape for kicking steps. This couloir (as can be seen in the photo above) gets sunlight early. However, the middle section of it stays in the shade for a little while.
Before starting up the apron, I stripped down to my short sleeve base layer. It was going to be a warm and sunny climb! It would have been a good climb for shorts.
Looking up the wide bottom of the couloir
Joe in the lead, with Andy & Tom behind him
Looking down the couloir with Grizzly Lake below
Once in the shade, we got a well deserved reprieve from the heat, and found much firmer snow—which I liked much better. Because of the harder snow, I also think it felt steeper. Joe measured it at 40 degrees. Not bad. The climbing became fun while front pointing and my dagger in hand!
Andy & Tom come into the shady side
And soon Tom takes over lead with Andy not far behind
Another look down the couloir near the top
Andy takes a steeper finish
Joe takes also takes a steep line further to the right of Andy
We top out & take another short break to take our crampons off. And we talk about Walmart, and the future of our country! Hmmm….
Views to the W near the exit of the Grizzly Couloir
Next up: the summit. From the exit, it’s a short walk with little elevation gain to the top of this once believed to be a 14er.
14er or not, it’s a fine little summit!
And there’s a peak I was on almost a year ago today!
UN 13,631’ (a.k.a., “Anderson Peak”)
And a pan to the N with the summit ridge we used in the foreground
As I mentioned above, we descended the W slopes route as described in Roach’s book. From the summit, we headed S on a dry trail over talus towards the saddle of Grizzly & Garfield.
From the saddle, we descended west over scree and small talus. The west slopes are mostly snow free, but there were a couple of snow fields we were able to plunge step.
Further down, we descended through the trees, out of concern that the gulley we were in would be too choked with willows to continue. The trees worked out fine, and soon enough we were on the valley floor.
Grizzly Peak and our approximate descent line in red; picture was taken on 7-4-2010 from the SW on UN 13,631’ (“Anderson Peak”)
One more pan to the W, taken on our descent
Back to the valley floor, we got on the Lincoln Creek Rd, which is currently closed, and walked back to the TH where we arrived sometime before noon.
Interesting to me, the times of both climbs in this report came out to be about the same….and both climbs, & both days, were a pleasure to be out in the mountains!
Thanks to Joe, Andy, & Tom for coming out this weekend!
Thanks for reading,