| White Ridge South Couloir
Ascent: South Couloir from Bill's route description
Descent: Down from the ridge between White Ridge's summit and Sherman
Total time: about 5 hours
Trailhead: 11,700 feet on Fourmile Creek Road
A buddy of mine and I decided to take a day off of work and try a quick snow climb. White Ridge seemed like it would do nicely. I got into snow climbs last spring and this was Stuart's first.
The Fourmile Creek road is pretty much clear to 11,700. There are a couple of small drifts before there, but nothing a stock SUV can't get through (more of a clearance issue than a traction issue).
At 11,700 on the road, our route was clear:
We tried to connect snow to the first large snowfield - instead of walking through willows or on talus. We hiked up good snow, though we did have some minor postholing. We carried our snowshoes all day - we never used them even on the walk out.
We were able to use some of the lower snowfields to practice self-arrest techniques and get Stuart comfortable with his snow gear.
Here's an idea of the angle. Much of the route is pretty mellow, but near 12,700 ish to a little before 13,400 ish, it gets a bit steeper. I forget how high up this pic was taken.
Looking up near 12,500 ish:
We found that the snow was more supportive on the hikers left side of the couloir so we generally stayed there. On the right side we enjoyed a few knee-deep postholes.
The wind. The weather report called for a lot of wind. And it was right. Luckily the wind was at our backs most of the day and it calmed down on our descent. I took a break at 13,500 ish waiting for Stuart and the snow he was kicking up got caught in the wind and was stinging my face - even though I had a balaclava and goggles. The snow stopped near 13,500 and we had to go much of the rest of the way on talus.
Looking down at 13,500 ish:
The ridge to the summit was clear of snow. The relentless wind up there required us to lean into it or fall over.
Final few feet:
Oddly, there was very little wind on the summit - but it was really blowing a few yards in either direction.
We decided to not descend the couloir for Stuart's first snow climb so we took a version of the 'alternate route' Bill has in his route description. The ridge was generally snow free to where we began our descent. The ridge toward Sherman is an easy walk. You can add in some bumps by staying on the top of the ridge, which will also get you closer to the edge and give you some exposure, or you can stay hiker's right and avoid the bumps.
We intended to walk along the ridge to almost Sherman and then take that snowfield down, but then we saw some weather coming in from the west and we decided to get off the ridge. We headed down some talus but switched to snow as soon as we could. This isn't a bad way down, but the talus was a bit loose. Walking on snow is so much better! The snow on the way down was generally very hard and the temps were not warm enough to heat up the top layer so our glissades weren't the most fun.
We walked through the basin piecing together a route either on good snow when it was to be found or exposed grass/dirt when the snow was soft or melted out, but we did have a couple short sections of soft snow that we couldn't avoid. We met the road a couple hundred yards below the gate. As you can see from the next picture, with a little effort, you could piece together a route out either mostly on snow or 'dry' land.
The basin and part of the road (far left) with Horseshoe upper left and Sheridan upper right:
The weather came in as we were walking through the basin.
Heading out, walking down the road:
As you can see the road is pretty much melted out. There's just those 2 or three drifts that might be troublesome for the wrong kind of vehicle. Expect those drifts to be gone soon.
Overall, the snow in the couloir was hard and able to support our weight. Our crampons gripped the snow very well. The snow on the approach and the walk out in the basin was a mix of hard snow and knee-deep posthole-y snow, but we didn't think it was worth it to put on snowshoes. There was evidence that other people had sunk in quite a bit on warmer days.
This is a short hike, but it was very enjoyable. Stuart felt it was a great intro to snow climbs.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):