Peak(s):  Aetna, Mt  -  13,745 feet
Taylor Mtn A  -  13,651 feet
Date Posted:  05/17/2016
Modified:  05/23/2016
Date Climbed:   05/14/2016
Author:  Hoot
Additional Members:   Crestoner
 A Grand Day on Aetna and Taylor   

My bicentennial bagging season got off to a great start this weekend with a double bag of Mount Aetna and Taylor Mountain. Mount Aetna is the striking 13,745' peak you see looking north from Monarch Pass. Aetna's south face is dominated by the huge and beautifully symmetric Grand Couloir which has been on my to-do list for many years.

Friday night Dave, Deb, Sharon, Jason, Jake, Cam and I spend the night at the Lost Wonder Hut about 2.5 miles in from Garfield off Route 50 about five miles down on the east side of Monarch Pass. I was able to get about 0.3 miles up FR 230 before snow covered the road. From there it was about an hour hike up the road on snow to the hut. I manage to stay on packed snow and got away without putting on my snowshoes. LWH sleeps 12-14 so it was very comfortable for the seven of us with four dogs. Saturday morning after breakfast and gearing up in the warm hut, we set out for the base of the Grand Couloir. That was a four minute hike along FR 230 from LWH!

At 6:02 am we started up the Grand from the road at 10,840'. Jake, Cam and I were hauling our snowboards. The first half of the 2900' ascent is not steep at all. While the left (west) side of the couloir was well-covered with snow, there were a few places you could hike on grass on the right side. Near the last of the grass, we put on our crampons, but I continued with my poles until the slope finally steepened to about 30 degrees. We saw the remains of a fairly large cornice break from the ridge to our left. Aside from that, I saw no signs of potential avalanche danger on this day.

After about an hour and 45 minutes of climbing we entered the narrowest part of the couloir. From Monarch Pass, this section looks really steep, but it was only about 35 degrees. The snow in this section was in great condition for steps and solid ice axe plants. At the top of the narrow section, Jake, Cam and I cut right toward Aetna's true summit. Dave and Jason continued straight up reaching a final slope of about 45 degrees right below the summit ridge. I reached the summit of Aetna at 8:47 after 2 hours and 45 minutes of climbing.

Somehow I convinced Jake and Cam to head over to Mount Taylor and back with me leaving our boards on the summit of Aetna. The traverse between the two bicentennial peaks is easy and straightforward class 2 on snow, but it took us about an hour to get from Aetna to Taylor. Including Aetna, Taylor Mountain was my 40th bicentennial peak (60 more to go). From Taylor it took another hour to hike back to Aetna. There we retrieved our boards and hiked to the west end of the summit ridge to begin our descent where other skiers and boarders had. We talked to a couple of other guys before starting down.

The initial drop off the ridge was a little steep for me and I didn't fully trust my hiking boots and old rock board combination. I clung to the comfort of my heel rail longer than I needed to. But once I got down a bit and into the center of the couloir, the corn snow was fabulous! We made big turns and cruised down the wide couloir. And I only did one somersault. Near the very bottom we slalomed through some well-spaced rocks before reaching the road. Amazingly, the snow conditions remained great all the way down with no crust and no slush. I'm pretty sure that was the longest single run I've had on a snowboard and it was an absolute blast!

After repacking my gear, I hiked back down FR230 to my car. But Jake and Cam had a better idea and managed to ride their boards for much of the way back down the road. With great weather and great snow conditions this was a really fun day in the mountains. I highly recommend climbing the Grand Couloir - and just staring at it from Monarch Pass!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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