Route: Pearl Pass Road to ENE ridge
Elevation Gain: 2,400'
Blizzard bravers: Kelly (moon stalker), Monika (lovskiing) and me
The weather for this past Saturday was not ideal. So not ideal, that the official Gurlz hike had to swap days. But as I still had planned my entire weekend in the Elks, I thought why not give the 13er we had planned for Sunday a shot on Saturday. Worst case, we get snow beta for the next day. With Kelly being a definite accomplice and winter/spring snow climber, and Monika a ski instructor for Loveland, we had a solid cold and snow weather team. We even took turns leading during the day.
I had skied West Pearl last spring, and got a decent view of Pearl. Combine that with a summer photo from Furthermore's TR and I had more than enough beta with a map to decide that we could ascend this peak with snow and not get above class 2. Kelly and I had a GPS to guide us when our eyes could not see, which was most of the day. And we needed a GPS to make sure we were on the true summit, since visibility was so low.
Today was one of the few times that we were lucky that the first part of the route was a road. We wouldn't be soaked from step one by the wet grasses that typically surround a trail. So we made quick time up the wet road and found snowline to creep below 12K.
Starting up Pearl Pass Road
Rain to start
Once up to the upper meadow area below the peaks, the visibility was quite low, and would remain as such all hike long. The area is so beautiful, as we would barely be able to see it. We followed the road until we saw a nice grassy ramp that would take us into the belly of the beast between the two ridges. From there we trended climbers right until we had bypassed some rocky prominence and gained the ridge to our right. We still had some route finding to do to keep the difficulty low and easy. The snow got deeper the higher we went up the ridge.
Greg Mace Peak - barely visible
Trust me Kelly, that's Pearl on the left and West Pearl on the right...
The two ridges from Pearl that intersect the pearl pass road, and the grassy ramp we followed
Walking in between the two ridges, looking for class 2 passage to the ridge proper
We spent a very brief amount of time on the summit. Kelly's feet were cold, and her glacier glasses fogged up, so she was going without - Ouch!!!
It was a whiteout on the summit
Descending the ridge and out of the wind pelting us with snow crystals was priority #1, and we made quick work of it. Instead of following our exact path, we took a more direct route, and dropped off the ridge to our left (towards West Pearl) and plunge stepped all the way to the valley below.
Heading back down
Cornices already... in September....
Some rocks for contrast with the white snow
Navigating the snowy ridge
Descending a snowy gully that was plunge-step-able
West Pearl in background
That's the sun eminating through the snow and clouds, looking back at our descent gully
Once down below, the sun tried really hard to come out, but could not burn through the clouds fast enough for us.
The flowers are dying
The sun really tried to come out... looking back on Pearl
Some sun on Greg Mace
Ewwww something ate a marmot...
One of the reasons we didn't drive the Pearl Pass Road...
A nice waterfall
Back in camp, the sun did finally come out and we were lucky to be able to dry our wet gear for the next day.
Drying out at our campsite. Leaves are a changin'
Star Peak A
Taylor Peak A