| Ice-N.Apostle and a damn close call
My buddy Chris and I had made an attempt at Ice Mountain in the Sawatch Range 3 weeks ago but the weather didn't cooperate and we were forced to bail on the summit and make it no more than a simple recon hike. This actualy worked out quite well since the trail through treeline can be somewhat tricky. We were hiking through the dark Friday night, so we needed all the help we could get. We met Kiefer and his friend Pete at the Winfield TH around 7:30pm. After enjoying a few Odell IPAs, we set off on the trail around 8, with a little bit of light for the hike up to the Lake Ann/Apostle Basin turnoff. By the way, the road to the Winfield 4wd parking lot is completely clear of snow and easily accessed by any 4wd car. For comparisons sake, we saw an Outback with an intact front and rear bumper!
The river crossings were brief and easily jumped across by all of us. We reached the Apostle Basin about a hour and a half later and set up camp right near a raging river, just out of treeline. About an hour later, Glen and Stephanie met up with us, we chatted a bit then called it a night.
Glen and Stephanie wanted to get an early start and they did. They left around 3am or so, Kiefer, Pete, Chris and I opted for a little later. The alarm went off at 4am, we were on the trail by 4:30am and making decent progress for a group of 4.
We were greeted by a nice sunrise to the North :
Kiefer summed up the Apostle Basin pretty well. He described it as a combo of the Elks jagged, loose peaks and the dramatic scenery of the San Juans, hidden in the middle of the range of big hill slogs that is the Sawatch, very uncharacteristic of it indeed.
Huron looked pretty imposing poking over the ridge of North Apostle :
Now we all had read the reports and were fully aware that there was rockfall in the Refrigerator Couloir. But after reading Sarah Thompson's trip report the week before, it sounded like it was smooth going, so we put that issue in the backs of our minds. With that said, we reached the base of the Refrigerator, put on helmets and just as we got done with our short little break, a barrage of baseball sized rocks were coming at us at full speed. Kiefer, Chris and Pete were about 10-15 feet above me and closer to the wall of the beginning of the gully. I was right in the line of fire and had not put my helmet on yet. The rocks were whizzing by our heads kind of like bullets, it reminded me of the scene in the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, bullets whizzing by the marines on the beach. Thats how fast it seemed these rocks were going. At one point, I saw 3 rocks coming straight at me and were headed for the lower region of my body. I instinctively hopped in the air, but did not land as smoothly as I'd hoped and before I knew it, was flying down the slope at an incredible speed. The good news is I finally had a chance to legitimitly use my ice axe to save myself from injury or worse. The bad news is I hadn't put my gloves on and tore a good amount of skin from both my hands. As Benner's mentioned in his Bell Cord report, there's always one more thing to learn when you climb these things, no matter how long you've been doing it. Especially this time of season, all it takes is one rock, either the size of a refrigerator or a golf ball, either one can do some damage.
After the close call, we made our way up the couloir, sticking as far right as possible.
1/3 of the way up the Fridge, looking West towards the Elks, it was a phenomenal day :
This is the Y-junction near the beginning of the couloir where you are supposed to head right, the rocks that came down on us came in from the left side, the standard NW ridge on Ice heads right over this side of the gully and with the absurdly loose rock above, rockfall is inevitable, you really have to get on this mountain early :
Chris leading up the Fridge :
Looking back at Kiefer and Pete :
Chris topping out, right after the steepest section of the climb, it was steep, but great snow conditions allowed for afe passage :
At the top looking down at Kiefer and Pete topping out :
The views from the saddle were phenomenal and there was enough room for us on the small saddle for all of us to take off our crampons and take a quick break. The summit was basically right there, the Fridge literally drops your right off at the top.
The summit from the saddle :
Taylor Reservoir to the East :
We couldn't find the trail register on the summit of Ice, but it was a fine summit nonetheless. Chris was getting a little friendly with his ice axe for a minute there, but struck a victory pose for this shot :
And another after almot losing his 50$ helmet :
The traverse over to North Apostle was probably the trickiest part of the day actually, steep, loose rock and not a very obvious route of safe pasage. Here some shots :
Chris with N.Apostle in the background
Looking back at Kiefer and Pete downclimbing Ice :
When we reached the summit of N.Apostle, Stephanie and Glen were still there (after 2 hours), so we hung out for a bit longer, watched a guy ski down the refrigerator and basically enjoyed the views and the great day.
B+W of Ice from N.Apostle :
Skier in the Fridge
The descent down was pretty straightfoward, did some glissading, took a sweet shot of this glacial fed lake.....
And were back at camp soon after....
Great day, even better route and even better people to climb with, couldn't ask for much else.
The 3 Apostles on the way out....
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):