| Ice in the Refrigerator
Sorry for the late report, but it has been a busy summer. I decided to try the Refrigerator couloir and N. Apostle. After reading a TR and some beta from other members on current conditions being marginal for the snow in the couloir, I decided to give it a try, see what was actually there, and then decide to climb on, or go up the NE ridge instead if the conditions were not safe.
I left the trailhead at 4:30, hoping not to get lost on the approach, and reach the couloir while it was still hopefully frozen. I started up the trail, in warm conditions. Did it even freeze last night? I was cruizing along the trail with the headlamp, when my light illuminated an animal I assumed was a deer 75 feet up the trail. The animal jumped up, took 10 quick steps to the side, stopped, and stated at me. Hmmm, the animal did not bound like a deer that is startled does. There was a round head staring at me. The body was the size of a male deer, but it had a long tail. I was more than awake now. This was the first mountain lion I had seen in the wild. What should I do? Its body language told me I was not on the menu for breakfast, at least not yet, so I decided to grab my axe, make lots of noise banging rocks with it over my head, and put some distance between us before the animal got other ideas. I started backing up slowly, which was tough in the dark without turning my back on the lion. The lions posture did not change and he was taking a couple of steps and then looking back at me. I was now far enough away from the lion that my headlamp could no longer illuminate it. I kept a steady pace, but not too fast, so I could pay attention around me. Was the mountain lion now stalking me? Would it circle around me, and attack in the dark? I tried not to think too much, just kept on looking in all directions, making lots of noise, and kept moving. I was happy to have left the lions house without incident, and was happy to get to a sign pointing to Apostle basin.
There is a sign at the first fork in the trail to Apostle basin. N. Apostle on the left, Ice Mt. center, W. Apostle on the right.
The trail forks again. Take the right fork to get to the creek crossing. I'm lucky I did not see the left fork early in the am, I might have tried it.
Wide log to cross to the creeks west side
The trail that goes up the faint ridge that divides the Lake Ann drainage and the Apostle basin was easy to follow in the dark, except for the abundant dead fall. When I got to the small creek crossing in the basin, the logs were iced over requiring crampons to cross. A good sign that whatever was in the couloir was going to be firm.
Sunrise on Ice Mountain. The slopes to the west of the Refrigerator catch the first sun, starting the thawing proces on the loose rock above the couloir.
First view of the Refrigerator. The angle of the slopes leading to the Refrigerator are 45 degrees or so. Looks like some real ice higher up. I hope there is no water running underneath it!
A good sized runnel took up most of the couloir before it splits. The snow was hard, only the points of the crampons would penetrate.
It narrowed down to 3 feet or so and got a little steeper. No rockfall and no sounds of water from underneath the snow.
The ice was solid, 2-6 inches thick, no water underneath it. I'm glad the conditions were good and safe to continue cliimbing.
I reached the top of the couloir at 7am, and summited at 7:10. It was actually fun climbing on the plastic ice. Just had to make sure placements and the ice were solid.
Picture of the NE ridge of Ice Mt. taken at 8;30 from the summit of N. Apostle. The descent was not straightforward. I found the place to descend off the ridge into the left branch of the couloir easy enough, but what I saw was not encouraging. The top part was completely melted out, leaving a thin layer of dirt covering 3rd -4th class loose looking rock. I decided against the normal route, and started descending the ridge proper. The climbing was a little harder than what I bailed on, but the rock was solid. My kind of route. Soon I was at the saddle, and on my way to the top of N. Apostle. I hung out on the summit for 2 hours, then got on the soft snow for some fun glissading.
Looking back up the Refrigerator on the way out. This picture was taken at 11:00am. The steper part of the couloir is actually still partially in the shade, but notice the cliffs baking in the sun to the right.
It was a great climb in slim conditions, but well worth the effort. I did not see or hear a single rock fall during the ascent, but it seems it would get a decent amount of rockfall earlier in the season with the sun hitting the slopes above it first thing in the am.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):