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Ice Mountain & North Apostle
Route: Refrigerator Couloir + "Moon Stalker Direct"
Elevation Gain: 3,518'
Low Dagger'ers: Darrin (kansas), Kris (crossfitter), John (JohnP FTC), Kelly (moon stalker) and me
Camp Mistress: Kelli (mtn_gazelle - this should be her user name)
Sometimes a mountain is all about the route you take to the summit. Ice Mountain and the Apostles are the odd peaks in the Sawatch. Rugged, steep and loose, unlike the usual terrain we see on the surrounding 14ers. The Refrigerator Couloir is notorious for rock fall and having alpine ice. One usually has to climb fast and hard, and never below anyone else. This is a route that many put on "the list". So all we needed to get a solid crew to climb it was mention, Refrigerator?
Day 1: Pack in
The Apostle Basin is beautiful, and should be enjoyed for more than a few passing minutes as you bustle down the trail. So we decided to pack in the day before the climb and camp up in the basin to enjoy the views, and just generally relax. We got some up to the minute beta from d_baker at the trailhead, so we were excited for the trip from the start. Tom Pierce was also there with a CMC group to climb Ice Mountain as well, just via a different route.
In the daylight, we had little problem following the trail. Plenty of deadfall and trees block the trail. John, who would be coming in in the dark, took a few minutes to look around in these section, but otherwise had little trouble navigating.
Once set up at camp, we took the time to look at the route up ahead. Kelly noticed a tiny strip of snow that would cut off distance from the standard route. So we took off to investigate closer. Darrin and Kelly went up to the base of the small couloir, while I (in my sandals) climbed the snow to the west of the basin to take some photos of the proposed route. All we would need to do is navigate a short section of missing snow and a waterfall. We would be getting up early enough, that if this route didn't work, we had other options. Kris and Kelli came in around dusk and Kris was down with the route change.
"Moon Stalker Direct Couloir"
The 2:30am wake up call came early. We got ready quickly, as John was early arriving to our camp. We wrapped around the rock glacier to the left, and approached the base of the couloir. The gap in the snow was small, and was easily avoided to the left by some class 3 scrambling. Once beyond the gap, the snow was great, and the couloir was narrow and fun. Probably the best climbing of the day, just for the interesting nature of the walls of rock towering above.
Raiding the Refrigerator - Putting Ice in our Veins
Once out of the narrow inset couloir, we made our way on a steep switchbacking traverse to the base of the Refrigerator couloir. The snow was firm, but not too icy. From d_baker's beta from the day before, he said there was no rockfall. On our ascent, we noticed 0 rocks, and 1 pebble. With the nice firm snow, the steepness wasn't very noticeable and the second tool was more for comfort and style than of actual use. We even sought out steeper sections of the couloir to have a little bit more fun on the way up.
At the top of the Fridge, we took a short break to take off our crampons for the short scramble to the summit.
A steep finish - Photo Credit: Kelly
Me reaching the top - Photo Credit: Darrin
Scrambling up after the 'Fridge - Photo Credit: John
Northeast Ridge - Loose Scramble-fest
The descent off of Ice on the northeast ridge was the most difficult part of the day. Loose rocks, made what could have been a really fun scramble, a test of patience. We knew any rock that we let loose, would eventually drop into the Refrigerator, and on anyone below on the ridge route. So we took our time getting down, so we could be as careful as possible. Here is where I realized that this was my first time descending a peak without skis. I've been in ski boots from October-June. It felt almost silly to walk off a mountain, when there was a perfectly good ribbon of snow to descend. Oh well, we can't ski everything!
There are faint trail sections to be found if you look for them. Right off the summit is a nice ledge section that the ladies took. The guys preferred the more exposed ridge proper for the start. Though after a little while, ridge proper was no longer going to work, so we switched to finding the more standard gully/ridge descent. After a much longer time than we anticipated, we were at the saddle with North Apostle.
Photo Credit: Darrin
It really was rather loose crappy rock for much of the down climb - Photo Credit: Darrin
Kelly down climbing some solid rock... mostly
One more ridge obstruction to go!
From the saddle up to North Apostle is a relatively straightforward talus trail. By this time in the early morning, the sun was beating down on us and the heat was the hardest part of the ascent.
On the summit we spent a long time just staring at Ice Mountain and the Refrigerator. So long we didn't notice some darker clouds developing to our east. We watched as the CMC group topped out on Ice, and made the way down the ridge. In one place they chose to repel a section of the ridge, where we descended into the loose gullies.
Once we noticed the clouds, we reluctantly left the summit and made our way down the saddle and back onto the snow. From here we glissaded and traversed, glissaded and traversed, repeating as necessary, all the way back to camp.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
...and great route choices. The 'Fridge looked to be in stellar condition and your morning ascent gully looked really fun. I was with a CMC group as part of my trip leader certification, which I think I'll put on hold. Anyway, very nice meeting you and your team, and the next day's beer haul was hysterical!
It was fun to see you folks at the TH, and I'm glad you had a good climb too! We looked at the Moon Stalker Direct, but opted not to go over there just in case it didn't go...I've looked down that before in summer conditions, and I remember some chalk-stones in it.
anyway, nice TR and photos!
And that descent isn't all that bad... ;)
Just like the N Buttress on El D. isn't bad!
That little short cut gully was great 07/09/2011 03:36
I'm really glad it 'went' and we didn't run into any obstacles. I wish we could have seen more of it in the daylight, but your pics give a good idea of how tight it was. It was an awesome little side-trip, I wish it was longer!
The fridge turned out to be a great climb, glad to check it off the list. And yes, thanks for not explaining the platter story for the 20th time! Boys.
Great pics as usual.
great photos and write-up. I got rained out (at the TH) last weekend, went back today and got the Fridge and W Apostle. Tried your variation but the bottom was melted out so ended up climbing around it (some nice grassy ledges to the right). Anyway thanks for the beta!
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