Peak(s):  Ice Mountain  -  13,951 feet
North Apostle  -  13,860 feet
Date Posted:  07/28/2019
Date Climbed:   07/27/2019
Author:  yaktoleft13
Additional Members:   koeffling, BKS, mjlucarelli
 On the Rocks   

A big mountain with a bigger reputation.

That's how I'd always thought about Ice Mountain and the Apostles since seeing them from Huron three years ago and researching them. Roach calls it the most dangerous peak in the Sawatch and one of the most dangerous Centennials. Trip reports on this site warn of perilously loose rock and close calls. Myself and my hiking friends always had a healthy respect and almost fear of the peak.

That being said, something compelled me this week to send a text to the group: "let's do something spicy." And there were takers! Saturday was the day (despite Sunday having a perfect forecast). As the week progressed, Saturday had the most fluctuating forecast I've ever seen. It started as sunny in the morning with a chance of thunderstorms late, changed to 40% chance of showers/thunderstorms AM with 90% PM, and ultimately ended with "scattered showers and thunderstorms possible before 5" (translation: we don't know what the heck will happen).

I, being insane, managed to rally everyone for a 3 AM start, hopefully allowing us to beat the weather that both would and wouldn't come. Again, there were takers! So Brian (bks) and I met Friday after work, carpooled through the I70 traffic, and after about two hours too long made it to the Winfield 4WD trailhead, also known as Lake Ann trailhead.

Side note: this was only the second time I've been to this trailhead, but I was blown away by how busy it was. Every single pulloff from the reservoir all the way to the Huron trailhead was packed with cars by 9:30 Friday night. The Missouri Gulch trailhead was stuffed, and even on the 2 miles of the Winfield 4WD road, we must have passed 100+ cars.

Brian threw down a tent, I slept in the car, and suddenly alarms were ringing at 2:40 AM. Kirsten (koeffling) and Monica (mjlucarelli) met us shortly thereafter at the car, showed a couple of groups where the Huron trail started, and we were off by 3:05.

The first three or so miles of the Apostle Basin trail are wonderful; well-defined trail, soft surface, and very mild. The trail only ascends 600 or so feet during that stretch. There was some mild blowdown, but it was always easy to circumvent or get over.

trail junction, stay left (all pictures below the saddle were taken on descent. It was dark and I was too lazy to get my phone out on the way up...)

Typical trail conditions

One of the minor avy debris spots

Stream crossing number one. Go 10 feet left and there's a giant log (harder to see at 4 AM)

Looking back on first stream crossing

One of the few areas of rougher trail

Eventually, we came to a second stream crossing. There was still a firm snow bridge across that will hold for a while longer that provided easy passage. But, sadly, this marked the end of cruiser trail travel and started the bushwhack to treeline. We followed the GPX from, which took us high up to the east above the creek. In the dark, it was helpful to have a GPX to follow, but it took us through the heart of the willows and along some cliffs and slabs. We never found any defined trail up through that section, but bashed our way to treeline eventually.

Second stream crossing. End of the good trail, start of the willows (yayyyyyy)

Once above treeline, we founds cairns that took us up the cliffs that guard the NW ridge of North Apostle. We followed those cairns up and into the basin between North and Ice. They ultimately led us to a loose scree/talus slope that got us about 400 feet closer to the saddle.

Ascent route came over the cliffs on the left, then up the scree/talus slope in the middle of the picture.

Closer look at the screen/talus slope

Once above the scree slope, we came to the upper basin. We had talus left and snow right, but everything funneled us toward a single gully. Kirsten and Brian took the snow, while Monica and I took the talus. The gully had some loose rock in it, but it was of low consequence.

Ascent gully on left side. Surprisingly stable talus leading up to it.

Closeup of the gully. Kirsten breakdancing into frame.

Above the gully, there was a sea of talus with a couple lingering snowfields. The talus was again surprisingly stable. Rather than ascend to the saddle itself, I climbed to the first bump up the ridge on Ice, which put me on the ridge at about 13,550.

View to saddle. I ascended the first bump to the right from the saddle.

View from where I hit the ridge, looking back down over the Apostle Basin.

Here's where things got good. For all we'd heard about loose rock on Ice, we found almost none. We stayed ridge proper the entire time, only dropping down twice: once to avoid a significant gain/loss approaching a notch in the ridge, and once for the crux gully. The remainder of the time, we stayed exactly on the ridge, and it was unbelievably solid. The ridge offered plenty of easy scrambling and a quasi-knife's edge. We all had a blast on this section and were blown away by the rock quality.

Brian attacking the ridge

The first time we dropped below the ridge. It was intuitive, as the notch is clearly seen from the ridge before the bump, and is cairned.

Looking down on the section where we dropped below the ridge. The only other climber we saw can be seen near the ridge. Note the cliffs on the right...

Knife's edge, stay ridge proper, crux gully seen below the highest point on the top right.

Shortly thereafter, we came to the crux gully. There's a cairn marking where to cross over to the right side of the ridge, but terrain features guide you there as well.

Closeup of crux gully

The crux gully was not as hard or loose as advertised. As always, double check your holds, but most of what is in there is solid. I climbed up the left side until I reached the lichen-covered rock, moved to the right side, climbed the right side until the gully becomes more of a V-shape or a dihedral, then climbed up the V.

Brian and I inspecting the gully, having just crossed to the right side.

From the top looking down. Note the V formed by the rock in the lower half of the picture.

Brian coming up, about to transition into the V

Monica moving into the V, Kirsten scampering up.

Once above the gully, it's about 40 feet of gain to the summit. Just take the ledge around and up to the right.

Path to summit from above gully. Summit at top left

The summit was awesome! Despite our concerns at the weather, everything seemed to be cooperating. There were inversions in two directions too, making for an epic summit view!

Sweet inversion

Looking toward the southern Sawatch

North and Huron

Summit shot! Kirsten, Brian, Monica, and me (so close Brian, so close)

We figured the weather would hold out for us to get to North Apostle as well. We ate some food, took some pictures, and headed back toward the gully.

Shot from the top of the crux gully, showing the ridge and its difficulties (the first bump/notch up from the saddle is the one you drop below the ridge to avoid.

Though the group was nervous for the descent, we all agreed that for some reason, the descent of the gully was easier than the ascent. For the descent, we stayed on climber's right of the gully longer, until we reached the small snow patch, then crossed back over to reach the ridge right below the snow patch.

Monica, Brian, and Kirsten descending gully. The would cross over at the ledge just below the snow patch

The descent from there to the saddle was uneventful. Once back at the saddle, North Apostle looked steep, but climbed fast and solid. There's a faint trail at times up the peak, but we stayed on the ridge (seemed to work for us today) and summited in no time.

From the saddle, looking up North Apostle

Typical terrain up North

Final push to the summit

Summit view from North Apostle are incredible, especially of Ice and West Apostle.


Basin/Lake Ann area (still no idea what lake is actually Lake Ann...)

Ice and West

Brian, Monica, me, and Kirsten (couldn't get a smile from Brian, but he made up for it)

Our trip had clearly peaked, but we still had to get down. Descending off North, the clouds from the inversion starting billowing up Ice, creating an awesome effect. On the way down, we took the small trail segments where we could rather than the blocky talus. We also skipped a return to the saddle and headed down the basin.

Descending off North.

We descended the sea of talus, through the lower gully, and down to the snowfields. We took the snowfields in the middle of the basin down, rather than our ascent line above them.

Sky says "time to leave!" Brian and Monica descend, while Kirsten tries unsuccessfully to glissade.

Once at the bottom of the snowfield, we found ourselves on the cliffs above the lower basin and our trail out. Fortunately, we were able to locate a grassy ledge, which we followed to the east until the cliffs relented and a grassy, willowy slope allowed us to descend. We descended to the bottom of the rock glacier, which allowed us to avoid the worst of the willows. We were able to find small trail segments until we reached the stream crossing that signified the start of the real trail again.

Looking down from the grassy ledges. The trail picks up near the isolated patch of trees in the center of the photo above the rock glacier.

Looking back on the grassy ledge

Brian and I traversing the ledge until we can find a path to the bottom.

Path to the bottom found! Kirsten and Monica descending the grassy/willowy slope

From the lower basin, looking back on the peaks. Our ascent route hugged the triangular point in front of North Apostle on the left. Our descent was of the grassy ledge in the cliffs.

So long, apostles

The hike out was pleasant. The clouds, which had built and threatened to storm, dissipated. I guess sometimes, a 70% chance of rain doesn't mean a 70% chance of rain. I'll explain later.

We finally made it back to the cars, making this an unknown length hike with an unknown amount of gain in an unknown amount of time. Apologies for the GPS track; it went wonky when we took a break at one point.

Ice's reputation as a loose, dangerous peak seems unwarranted in summer conditions. The only loose rock we found on this mountain was on largely inconsequential terrain, and there was solid rock to be found everywhere you need it. The scrambling is wonderful; the views are otherworldly. It's amazing that the gentle sea of Sawatch peaks holds such rugged and striking mountains. Ice has become one of my favorite climbs and favorite peaks thus far.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Awesome Day!!!
07/28/2019 11:22
What a great trip report! It was a perfect day! This was definitely a favorite for me also! Thank you for letting me tag along and I hope we can do it again soon!


07/28/2019 13:47
You and your team are getting the harder ones!
Where did Brian get that summit maneuver?

Great day
07/28/2019 14:38
Tom, you€„˘re born with those moves. They can€„˘t be taught.

Fastastic day
07/28/2019 19:11
Great write up Eric. I appreciate being able to go out with such a good group

07/28/2019 16:55
nice report too! those clouds are awesome.

07/28/2019 18:52
Tom, appreciate it! I take no ownership of the group though; I'm just lucky enough to have found a group of people with similar goals who can stand me for 12 hours a week.

Dillon: much appreciated! The weather that day made for some breathtaking views.

Love it!
07/29/2019 09:30
I'm sad that I missed this one. Brian nailed that jump. Good job guys!

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