Peak(s):  Saint Sophia Ridge  -  13,060 feet
Date Posted:  05/25/2020
Modified:  05/26/2020
Date Climbed:   05/24/2020
Author:  Boggy B
Additional Members:   Kylie
 Seasons of St. Sophia   

The numerous aiguilles of the Saint Sophia Ridge were visited by several members of the San Juan Mountaineers. The entire length of the ridge was traversed along the base of the pinnacles. None of them was ascended, but many will offer extremely good climbing if one will disregard the frequent outcroppings of loose rock. While a few of the points may be unclimbable, others, among the more solid of the lot, should go. At any rate the ridge is worth visiting.

Dwight G. Lavender
American Alpine Journal 1933

Inspiration: Saint Sophia Ridge, 29 May 2019

In the dim, flat light of a cloudy morning, the crumbling spires of Saint Sophia Ridge loom threateningly over Governor Basin like an army of missile troops waiting in ambush, preparing to rain down their chossy payload on any who seek passage beneath their lofty gaze. We tiptoe quickly up the basin towards them, hoping to catch them dozing in the cold. The only sound is the rhythmic crunch of frozen snow underfoot.

Kylie and I climbed Saint Sophia Ridge in the summer of 2016, and the scene was very different then. We had driven nearly to the Virginius Mine, and a short hike up steep grassy slopes blanketed in wildflowers and chirping pikas yielded a bench of rolling talus beneath the toothy ridge.

Last spring from a nearby peak I admired the beauty and contrast in the soft curves and smooth texture of a heavy winter's snow flanking the row of jagged towers that seemed to sprout from it, like the chaotic frothing of a wave about to break and crash down upon the basin. The access gully had been transformed into a funnel of snow that looked far more amenable than the hardpan flume we had groveled up to reach the summit tower years earlier.

Despite that unpleasantness, we had enjoyed the short technical pitch to the summit--not too long, not too difficult, and reasonably protected. So with enthusiasm buoyed by a remembered fondness for the experience and high hopes that spring conditions will aid our ascent, we're now staring up the snow-plastered gullet.

After a cold night, the snow is so good we've worn our crampons almost from where we parked at the creek crossing around 11,100', where someone with a much bigger rig than mine had failed to make progress through the deep snow on the far side of the creek. We don our helmets and harnesses and launch up the chute.

Having spent several minutes on the approach debating the relative merits of a traditional piolet versus ice tools, we're immediately given a chance to test our positions. I've brought a short straight-shafted aluminum axe--a decision I'd been sure I would regret as the steep ramp loomed closer--and Kylie has her tools. The snow in the gully consists of poorly-bonded crystals covering hard ice or rock a foot or so down. Too deep to swing, not consolidated enough to plunge: We're both wrong.

At any rate, the gully is short, and it's still supportive enough to kick steps and narrow enough to brace against the stacked choss lining the opposing walls. At the top, before reaching the ridge, we step right around the split tower, wondering if anyone has climbed the juicy offwidth direct.

On the north side of the tower, Kylie decides she'll take the lead this time, so we stage the belay and she's off. Getting established in the crack proves trickier in mountaineering boots than in hiking shoes, and as she struggles I muse that she's about to get the first second ascent of Saint Sophia Ridge. Soon enough she's cranking her way up. She makes an exposed mantle onto a platform thirty feet up before dispatching the final short headwall that leads to a small ledge and the anchor. I follow in my usual following form.

A few feet higher we scramble gingerly onto the precarious summit, and I recall seeing a photo of Abe squinting into the sun with Dom, Sarah, Natalie, and Ryan in echelon. The winds are gusty this morning and I'm not wanting to stand for long, but we sit and take in the exposure. PVC continues to prove its utter worthlessness as a vehicle for summit registers, and we can barely make out a blurred entry from Steve Gladbach before we stuff the soggy roll back into its oversized white tube.

The rappel anchor needs attention, and we thread new cord through the ring before rappelling back to our staging area. Just on the north side of the summit tower, two gullies north of the ascent gully, is a squat hoodoo with sun-faded black webbing and a quicklink. We recall using this same piece of gear on our prior descent. The knot is frayed but I retie it to eliminate the damage, and we rappel 35 meters down a junky, low-angle side gully that meets the ascent chute near the bottom.

Now the sun is bearing down in force, and the missile troops are waking from their slumber. During our adventure the icy crust has morphed into slushy corn, and we speed to safety, glissading back to the truck in what seems like minutes.

Gear: Cams BD 0.5 to #4 (a #5 may also be used). Anchor material. A 70m rope is nice if rappelling the approach gullies.

Saint Sophia Ridge, 7 Aug 2016

Saint Sophia Ridge, 25 May 2020

East face detail

Starting up the chute



Kylie leads the summit tower



View to south

View to Emma

Rappelling the summit tower, summer 2016

Rappelling the east face, summer 2016

Kylie in Wildflower Heaven, summer 2016

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Comments or Questions
Liked it
05/25/2020 16:49
before I even read it, because I knew the report would deliver! Nice writing and I like the comparison of your summer outing of the pinnacle. Once again, thanks for sharing your adventures here! I would double like it, if I could...

Roses are red
05/25/2020 19:53
Spring skies are blue
It's always an adventure
Climbing crumbling towers with you

Jack Brauer
Camped up near there
05/26/2020 13:31
Looks like fun! I did a high camp up there right above St. Sophia Ridge about 10 days ago; you might be interested to see the photos here. Really cool ridge.

Squinting Sun
05/26/2020 15:45
Cool write up man. Whats awesome is that pic was taken the day after you guys got married! Super cool time to get this "peak"

Enjoyed the write up and hope you guys are well, Kylie certainly looks happy but she always seemed to have a soft spot for the flowers

Boggy B

05/26/2020 20:27
@Darin, thanks for the kind words!
@Jack, nice photos and what a great spot to camp; love the possibilities a bit of snow makes.
@Abe, I was trying to remember why you all were there, haha. I think Kylie's TR would have been "nice day. easy climb. mad no flowers." Hope you're doing well, too. We've been kicking around a Boise trip--we'll be in touch.

Kevin Baker
05/27/2020 13:07
Nice write up, Boggy! Impressive lead by Kylie! That ridge is so mesmerizing.

05/28/2020 15:20
Let your writing peacock feathers soar.

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