Peak(s):  Ice Mtn  -  13,951 feet
North Apostle  -  13,860 feet
Date Posted:  06/30/2008
Date Climbed:   06/28/2008
Author:  lordhelmut
 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):

 Comments or Questions

Even better with pictures
02/05/2011 00:22
Now I really wish my knee wasn‘t making me be such a wuss last week.
You guys were practically glowing after this. Now, I can see why.
The references to Benners and Sarah T illustrate the contribution made by people who go out and do this kind of stuff and share with a TR. Thanks, all.


07/01/2008 03:19
No doubt! I gots to git me some a dat Sawatch. Thanks for the inspiration - great TR =-)


Ice is nice
08/28/2008 00:37
Great job Brian, I‘m glad that close call was all it was, hopefully your hands are ok. Sorry that I missed this one, wish I could say I had as much fun as you guys volunteering to paint elderly folk‘s houses, but I‘ll be back in the hills soon enough. Thanks for posting and great pics!


Nice TR
07/01/2008 03:52
Damn that chris guy is one good looking fella. Good pics and f‘n fine climb. It was nice, like a lady.


glamour shots
07/01/2008 04:05
I don‘t know that Chris guy, but if I was him I‘d be posting those pics on my eharmony profile. Especially that one with the two axes. Any girl who responded to that would be worth the cost of a night out!
Nice TR, by the way.


Nice looking TR!
05/02/2011 14:23
Well done Brian and company. Enjoyed the trip report. Rock fall scares me. Still thinking about what would have happened if you weren‘t looking up the bell cord when I was descending two weeks ago.


07/01/2008 13:50
nice job guys... Even without skis, you guys tear it up!

This brings up an interesting point though, and I haven‘t seen it mentioned anywhere... There is a LOT of rockfall this year due to the deeper snowpack and additional moisture up high.

If you are climbing a route that take you near vertical rock, it might be a good idea to have a rock helmet on! We heard several rockfalls on Lindsey this past weekend!


Nice Write Up...
07/01/2008 14:47
Looks like an intense yet rewarding day. How exactly did you hurt yourself? Is it a snow burn on the backside of your hands? My hands currently have the skin ripped off from a rappel with a strange sucks pretty bad...hope yours heal quick.


07/01/2008 15:09
cheeseburglar - haha, who is that Chris guy?

Matt and Mark - thanks for the comments, painting houses for the elderly ain‘t the end of the world. Matt, good job on Massive after pneumonia, stellar performance.

covridder - yeah, I‘ve been doing snowclimbs for 4-5 years now and this has definately been the most consistent season for rockfall. I‘ve been part of a group with a close encounter involving someone on LB, Maroon and Ice. All it takes is one rock.

Colin - I tore up my hands on the glissade, I had both hands pushing down on the head of my axe so hard into the snow, they were pretty much grinding against the icy slope for the 30-40 feet I slid. I‘m more worried about infection than anything, I could see through to the muscle on my right hand.

Skin ripped from a rappel doesn‘t sound fun at all either.


Congrats guys!
11/30/2010 17:28
Brian - ouch! Sorry to hear about your hands but I'm glad you were able to arrest! Was the rockfall "natural" or was it encouraged by the climbers above who had perhaps begun their descent of the standard route? What time were you guys climbing in the couloir? I have seen very little rockfall this year and wonder if its more of a timing thing or more of a luck thing. I'm a little surprised your group chose to split up. I sure wouldn't want to be climbing up that thing with people above me. What was the logic?


07/01/2008 16:24
Great job guys.. Looks like it was a great day! Glad it was a success!

Ridge runner

rock fall
02/01/2011 00:24
It was me that caused the rock to fall. Glen and I were on top and decided to start the traverse over because we didn‘t think the others had started up the couloir yet and wanted to be off the ridge before they did. I was right above the left split when I stepped on a large, and what appeared to be a solid rock, but it started sliding. Everything around it started going and I quickly jumped off. Fortunately the big one stopped, but it caused a bunch of the smaller ones to keep going. I yelled but I don‘t think they heard. I can‘t tell you how bad I feel, especially after seeing Brain‘s hands and reading this. I hope your hands get better Brian.


No need
07/01/2008 17:12
to apologize Stephanie, I didn‘t mean for this to sound like it was your fault. I was more concerned with describing the episode, the danger of rockfall on that route and an early start. Live and learn I guess, I think the biggest thing to realize about routes like the Refrigerator is to climb with a smaller group, climb early to ensure no one is above you and climb fast through the danger zones.


Sweet TR
07/01/2008 17:52
Brian - That looks like it was an awesome climb. Too bad you banged up your hands. Nicely done!


Nice writeup...
07/01/2008 19:15
Glad you guys made it out without too much grief. Rockfall sucks. We had a boatload of it on Keiners. Hope the hands recover quick.

Chicago Transplant

07/01/2008 19:35
Glad everything turned out okay, rockfall can be a scary thing for sure! Its defintely a route on my list, but probably not this year. Thanks for sharing your experience!


11/30/2010 17:28
Nice climb Brian, way to get out on a more rarely traveled route. And thanks for mentioning my ordeal in your report , I have a very new respect/awareness for rockfall, as I'm sure you have obtained recently as well. My ass is just barely coming back to life and its been like 5 days. At least you were able to dodge your rocks, talk to ya soon...


A real gem!
10/22/2008 10:35
A great day out! Like you said, we couldn‘t seem to meet up for sh*t last year and already we‘ve managed twice with this coming weekend a third.
Had a blast, Brian! Sweet pics!


Very nice guys!
07/03/2008 02:34
This couloir is definitely a must next year for me. Have a great time at the Wilson‘s this weekend. I hope we can get together this summer! Like everyone else, I hope your hands get better!



07/06/2008 08:00
Sweet Brian. I had missed your TR but was in the Apostle Basin Today (actually the past 5 days!). Hope your hand aok. A

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