Peak(s):  Ice Mtn  -  13,951 feet
Date Posted:  06/08/2010
Date Climbed:   06/06/2010
Author:  lordhelmut
 Refrigerator Couloir Ski   

3 Apostles

Ice Mountain - Refrigerator Couloir Ski
Group - Alex (ahudge), Rick (mtnfriend), David and his dad Kenny, myself

With the spring ski season quickly diminishing due to an extremely rapid snowmelt, the group was in the mood for something very above average to possibly round out the season. After a couple days to recuperate, I've decided there still is some stuff worth checking out, but its tough to think so when you are climbing twice as much vertical as you are actually skiing. Regardless, even the most hardcore of backcountry skiers can admit things are looking kind of grim these days.

After having checked out the Y on Pikes Saturday and finding out there was no reasonable way to ski off the summit (or ski off anywhere for that matter, its nearly dried out from a skier's perspective) I was kind of apprehensive about an approach into the Sawatch. Whichever way we looked at it, the day was going to be fun either way. Alex, Rick and I first met on Savage Peak and hit it off nicely with a fun ski and a fun outing. I met David while working above Wilderness Sports in Dillon. My numerous trips downstairs and constant badgering had us eventually talking about our hobbies, ski mountaineering being the forefront. It didn't take long before we both had interests in the San Juans and a nice weekend ensued around Red Mountain Pass and the South side of Potosi. I also had the pleasure of running into Kenny on a powder day at Loveland, so it was good to have a bunch of like minded people climbing a big mountain in hopes to round out the long approaches of spring ski season with an aesthetic, steep line of the Refrigerator.

Anyways, I met Alex and Rick bright and early at the Silverthorne Outlets and made way for Clear Creek/Winfield, where we met Kenny and David, who camped out there for the night. After the greetings, we were on the trail soon after and making progress up the, at times, very washed out, muddy trail.

Getting ready for the day

For anyone that hasn't been up into the Apostle Basin, the trail is surprisingly flat for the majority of the approach through treeline, with a few river crossings and trail junctions to boot.

This is what happens when you approach in AT boots

the only significant uphill section of the approach

The only sections of note is the trail junction where you follow the sign to Apostle Basin/Lake Anne and soon after you reach treeline after this trail junction, there is a Y in the trail, where you head right and your first log stream crossing.

We reached an opening above treeline, right before where we started skinning and took a nice, long break.

Rick w/ Apostles in backgroun d

David and Kenny

A good amount of the pictures in this report were taken by Alex's new SLR Nikon D3000 camera, two of which were taken during out long break. Kind of inspiring to make another impulse buy. While its bulky and annoying to whip out during skiing, it takes damn good shots.

After our break, the route crossed the stream a couple times. I'm not sure if these were absolutely necessary, I guess we could've hung along the right (SW) side of the valley, post holed a bit, to eventually reach snowline, but it didn't really work out that way.

1st stream crossing

Around 8:30am, we finally reached snow, traded out hiking boots for AT's, put on the skins and made better progress up towards the basin below W.Apostle.

Rock skinning w/ Sawatch Range in back

As we rounded the corner, we were presented with an amazing and terrifying display of nature's fury in the form of a MASSIVE wet slide from, most likely, a few days ago. Looking up high, we could see where the slide was triggered and nearly 50% of the slope had been ripped out to the ground.

Alex in front of a very large slide

It was around this point that Kenny decided to call it a day. His days of 60 degree ski descents were behind him and he was content with enjoying the nice weather and view from a solid vantage point, deep in the basin. It was also around this point where I got tired of dilly dallying and motored up the slope, oblivious to the arduous sidehilling and semi-postholing. I just shut my brain off and put one foot in front of the other. I looked up maybe 5 times the whole way to the base of the Fridge and still managed to take the path of least resistence. I was determined, mainly due to the realization that this season was nearly over. I can safely say I had some sort of summit fever or just an indifferent attitude towards the rapidly softening snow.

Around the time Kenny called it quits, a few tele skiers passed us having turned around due to sketchy conditions. We made a mental note and pushed on. As I neared the base of the Fridge, I noticed a group of 5 come skiing out of the chute and take a load off for a rest. At one point, one of them skied by me, asking about the most logical way out of the basin when staying low. I honestly hadn't paid much attention to the looker's right from down low, mainly because all of our stashed gear required us to come back the way we came. Later that night, I got a call from a mutual friend who said the guys I had passed were all members of, 1 of which I have shared quite a few summits with. Benners, Pioletski, MtnBkrSkrChick, GB and Easy Rider all flew by us and I was completely oblivious.

Anyways, I honestly wasn't worried about meeting new friends at that exact moment. We were about to enter a couloir notorious for rockfall, the snow was incredibly saturated and the day was getting late. To be perfectly honest, none of this really phased me, can't really admit why. Alex and David were willing to summit, Rick was getting worn down, but also willing to give it a shot. Part of the reason for our slow day was we all thought the Fridge got later sunhit, but this was more or less a none factor, given the overnight warm temps. It all came down to our comfort level in the end, and were agreed to just truck up the couloir, spend the least amount of time possible on top and ski down as efficiently as possible.

Some shots of the climb, not too many cause we were hauling ass. Made it from the base of the couloir to the summit in 40 minutes. (I believe its around 700-800 feet, depending on where you begin climbing up)

climbing up the Fridge

About to top out. This was the steepest section that angles to the climber's left

We spent basically the amount of time it takes to strip off the skins and transition into ski mode on top, which was less than 10 minutes. The top of the col was a saturated cornice that none of us felt like lingering around on. We sidestepped onto the flatter face of the chute, sidestepped about 5 feet down before we could enjoy some reasonable turns. It was damn steep up top and the true entrance into the Fridge was even steeper, pushing 60+ degrees, and went at an angle.

Alex skiing off the col

looking down a steep couloir

Once we took a deep breath and entered the pretty narrow, melted out couloirs, it was jump turn central for the next 150-200 feet or so. Turns that kind of looked like this....

each jump turn was a monumental effort

At one point, the chute was so narrow, we almost had to simply sidestep down for about 20-30 feet on thin, quickly melting snow. We were literally in a race against time, this couloirs was melting out right under our feet. Wet slides were no longer our concern, having snow to ski on was. Pretty comical actually.

David getting some decent turns before it got really narrow

Rick opening up into the apron

Alex not having enough room to turn



We were finally able to make it past the narrow sections and open it up for some smooth, graceful rock hopping, muddy saturated snow turns. It was refreshing to ski on snow (who would've thought)!! When it was all said and done, we all agreed the short ski descent was worth the effort, its Ice Mountain afterall.

We all made it out unscathed, sans a few nicks to our ski edges and tip/tail bases, but nothing major. The next goal was to sustain enough elevation to make it back to the saddle were Kenny was patiently and peacefully waiting for us in order to ski back to our stashed gear. This involved traversing across slopes that were positioned under all the water falling from the North Face of Ice Mountain. This wet snow couldn't support a pika, so sidehilling while trying to keep high was a lost cause. We reached Kenny sooner than we had thought and could finally breathe a little easier, for all we had to look forward to was avoiding hidden rocks, dust strewn snow and IPAs and warm PBR.

Traversing out of the basin

nice view

Alex and David final turns of the day

And a nice place to take a break and de-skin

taking a break to shoulder the skis for the approach out

I guess you could say we weren't out of the clear yet. While we were up high, those creek crossings were busy smoking crack, drinking grain alcohol and doing god knows what else and they were all angry, destructive drunks. They were also pretty stubborn and wouldn't let us cross them without getting our socks drenched. I could almost hear them laughing at us as we reached treeline. The dead trees weren't too friendly either, they kept on falling in front of us and snagging our skis. Bastards.

Rick trying to keep his feet dry

Larry Bird

We got back to the car around 3:30 or 4pm, I straightlined it for the creek where our precious Avery Ipa's were stashed and cracked them open before we could even put down our packs.

Kenny enjoying a day out in the mountains

After shootin' the breeze for a while, talkin bout mountains, backgrounds, favorite beer, favorite ranges, most memorable trips, etc, we packed up and headed home. And what do you know, we both picked the same exact place to eat, Chipotle and ran into each other one last time before permanently parting ways for the evening.

On a side note, anyone is welcome to Monday morning QB my decision to push on with deteriorating conditions. I don't usually start that late and am pretty conservative, as are the guys I skied with having been up with all of them in the past. We were all aware of our surroundings, but I personally kind of pushed the issue for the summit. While none of us got hurt and our logic was there might not be much left of this season, that doesn't make it right or any more logical. I put the good and the bad in the TR cause I get the feeling when people f**k up in the mountains these days, specially with the growing popularity of backcountry skiing (I'm part of this), they leave that part of the tale out, making people think things so smoothly more often than not. I've learned a lot in the last 2-3 years with snowclimbs in Colorado, but I am far from even being considered an expert.

Regardless, we all had a mutually rewarding day on a great mountain with great company. The chute itself was abnormally melted out for this time of year, I'd be surprised if there is any snow left to necessitate any sort of ski descent or even climb. Hopefully there are atleast a few adventures left, despite it feeling like the middle of summer these days.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Dad Mike

Took a left
08/12/2014 23:13
I‘m pretty sure I saw your group traversing under Ice when I was on my way down. I ended up taking a left at the Lake Ann / Apostle Basin sign. I think my route was a little more direct, but the trail was really hard to follow in the dark. There had to have been 40 downed trees on the trail. That picture of the avalanche is f*cking sweet!!


06/09/2010 04:49
I enjoyed the report, and the photos, and the straightforward style.

Nice job getting the last couple lines in the Sawatch this year, and congrats to a good snow season.

And yeah, that shot of the fracture and runout was pretty impressive.


Ice is nice
06/09/2010 15:01
Well done Brian, your have made some pretty amazing descents this year on those skis of yours, it‘s been thrilling reading your reports. The Fridge is in my top 5 favorite climbs, although a little leaner in your report than when I hit it last year. Well done and great shots! I want that ‘happiness is‘ t-shirt!


06/09/2010 15:06
Yeah...It didn‘t seem much like spring up there for sure. Friend...fiend....whatever, it was another fun and exciting day out with you Brian.
Next time we‘ll think to bring the grill - Let the summer ski season begin!!!!


Nice write up!
06/09/2010 15:12
Great account of the day.
It was surprisingly narrow in there!

I‘ve been working on my balance... next time I‘ll walk across that log in my AT boots.


06/09/2010 15:34
Mike - so when you said you took a left, was that in the section in the trees where you had the option to go uphill or cross the river? Cause we went left at the trail sign before entering the trees (Apostle Basin turnoff) and then veered right in the trees. Just clarifying, we experienced quite a few downed trees as well.

Dances - thanks a lot, you had a great write up of Snowmass

Mark - thanks man, Ice is a special mountain with some interesting routes. I‘ll ask David where he got that t-shirt

Rick - sorry man, mtnfiend sounds more like it.

Alex - just giving you guys s**t for hiking up 3 miles in AT boots.

Easy Rider

No blood, no foul...
11/30/2010 17:28
Sorry we didn't stop to say hi, but didn't want to be 'that guy' saying it was getting a bit late. Congrats on getting it though. We were not exactly early either, taking a left on the Huron route I think, and getting a little hung up in a hellacious bushwhack through that entire section of forrest.


06/09/2010 17:35
no worries, I was kind of expecting a chastising at some point, but thanks for not stating the obvious. I thought it would get sun later, guess I was off by a bit, not that it matters, overnight temps were close to 45 degrees. Had I never been back there before, I probably would‘ve taken a wrong turn as well, lots of downed crap around there.

Dad Mike

08/12/2014 23:13
I just re-read that part. We did take the same left. I was confused because in Roach‘s 13er book, it says to go right at that sign and cross clear creek. And I didn‘t go anywhere near that slide...I was way left of it.


Nice TR Brian
06/09/2010 20:04
Funny our group skied right past you guys! The others in my group can‘t be blamed for not recognizing you but I on the other hand just feel like an ass . Not really, but it would have been cool to say hi.

Glad the conditions held for you guys, like Jarrett said, no blood no foul! Let‘s get out this summer...


next time
06/09/2010 20:25
bummer on the sub par conditions. way to make it work, though.


Short but Sweet
01/19/2011 03:38
Typically strong work here on the TR, but I'm talking about your spring ski season. Dude, you've done pretty well with some trips to be envied by the likes of me.
Don't frown because it's over, smile because it happened...or something like that.

Wyoming Bob

Impressive slide photo
06/10/2010 02:33
Wow! Part of the reason our group turned on a shot at Grizzly Couloir, figuring that exact event might be in the cards for Grizzly as well. Well done.


The first pic made me wonder...
11/30/2010 17:28
the second was convincing (great pic, btw), but the fifth and sixth pics sealed the deal. Did lordhelmut get a new Nikon? It didn't suprise me to read the photos were taken with a D3000. The photos have that feel. And I see you guys put that cool little camera to very good use. Solid climb. Nice TR. Great pics. That bw avy runout shot is fantastic.


comment from your mutual friend...
05/02/2011 14:23
Looks like a fun day. Glad the conditions worked out for all involved.


06/10/2010 15:33
for the comments to all

kimo - the D3000 was Alex‘s new toy, I can‘t take credit for those. Unfortunately I don‘t have a big enough lense for those quality shots (the big ones are mine, the smaller better quality shots are Alex‘s). Maybe next bonus I‘ll get a SLR, or a 4-season tent. Thanks for the comments.


sweet route
06/10/2010 17:36
Is that the prominent line you see west from the summit of huron, I never know which one is the apostles or ice, but that‘ a beautiful area. You did it well.

Ron McFarland

Question on trail access
06/14/2010 02:49
Curious to know where you started walking from - Winfield or were you able to drive up the 4wd road?



06/14/2010 15:46
We began right from the Huron TH at the end of the 4wd road, it was smooth riding (relatively speaking) to the TH.

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