An obscure, challenging, steep snow climb with a short 5th class rock crux
Steep snowbanks of bulletproof snow made travel past Lake Isabelle a bit tricky in places.
The sun light up the peaks encircling the basin at he head of the South Saint Vrain drainage during the approach. Shoshoni is the peak on the right.
There are three couloirs on the southwest face, each of varying difficulty. The westernmost couloir is the steepest and contains a short 5th class rock crux.
Climbing moderate but very hard snow slopes to the base of the couloir..
The climb begins in earnest near the base of the couloir. Kevin decides to do his part of the leading early on.
Looking up at the start of the crux in the lower part of the couloir. Reports indicate that once it begins to melt out it can be very difficult to overcome. Luckily, there is a 5.2ish workaround on the rock on the right side.
Dominic leads the group up to a suitable anchor spot near the base of the crux.
Dominic leading up to the base of the crux. The snow at the beginning was near vertical and of poor consistency. Dominic said his pick placements didn't feel secure. There was absolutely no protection and he didn't feel comfortable committing. He decided to back off and tackle the 5.2ish rock pitch out of sight to the right instead.
Navajo Peak (cone on left) and Apache Peak (right), two fantastic 13ers. Classic snow climbs abound here. The snowfield to the right of Navajo Peak is the Navajo Snowfield and it holds snow (or ice) year round. The wide couloir on the left side of Apache Peak is known as Queensway.
Heather following the short crux pitch on the right side of the couloir. The climbing wasn't too tough but it was exposed and we were happy to be roped up.
The belay station at the top of the crux was very small and it was clear that it would be uncomfortably crowded with all four of us. It was already tight with three of us. After I climbed the pitch, I untied and continued up the steep couloir. Heather followed me up as the boys finished up the technical pitch. It was spooky because of the drop off directly below me and the snow quickly became very hard. Upward progress was slow and labor intensive.
The couloir was steep and narrow, a winning combination.
Heather, an avid ice climber, discovering that steep snow ain't too shabby either.
The hard snow usually accepted the shaft of an ice axe after a few blows. Most of the time we self belayed with our mountaineering axes and used the picks of our tools for added security.
Looking back at Kevin and Dominic near the top of the couloir. Unlike many couloirs, this one seemed to relent a bit near the top instead of getting steeper.
More steep snow climbing. The couloir felt steeper than 50 degrees the whole way.
Heather about to top out on her first steep snow climb, and it was a doozie!
After topping out of the couloir proper, we still had to climb a steep snow slope to reach the plateau above. In stark contrast to the snow in the couloir, this snow was very soft and wet, making it a bit unsecure.
Dominic, Kevin and Heather finishing up the scramble to the summit of Shoshoni Peak.
Navajo Peak and Apache Peak look awesome from the summit of Shoshoni Peak.
Heather, Kevin and Dominic pose for a summit shot.
Walking over Lake Isabelle didn't seem like a great idea, but everyone else was doing it! Instead of messing with the vertical snowbanks along the shore again we decided to follow.