Ascent of Ice Mountain on 2007-09-15

Climber: Patrick Lilly

Others in Party:Kevin Baker
Date:Saturday, September 15, 2007
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Ice Mountain
    Elevation:13951 ft / 4252 m

Ascent Trip Report

Part of the Three Apostles Traverse, from the S. Winfield TH.
Left the TH at 4:45 am MDT in light snow and rain mix, hoping for clearing.
We had trouble finding the point where the trail crosses a stream (E-W) just a few yards past the well-signed junction with the Lake Ann Trail. After three tries, we eventually found it; from there on the trail is good and easy to follow. After the hard-to-find stream crossing, you climb a steep bank,and then the trail levels out substantially. Shortly it comes out of the trees, near but not quite at timberline, and crosses a large, lush meadow. In the meadow, it re-crosses the stream (now much smaller) on stepping stones.
From here, one must make one's own route. We bore first left, through the last of the trees on a fairly steep slope. We then headed to our right, out of the trees, and onto the large boulderfield below Apostle North.
The purpose of this is to pass under, and to the right of, the large cliff band directly under the summit. Once to the right of the cliffs, we began climbing steeply again, up the broad gully which leads to the AN/Ice saddle. A fair amount of water was flowing down the center of this drainage; it might have been a torrent in spring. Any path which avoids the water is probably just as good as any other. There is some loose rock, and what seems like an endless slope of large boulders.
I lost sight of Kevin and, following what seemed like the easiest path, ended up going too far to my right. As a result, I ended up cresting the ridge not at the actual saddle between the peaks, but south of the first ridge point on the Ice side. I had to give up a few dozen feet of elevation before beginning the climb of North Apostle, our first objective.
The climb up the ridge is a straightforward Class2/3 scramble, steep, and loose here and there, but not really difficult. After summitting NA, we went back down and set off for Ice.
The Ice side of the ridge is steeper, but more solid than the NA side. The real difficulty begins perhaps two-thirds of the way up. One is forced to leave the ridge crest to the climber's right. Then the steepness increases, and the ledges definitely get smaller and harder to use.
The crux is perhaps only 100 feet below the summit: a north-facing couloir which gets nearly vertical before any possible exit. We crossed from the left to the right side of the couloir before tackling the steepest section. Some have written that an easier route exists on the left, but we could not find one. The twenty or thirty feet (vertical) of very exposed, Class 4 (at least) climbing we found seemed the least difficult route to the top we could manage.
Once past that section, things got easier, and we exited on the left (east) side of the wall of rock visible from below. From there, we could see a system of ledges, at much reduced steepness, leading all the way to the summit. The summit is small and rocky, and the views are spectacular. Most of the Sawatch 14ers can be seen from here.
We did not descend our ascent route. Instead, we dropped several hundred feet off the SW side of the mountain, then traversed west to reach the Ice/West Apostle saddle (somewhere around 13,000 ft.). This traverse involved crossing half a dozen rock ribs and the intervening gullies. It was slow going, involving several Class 4 (or at least high Class 3) moves, and lots of scrambling. We went up and down a lot, in little increments, without gaining or losing much net elevation.
The 500 ft. or so to ascend WA seemed easy by comparison. We then followed the summit ridge west for half a mile or so, before dropping down off the north side into the basin of Lake Ann. Near the lake, we picked up the Lake Ann trail, and followed it back to rejoin our ascent route.
Nine or ten miles, about 4,500 vertical feet, and it took us twelve hours. Tough, but very rewarding.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3921 ft / 1194 m
    Total Elevation Loss:550 ft / 167 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3371 ft / 1027 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Route:Apostles Basin, N. ridge
    Start Trailhead:S. Winfield TH  10580 ft / 3224 m
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:550 ft / 167 m
    Gain on way out:550 ft / 167 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8.1 km
    Time:7 Hours 

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