Ascent of Terra Tomah Mountain on 2019-07-14

Climber: Samuel Gockel

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, July 14, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Terra Tomah Mountain
    Elevation:12718 ft / 3876 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ida–Terra Tomah Traverse (Cracktop Traverse)
14.7 miles, 5200' gain
July 14th, 2019

Arrived at Milner Pass Trailhead around 4:30 AM. It was dark. It was very cold. I decided to sit in my car for about 30 minutes, waiting for things to warm up a bit. They didn't really. I decided to get going anyways. This is a steep trail that catapults you into the sky, so I was warm soon enough.

I broke treeline and rounded the north ridge of Mount Ida right as sunrise was hitting the Never Summer Range across the valley. The light and color were stunning. Continuing along, I finally felt the direct sun on my face as I approached the final base of Mount Ida. It was still quite cold up there, but the sun felt great. I hit the summit of Mount Ida around 7:30 AM. I had passed one other party earlier in the hike. Other than them, I would see no other person today.

After luxuriating at the summit of Mount Ida for about 20 minutes, I decided to press forward towards Chief Cheley. The descent from Ida is steep. The first section is class 2+, but it relents about halfway down to the saddle. Once at the saddle, I made good time up Chief Cheley. The final steps up Chief Cheley were absolutely beautiful. The views really changed.

The summit of Chief Cheley itself is a large boulder that is slanting akwardly. It is possible to stand on it, but the exposure to the east is intense, so I only recommend it if you have good balance. Descending from Chief Cheley to Peak 12800 featured some additional class 2+ and some of the strangest rock of the day. There were a plethora of thin dinner plate-sized rocks all slanted at odd angles. They were luckily solid, so the going was still easy. Peak 12800' really isn't much of a "peak", but the scrambling along the ridge above Highest Lake is superb.

From Peak 12800, it is an easy scramble up to Cracktop. The views from Cracktop are superb. Highest Lake looked absolutely spectacular. It was still frozen over.

The descent from Cracktop and the traverse to Mount Julian is easily the crux of the entire route. I traversed along the ridge direct for part of the way (class 3), but got pushed down to climbers' right (south side) about halfway across due to some massive, car-sized boulders. The traverse took a very long time. The boulders along the ridge are enormous. While they provided good grip on the boots, the handholds were sparse. Plan to give yourself at least 30 minutes to reach easier terrain from Cracktop, probably longer.

The final push up Mount Julian was tough; I was feeling pretty gassed by now. The weather was cooling down, and I could see a storm system starting to build to the west. I didn't spend too long up there before deciding to add on Terra Tomah. The descent from Julian featured more car-sized boulders, but once at the saddle below Terra Tomah, it's easy going all the way to the top. I only tagged Terra Tomah, as the storm was advancing quickly.

On the return, I skirted the southeast side of Mount Julian. This was both to avoid being up high on exposed rock if the storm hit, but also to save unnecessary elevation gain. As I rounded Julian, the storm hit. Boy was it a big one. I had to drop fast down the southeast side, partially down into Hayden Gorge. I found an overhanging rock that formed a spacious cave (which I later found you aren't supposed to use as shelter during an electrical storm). I hid in there for approximately 30 minutes as the storm roared over. I ate my first food of the day in there. I was ravenous.

After the storm moved on (thank goodness it did), I had to regain the ridge above me. I had climbed down some very steep boulders approximately 200-300 feet. Climbing back up was difficult, as the rock was very slippery due to the wet lichen. I eventually made it without slipping and was back on the route. Instead of taking the class 3 ridge directly to Cracktop, I decided to contour along its southeast face (I was worried that the rock up on the ridge would be wet and slippery). I found a nice ledge system that delivered my to a broad couloir below the summit of Cracktop. I took a direct line back up to summit.

Once back on Cracktop, the crux was behind. I was able to make good time back through Peak 12800 and Chief Cheley. The sun was back out. It was early evening. The light was beautiful. Once back on Chief Cheley, I plodded back down to its saddle with Mount Ida, then begrudgingly regained all 600 or so feet back up to Ida. From there, it was an easy hike back to the car. Another storm system blew through to the north, luckily at a safe distance.

I arrived at my car around 7:30 PM and drove straight to Loveland. I had run out of memory cards in my camera. I was going to be leaving for a 4-night backpacking trip in Wild Basin the next morning and wanted to be sure I had enough memory space. I also stopped at a McDonald's and ate two McGriddles.

What a day! One of my favorite routes in Rocky. At the time, this was one of the most difficult scrambles I'd ever done. I can't wait to revisit this one.

TR written 02/04/2022
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5196 ft / 1583 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5196 ft / 1582 m
    Round-Trip Distance:14.7 mi / 23.7 km
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Cool, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3601 ft / 1097 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1964 ft / 599 m; Extra: 1637 ft / 498m
    Loss on way in:1637 ft / 498 m
    Distance:7.3 mi / 11.8 km
    Route:Cracktop Traverse
    Start Trailhead:Milner Pass  10754 ft / 3277 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3559 ft / 1084 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1964 ft / 599 m; Extra: 1595 ft / 486m
    Gain on way out:1595 ft / 486 m
    Distance:7.4 mi / 11.8 km
    End Trailhead:Milner Pass  10754 ft / 3277 m

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