Peak(s):  "Oyster Peak"  -  13,312 feet
Pearl Mountain  -  13,362 feet
Date Posted:  06/16/2014
Modified:  06/17/2014
Date Climbed:   06/07/2014
Author:  d_baker
 Pearly Gates   

Pearly Gates

June 7 & 8, 2014

Hikers: Terri, Papi, Woody, & db

UN 13,312' (a.k.a., "West Pearl" &/or "Oyster")
Pearl Mountain (13,362')
Malamute Peak (13,348')

Elk Range

Pearl Mtn & UN 13312 (l. to r.) from Malamute Pk

Approaching Malamute

Trailhead: Castle Creek road -> Pearl Pass road (for the Pearls) & Cathedral Lake (for Malamute ascent)
Route(s): see map at end of report
Distance: Pearls - 8mi's RT (round trip)
Malamute - 9 mi's RT
Elevation Gain: Pearls -- ~3600'
Malamute -- ~3400'
Difficulty: moderate snow climbing (estimated upper 30* range at its steepest)

Photo by Papperson

Gear: Daypack w/Essentials, ice axe, crampons, helmet (worn on Malamute), snowshoes (used on approach for the Pearls but NOT needed or carried for Malamute)

Resources Used For Trip Planning: TOPO!; NOAA; recent Cathedral trip report by nkan02 which has pictures that shows snow coverage on the peaks we climbed; first hand beta on Cathedral Lake trail conditions given by Surf and Sam; Malamute conditions on its S side given to us by our friends Marlyn, Mark & Crew; lastly the four of us are familiar with the area from previous trips


Saturday, June 7 was a day for friends and family to gather and remember the life of Steve Gladbach, and to spread his ashes in the mountains where he died. Much has been written and said about Steve, and most of it true.

What is true for me, is that I think Steve still lives on in our memories and in our hearts, in those of us that he inspired, loved, mentored, befriended. He lives on as we continue to hike in the mountains. He lives on with his girls growing as they become young women. Steve is all around us. Thank you Steve for being a great guy, and an inspiration!

2004, on US Grant

(l. to r., Denise Snow, Carson Black, Steve Gladbach, Darin Baker, & Janet Rose)

Steve on the summit of Pigeon Peak, a late December 2011 trip that I won't forget

Steve and me on the summit of Humboldt one October afternoon

Since we were going to be in the Aspen area for Steve's memorial gathering - Terri, Kevin, Sarah, and I met up to do a few peaks together - just the way Steve would want us to enjoy our weekend. We met up on Friday night at the lower trail head for Castle Peak and slept in our cars. 5am came way too soon, even when we planned on getting up at 4am. Oops! We all piled into Terri's Xterra and drove up to the first creek crossing and parked there, because Castle Creek is raging and just beyond the bridge the road is snow covered anyway.

The Pearls

We hiked the ~2 miles to the Pearl Pass turnoff - with mostly snow covered road but supportable. Winter's avalanche destruction was evident along the road with runout areas littered with tree debris. Impressive monsters, and monsters I hope to never encounter!

Searching for a snow bridge as we enter the Pearl Pass road area, with "W Pearl" on the skyline

We found an ice axe on the slope that can be seen in the center of the above photo. If it's yours, contact me and we can figure out a return.

N slopes of "W Pearl" getting closer - our ascent route is the broad snow slopes that angle l. to r.

I had a couple of problems in the morning; the first was my strap-on crampons don't like my new boots (i.e., they're not compatible and slip off too easily), so I ditched them well below. Luckily the snow was soft enough for booting, but with help from the Pappersons putting in the first kicks! Thanks!

The other problem I had was all I could think about was crawling up into a ball and taking a nap...I was exhausted and we were only ~2.5 hrs into our day! I almost bailed. Honestly, I'm not in very good shape right now, and the 65-70hr work weeks don't help. But pain 'n suffering for views: all worth it!

(Photo by Papperson)


"Hey Sarah, what happened to your legs?"

Pearl Mtn (13,362') and the ridge that will take us to the summit

Descending to the SE towards the Pearl/W Pearl saddle
(Photo by Papperson)

Following a goat trail
(Photo by Terri)


Papi is rewarded

NW view from the summit of Pearl Mtn

For our descent, we decided to go back to the saddle between the Pearls, which can be seen in the background
(Photo by Papperson)

Malamute Peak, the goal for the next day over the heads of my friends

The hike out went well, with minor postholes. Terri and I chose to wear our snowshoes out of the upper basin beneath the Pearls, and took them off once at the Castle Creek road.
Back at the creek crossing where we parked, we ran into our friends Marlyn & Mary Peet, and Mark & Terri Schmalz! They hiked Malamute Peak that day from Montezuma's Basin. It was great to see them before meeting up with them again at Steve's memorial. Small world in the big mountains here at home!

Malamute Peak

We car-camped at the Cathedral Lake trail head on Saturday night, and enjoyed the company of Britt Jones. He told us of his plans for his upcoming trip to Pigeon & Turret. Listening to his plans exhausted me, so I was in bed by 9pm!

A Sunday morning at the Cathedral

Has that title been used before?

Our line to the upper basin is in the center of this photo

Going up, looking down

Top of the first line

Next...up and over that bump
(Photo by Terri)

Then one more slope before the ridge
(Photo by Terri)

Time to take the crampons off, it's time for rock

The ridge is mostly straight forward with a few areas to unlock the secret. The lock is easily picked.
The weather was an oddity though, with short bouts of sunshine followed by minor snow squalls. Elsewhere in the state, climbers were treated to the site of tornadoes from up high (e.g., Horseshoe Mountaineers were witness to a funnel cloud to their E in Fairplay area).

We hit the summit, but didn't stay long. There's more ground to cover.

(Photo by Papperson)

Conundrum to the left

Papi working for his Class 3 scrambling move for the day

Back to the saddle where we hit the ridge from the N, we decided to go S to Montezuma Basin for our descent. What I thought was interesting was that the N slope we ascended to the ridge had soft, boot deep snow conditions. However, the S slope (which would put us right at the Montezuma Rd terminal) had firm snow with just a bit of soft snow on top. I would expect the opposite, but whatever.

No pictures of the downclimb.

Just one last picture to part with, the walk out on the road back to our cars at the Cathedral Lake trail head.

(Photo by Papperson)

Thanks for reading,


Red = approximate route for Pearls
Blue = approximate route for Malamute


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

Comments or Questions
LOVE it!
06/17/2014 12:59
Steve is certainly honored.
Glad you pushed thru - sometimes those days are the most rewarding!
And, readers like me get to enjoy the TR!
Also appreciate the beta on the area - helpful.
Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

Dave B
Pearly creek crossing
06/17/2014 13:52
Was just in that area this weekend, the creek crossing towards Pearl was certainly interesting. Sadly we were there after missing the turn off for Castle like dorks. We were going to ski that couloir on Pearl as a consolation prize but decided to back track to Castle instead.
Looks like we would have been rewarded with great views had we continued.

Nice report, a lot of snow melted in a week!

Jamming on Pearl
06/17/2014 15:57
Nice report Darin. The first day looks like one I'd like to replicate some time soon.
Sunday Morning at the Cathedral? That's all yours.

nice report Darin
06/17/2014 23:40
looks like a fine crew! Man, there's a lot of snow in there! nice job gang!

Thanks Darin...
06/18/2014 03:25
...for writing this up. It was a memorable weekend, that's for sure. It's always great getting out with you and Terri. And I'm so glad you pushed through that wall you ran into on Saturday. I know it must not have been easy! If I were working 70 hours a week, I'd be spending my downtime on the couch. But that would suck, which you obviously realize.

On a side note... Sarnelli, what's up with that photo? Was there an impending blizzard in your kitchen?

06/18/2014 15:04
nice work to all and way to get back out there Darin.

Malamute huh!
06/19/2014 18:30
Nobody climbs Malamute Peak! Steve Knapp and I climbed it by accident thinking we were doing Cathedral, we laughed at our big mistake when we realized what we did! I have a nice scar on my left forearm for a souvenir for that! Fun times!

06/26/2014 02:25

Some nice looking peaks
04/02/2015 19:45
and an unconventional loop on Malemute. Glad the report beta was somewhat useful. It is certainly a scenic area to roam.

p.s. It was very nice to meet Terri at the Steve's event.

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