Peak(s):  Ice Mountain  -  13,951 feet
North Apostle  -  13,860 feet
Date Posted:  08/30/2015
Date Climbed:   08/29/2015
Author:  eskermo
 Now I know why these are snow climbs...   

What: Ice Mountain (13,951') and North Apostle (13,860')
When: August 29, 2015
Where: South Winfield Trailhead (10,600')
How: Standard Routes - Northeast Ridge (Ice) and Southwest Ridge (North Apostle)
Who: eskermo
Numbers: ~9.5 miles, 3,500' vertical

Word on the street is the Three Apostles are fantastic spring snow climbs. This seems to be when most rational humans climb these peaks. Apparently, I'm not a rational human being.

With a stellar forecast for Saturday, I decided to take my sweet time in the morning. I started hearing people gathering at the South Winfield Trailhead (30 feet from my truck) around 6:30 or so, but I didn't wake up for another hour and didn't get on the trail until 8:20. It was a crisp morning with a bit of frost lingering on the trailside vegetation, reminding me that Fall isn't far away.

The first two trail junctions are obvious and well signed. Once you split off the Colorado Trail and head up the Apostle Basin trail, the path becomes more vague but is still relatively easy to follow.

Early morning view of the Three Apostles

Upon busting out of the trees below the huge talus slopes guarding the approach toward the Apostles, the trail becomes very hard to follow. What appeared to be the "trail" seemed to veer off to southeast through (ew) willows. Ain't nobody got time for that. I chose a line due south that follows a mellow drainage with almost zero willow bashing required. I knew this wasn't "on route" but it looked like it would go. It did, and it wasn't too bad with pretty solid talus to climb up.

Approach goes up and to the 13,460' saddle left

Looking down at the approach. Previous picture taken from the closest patch of trees near bottom center

Somewhere around 11,800' or so, I encountered a small lingering snowfield, crossed it, and contoured east toward the main drainage coming down from the basin between North Apostle and Ice Mountain. I connected back up with the creek draining this basin around 12,000' and climbed uphill toward the 12,100'-ish tarn. The following picture shows the rest of the climb to the saddle from just above the tarn:

View of the climb to the saddle, taken near the 12,100' tarn

I took what appeared to be the path of least resistance, initially staying close to the stream on slabby terrain, and then finding the lowest angle, most stable-looking talus route I could find. This snaked a little to climber's right before making a hard turn left above some cliffs/steep sections.

Looking down from near the 13,460' saddle between North Apostle and Ice. The tarn from which the previous picture was tak

Once above the cliff-y sections, there is plenty of talus hopping to go toward the saddle. This, in my opinion, is where the rock started to get really loose and crappy. I swore a big rock looked stable and like it couldn't move, but almost invariably it would shift on me. This was the story of the day on this peak - "oh that rock! I can definitely hop skip and jump across you without worrying abou--- OOUUUUCCCHHH!!!" It was just below the saddle that I ran into the only other person I would see until I was almost back to the car. He had just summitted North Apostle and Ice and warned me about the crap rock up high on Ice... oh goody!

The 400' climb to the summit of North Apostle from the saddle

The 500' climb up Ice from the saddle

From the saddle, I dropped my pack and made the quick 400' talus hop up to the summit of North Apostle. Staying on or just left of the ridge crest the entire time provided pleasant, easy scrambling/talus hopping. I got to the summit at 12:30. I think it only took about 20 minutes roundtrip, not including my time on the summit. The rock quality on this stretch of the climb was not that poor, in my opinion.

North Apostle's summit, (L to R) La Plata, Huron, Elbert (shaded in the back), Mt. Hope, Quail Mountain

I returned to the saddle, picked up my pack and immediately started up Ice's Northwest Ridge. The initial part, shown in the picture below, was surprisingly solid and went quickly. That was all about to change.

(Mostly) solid, fun scrambling along the lower ridge to Ice

From the end of the lower part of the ridge, I angled down on relatively solid class 2+ terrain to climber's right to reach a notch. This is where things got a little more serious.

Just past the lower ridge portion, there is a notch that opens up on the ridge and things get much more serious

Down in the first notch thingy, looking up at the remainder of the ridge

There were several steep gully-wall thingies to choose from which regain the ridge proper. The one I chose, which I believe was the farthest to climber's right, sucked. I'd grab a hold that looked decent and it would immediately start moving. I would raise a leg up and slowly weight what looked like a great ledge for a foot, and it would just crumble and fall out. There was a LOT of vegetation growing in and around that rock and everything just likes to pull out or crumble with any applied force. In hindsight, I really should have backed off and looked for other options (the one I found on the descent, right beside this pitch, was marginally better). Oh well, I'll spend more time looking for better routes next time I'm in a similar situation.

Looking down the sketchy, steep class 3/4 section I ascended. The notch is down below.

Just to climbers left of the pitch in the previous photo was this pitch, which looked like it would be a slightly better opti

The remainder of the climb was straightforward in relation to the former difficulties. However, loose, rotten rock is a constant companion the entire way up, demanding constant attention with every move. Finally, at 1:20, I reached Ice Mountain's summit.

I love how many people I recognize on Centennial summit logs!

Looking back at the ridge to North Apostle

Looking down into Waterloo Gulch with Harvard and Columbia (L to R) in the background

Ice Mountain selfie, West Apostle behind me

Looking down Prospector Gulch with Taylor Park Reservoir behind and West Apostle on the right

Ice Mountain summit views looking Northwest

The descent from the summit of Ice

The downclimb was slow and equally sketchy. I found a slightly better pitch of class 3 rock to downclimb than the former pitch I took on the way up. This was closer to the ridge proper. From above it appeared there were at least one or two additional options that may have been more solid.

Looking back at the downclimb I did into the area right above the notch. This was better than the pitch I took on my way up,

Once back at the saddle, I was really starting to feel it. The downclimb seemed significantly more janky and loose than it did coming up. Downclimbing steep trails and talus very quickly is one of my strong points in mountaineering, but today it just wasn't happening. I slowed it down to full-attention, think-about-every-single-step-deliberately mode and the Apostle Massif still didn't want anything to do with it. Once I almost got my lower leg pinned under a giant teetering boulder, and another time I catapulted a rock into the air that made a direct hit on my ankle bone. Both incidents left me immobile for a few minutes, shouting/pouting at the rocks like a little baby, as if that would improve my situation.

Looking down the route from just below the 12,100' tarn

I tried to follow the "trail" on the way out, but didn't have too much luck. Instead of following the path I took up earlier, I continued down near the stream that drains the main basin, then traversed Northwest and North above the 12,100' tarn around a corner. From there, braided trail segments traverse down and right back into the willows toward my previous divergence with the Apostle Basin trail. The willows really weren't bad at all here and my feet stayed dry - no need to circumnavigate via my ascent route unless you just really want to!

Looking back up at the Apostles from terra firma

Shortly after getting back on the Apostle Basin trail, it became jumbled and confusing and I managed to lose it. I bushwhacked down the main stream's drainage, crossing the creek a couple dozen times before finally taking the plunge and soaking both feet. It was around that moment that I remembered the trail actually ascended a rounded shoulder just above the creek. I was in no mood for ascending a steep, loose, pine needle-ridden slope of suck for who-knows-how-many feet just to struggle to look for the trail again. My reward for this choice was drenched feet, scrapes and cuts galore all over every exposed portion of skin on my body, a bajillion creek crossings, and a gee golly good ole time. It eventually merged back up with the trail where the Apostle Basin creek merges with the creek draining Lake Ann. It was a short hike back to the trailhead from there.

One last look

Some final thoughts:
- Absolutely bring a helmet
- Some kind of gaiters would be helpful. I had to remove my shoes 6 times to clean all the dirt and scree out of them.
- Knowing what I know now about this mountain, I would not recommend doing this solo. I would have felt much better with a partner. This is not due to the difficulty or technicality of the peak, but simply just because the rock here is so questionable that I feel the likelihood of something bad happening is much higher than other comparable peaks.
- Best mountains I have climbed so far in the Sawatch, hands down. This basin and surrounding areas are spectacular.
- Don't climb it unless there's snow covering up all this garbage rock. Unless loose rock sufferfests are your thing. For serious.

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

Comments or Questions
great tr
08/30/2015 23:17
good to see you getting out in the summer

Thanks for the TR
08/31/2015 17:54
Good photos and good recommendations.

I like your
08/31/2015 20:22
style buddy....good read

Nice report!
08/31/2015 20:58
We must have crossed paths on our way up on Saturday afternoon. We camped at the basin and climbed Ice and North the next day, saw your signature from the day before! I totally agree with you, what a peak... definitely deserves to be a Centennial. Every rock moves, true! The last gulley (I think we took another one, not the one you show in the picture) was the most difficult part for us too. We never saw the chimney that is described in the route in either.
Congratulations on a well deserved climb!

Whoa, I’m rational!
09/01/2015 21:10
Great TR, fun reading.
Like the take home points at the end.

I was up there a day prior to you, but turned around at the bottom of the scree/talus.
Wasn’t feelin’ it.
You just made my day, I’m rational Yay! Thanks!

Sounds like you made a bodily sacrifice up there. Congrats on completing the duo!

09/02/2015 08:37
Brian – Good to hear from ya. I’m saving some easier/closer Centennials for the Winter/Spring, we need to plan on skiing a few with Charlie this coming season!
Aardvark – Thanks, glad I could help!
goingup – Thanks, it means a lot to hear that from one of my favorite trip reporters – your TRs, pictures, and dialogue always make my week.
Kitten – Congrats! I’m glad you made it up and down safely Sunday. Y’all weren’t the couple packing in as I was coming out, crossing paths in front of those couple tents on the west side of the trail? I think I managed to mumble something on the trail but I was probably still sulking about the creek bushwhack and having soaked feet
sunny1 – Well, let’s not get carried away here. Rational is subjective, I suppose, but at least you’re more rational than me. Which isn’t really saying much at all... I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your sweet, rational snow climb of these peaks in the Spring!

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