Mountaineering – Ice Mountain & North Apostle

The Apostles In Summer
The Apostles

Ice Mountain Summit (13,951 ft)
Ice Mountain Champions

North Apostle From Ice Mountain
The Ridge to North Apostle from Ice Mountain and the 14’er Huron in the Background

Doug on the Summit of North Apostle
Doug enjoying the view of Huron (behind him) from North Apostle.

Doug and I left Denver mid afternoon on Friday, drove to the Apostles trail head, backpacked in a few miles, and camped above 11,000 ft. We woke up at 4:30am, climbed Ice Mountain and North Apostle, packed up camp, and hiked back to the trail head (in hail & rain), and drove back to Denver. A most excellent 24+ hours!

Trailhead for The Apostles and Mt. Huron
Trailhead for the Apostles and Mt. Huron

There were just a few vehicles on Friday at 6pm. But, another 21 hours later, it was totally stuffed with vehicles. It’s amazing how the presence of a 14’er affects the use of a TH! This is the same trailhead as the popular 14’er, Mt. Huron, so most people using this trail head are here to bag it’s summit.

We left the truck and started trekking down the trail. It started out as a wide gravel trail, but eventually constricts to a narrow single track. It is a beautiful area for hiking. I had the GPS waypoints and description from Mr. Cooper’s Colorado Scrambles book and this information helped immensely once the light started diminishing.

Apostle and Lake Ann Junction
Here’s the intersection where the route to the Apostles splits from the route to Lake Ann. Go Left here, for the Apostles! This was one of the more obvious intersections, but others were not nearly as clear!

With fading light, we neared our campsite above 11,000 ft. We witnessed a small herd of Elk, some with impressive horns! We made some noise and they all cleared out of the meadow. In the picture below, you can just barely make out a couple of them. Unfortunately, my zooming capability was not enough to adequately capture their majesty!
West Apostle and Elk

Once we found our camping spot, we dropped our packs and scouted the route for the next morning. Mr. Cooper says to skirt around the toe of a rock glacier and we didn’t know what he meant until we saw the below:
Scouting Reveals the "Toe" of a Rock Glacier
That massive pile o’ rock is a “Rock Glacier”. Makes sense, right?!?

So, now that we knew what the first 10-15 minutes of the route looked like, we felt comfortable starting in the dark. It’s really nice to scout things out in daylight, if it is possible!

Looking Back at Camp from the "Toe" of the Rock Glacier
This picture was taken looking back at our campsite, from the Toe of the Rock Glacier. As you can see, light was fading fast…so we hurried to get back, have dinner, and sleep.

Saturday:

Nemo 1 Person Tent
This is Erin’s 1 Person Tent. She let me borrow it for the trip and it rocks. I slept very comfortably in this thing and felt safe…Whereas Doug was harassed all night long by pesky rabbits who had the nerve to bug him in his bivy!

Doug Wisely Hangs His Gear
Doug was bivying under this tree. At 5am, before we left to bag some peaks, he hung his gear in the tree so critters wouldn’t eat anything. I hung my stuff up too.

We were happy we had scouted the route the night before as hiking in the dark is always tricky. We followed around the left side of the rock glacier until we were a couple hundred feet from a rock cliff. At the cairn below, we should have turned left, but we turned right.

Terminus of the Rock Glacier

We actually climbed onto and up the rock glacier, for about 15 minutes. Daylight was starting to illuminate the world around us and I noticed a system of grassy ledges, where we were supposed to be. We looked on the map at where we were…it may have been possible for us to keep climbing and eventually contour back to the right route, but it would have been risky.

Not in the mood for gambling, I suggest we just go back down to the gully beside the rock glacier and then go up the grassy ledges, per Mr. Cooper’s directions. We were both perturbed, but happy we discovered the error early.

Looking at the Rock Glacier
Looking back at the Rock Glacier from the Grassy Ledges! We were at the dirt patch, above the grassy ramp, when we realized we were off route. The rock cliffs, to the left of frame, are seen straight on when coming from camp.

Doug and Mt. Huron
Doug on the Grassy Ramps. That’s Huron Peak behind him. It was scenic at sunrise!

Looking Back at the Rock Glacier and Camp
Looking back down at the same spot as the picture taken above. You can see the toe of the rock glacier and the pretty meadow area for camping!

Starting the Serious Scrambling
The start of the serious scrambling. Doug is climbing up talus. We have about 1500 feet of scrambling to gain the ridge between Ice Mountain and North Apostle. This was taken at 6:50am, about 1.5 hours above camp (at 11,400 ft).

In the picture above, the route is as follows: Aim for a dark grey cliff band which sits below a grassy shelf(it’s at 9 o’clock from where Doug is in the frame). When you get to the grey cliff band (it was dripping with water), traverse along the base of it to the right. After leaving this protective cliff band, the scrambling is a bit freaky. I actually had to jump out of a mass of sliding boulders and barely missed death by crushing rock. At this point, you will be in the dirty brown rock-strewn steep section which is in between larger steep grassy areas in the picture. Go up this insecure and loose section of scrambling. It lasts for a couple hundred feet, before it starts to get flatter and a bit more stable.

Here is a close up shot of looking back from the base of the dark grey cliff band:
Looking Back from the Wet Rocky Cliff

Doug, about to leave the protective shelter of the grey rock cliff and head left up the perilous talus.
Looking Forward From The Wet Rocky Cliffs

Looking back down 1500 feet of scrambling. Thanks to Doug for taking this picture of me working hard to stay calm. After witnessing and barely escaping a deadly rock fall, I had to keep my wits about me and continue upward. Here, we’re only a few hundred feet from the ridge.
Clare Climbing Up Steep Talus

Ridge, Glorious, Ridge!
Clare on Ice Mountain Ridge

Doug on the ridge between Ice Mountain and North Apostle. We decided to climb Ice Mountain first, just in case we were socked in by weather.
Doug on the Ridge of Ice Mountain

Ascending the Solid Ridge of Ice Mountain
I really enjoyed climbing the ridge of Ice Mountain. It was fun. Photo Courtesy of Doug.

Ice Mountain Bouldering
A sample shot of some scrambling.

4th Class Section at Top of Ice
4th Class Scrambling close to the summit. We have already passed by the notch (where some people need ice gear earlier on in the year). It was bone dry with no snow when we got there. In fact, before the notch, there was a slabby down climb which reminded me of a flatiron. This picture was taken after the notch, after we had been scrambling for about 10 minutes. We are very close to the summit here.

Ice Mountain Foot Dangle
Here’s a foot dangle, from just below the summit. You can see the valley where we camped and the route we took up the scree and tallus filled col.

Looking West from Summit of Ice Mountain
After 3.5 hours, from basecamp at 11,400 ft, we reached the summit of Ice Mountain. Yay! I’m glad we started early, clouds were forming and we had to hurry if we wanted to bag North Apostle, as well.

Doug Downclimbing Ice Mountain
Doug Down climbing Ice Mountain. Taken about 30 minutes since we left the summit of Ice Mountain.

Descending Ice Mountain - The Notch
Arriving at the Notch. This is the notch I mentioned above. A lot of times, it’s filled with snow…but it was bone dry for us. On descent, to regain the ridge after dropping into the notch, you go to the left and climb up the slabs. It’s similar to a flatiron with lots of exposure, but a bit less steep.

When we got back to the saddle between Ice and North Apostle, I turned around and got this photo of Ice Mountain.
Final Look at Ice Mountain

Rock Hopping Up North Apostle
Doug got this picture of me climbing North Apostle. It was not as gnarly as it looked from the saddle. It only took us about 20 minutes to summit.

Climbergirl on Summit of North Apostle
On the summit of North Apostle, with Ice Mountain behind me. Super psyched!

Huron Peak from North Apostle
Huron Peak and little white puffy clouds which would later be a menace!

Looking Down at the Scree Gully
Not happy at the sight of all this scary, loose talus. Going up was bad enough.

Doug Beginning the Arduous Scree Descent
Doug carefully descending. We worked together to go down the 1500 ft of talus. We treated it as avalanche terrain and we left our helmets on.

Looking Back at the Wet Rocky Cliffs
Looking back at the upper portion of the talus. On the way up, you aim for the notch at 2 o’clock, on the right.

Doug Yearning to Be Back at Camp
Finally, off the talus! Doug picking up the pace so we can pack up camp before the storms.

Can you see the Yellow Tent?
I spy camp! Can you see the yellow tent?

One Last Look at North Apostle and Ice Mountain
When we get back to camp, the clouds look really bad. This is looking back towards North Apostle. We were just up there! We pack up camp and leave at 1pm. About an hour later it starts hailing and we hear thunder. It changes from hail to rain about another hour later and we get drenched. It finally stops when we are about 30 minutes from the truck, so we dry off just in time to drive home.

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