The false summit will loom and seem larger than the true summit. Independence Couloir starts just east of this false point. The run-out, in case of a fall/slip is quite good.
Sloan Lake (12,900ft) will now makes its entrance, situated a bit off to the left. Cross Sloan Lake (37º 54’ 14” N, -107º 30’ 58” W) and head due south directly up the north face.
With the exception of Traitor Couloir, all the couloirs on American Peak are moderate in difficulty and in my opinion, make great climbing routes for novices or for more advanced intermediates. The run-out's on all the couloirs is excellent and practicing self-arrest techniques is quite safe before the actual snow climb.
Getting ThereFrom Lake City, drive 2 miles south on Colorado 149 and turn right (an abrupt turn) onto County Road 3 (Lake San Cristobal). This is the southern entrance to the "Alpine Loop" scenic byway.
Follow the signs to Cinnamon Pass driving through gorgeous valley, shelf road and up into Burrows Park. Drive about ~20 miles to a signed fork in the road. Left is to American Basin and right is to Cinnamon Pass. Turn left. If you do not have a 4WD vehicle with good clearance, park in the pull-offs near the start of this road.
It’s 0.9 mile to the trailhead from the start of the American Basin road. After 0.2 mile, cross a stream which can be fairly deep in spring. If you don’t feel comfortable driving through the water, there are some parking spots in the area. Continue to the end of the road where you’ll find a large parking area and marked trail. There is also a mine here called the "Old Gnome Mine." In spring, because of the piled snow from the plows, you'll probably have to park at the sign. There is a small turn-out here.
Leave Sloan Lake heading due south up into the wide couloir. The apron averages about 32º at the bottom (13,150') and steepens quickly but consistently. The steepest pitch comes about half-way. Expect the pitch to increase to about 42º at the absolute most.
Past the center, the inclination will drop slightly to 40º and for the most part, will stay at that angle.
This couloir contains no 'hidden surprises', gendarmes, spires or rock pitches. Continue climbing up either the center or veer slightly climber's left. This is only for safety in case of rock fall of the false summit climber's right.
About 3/4 the way up, the pitch will drop even more to around ~37º before finishing gently on the summit ridge (13,716'). The exit does not cornice.
Turn left and walk to the summit still .15 mile away.
Both the actual summit and the false summit cornice heavily. So proceed with caution.
The views of Jones Peak & Niagra Peak to the south and the 14ers, Uncompaghre/Wetterhorn to the north are amazing! Either retrace your steps or descend a different couloir!
Essential GearA mountaineering axe and crampons are absolutely mandatory.
- probe & beacon
- regular winter clothing/gear