Intro/StatsMt Neva via Juliet (12814')
Mt Jasper (12923')
"Skyscraper Pk" (12383')
June 7, 2008
15.8 miles, 5250' gain
from 4th of July TH (10100')
finish via Hessie TH via shuttle (9000')
Participants: Sarah Thompson, Dominic Meiser, Rob Stiner, & Kevin Baker
June is finally here, but with the weird, hard to read snowpack, it has been hard to plan couloir climbs. Around this time last year I enjoyed a challenging climb of the Arapahoes via Skywalker and vowed to visit the enchanting Indian Peaks Wilderness (IPW) more often. If there were 14ers here, this would be a hiking mecca in CO. I sent out a public invite and Sarah and Rob responded. I haven't had the chance to hike with Sarah and Dominic, so it was great that we could final hookup for what turned out to be a great day. Rob and I hiked together on an ill fated postholathon in sugar snow on Tucker Mtn on New Year's Day '07, so it was nice to hike with him again.
Neva is an relatively overlooked 12er that has some inviting lines to climb on its northeast face. The Juliet couloir is in Cooper's new "Colorado Snow Climbs" book as a short climb and is listed in Roach's IPW guidebook as a classic. It also typically doesn't have a cornice, so we decided to give it a shot. I copied Layne's idea of doing a car shuttle so we could make a ridge run over to Jasper, 12660, and Skyscraper.
I left C. Springs at 1am and made my way north to the IPW west of Boulder. And why do I do this? I dodged a couple drunks in Boulder and wound my way up Hwy 119 to the turnoff for the Hessie TH, which is about 1 mile west of Eldora on CR-111. Rob promptly showed up and headed up to the 4th of July TH. Sarah and Dominic soon showed up and I was unable to drive my little 2WD Nissan Maxima very far up the road to the Hessie TH as nearby Jasper Creek was spilling over the road. That would only add 1/2 mile to the day.
Neva Via Juliet-A Few SurprisesSarah drove us up to the 4th of July TH and we were off promptly at 4am under clear skies and a temp in the mid-30's. It was going to be a warm day, so we hoped to be off the n.e. facing couloir very early. I think all of us were in a daze at such an early hour, because we missed a crucial switchback on the trail. By the time Sarah noticed we were descending into the drainage too much, it was too late. Time for some bushwacking!
A steep grunt ensued up south facing slopes to regain the trail. An unfortunant hiker had made the same mistake as us and we followed their tracks. This hiker didn't have trekking poles, because there were handprints all over the snow on the steep parts. It would have been funny to watch their four legged ascent! Dominic found a huge moat next to a boulder, which I was unable to avoid. I sunk all the way up to my armpits in this hole and had a hard time pulling myself out. It was almost like a mini-crevasse! We finally regained the trail just below the 4th of July mine, and it was smooth sailing to Arapaho Pass. Neva was beckoning us as we approached.
The lines on the face looked very steep, but they always lay back and look more reasonable the closer you get. The views north to Navajo and Apache from the pass are amazing. This is a worthy destination even for the casual hiker.
We made our way past Lake Dorothy, which had still not awakened from winter slumber. We geared up at a bench below the apron of the climb. I led us up what turned out to be a huge 20 foot tall snow drift that we could not descend the other side of, so we had to traverse around it.
It's amazing to see the power of the wind. Juliet is a shallow, hourglass shaped coulior to the left of the obvious Desdemona couloir, which is usually heavily corniced until later in the season.
It was 42 degrees in the shade at Arapaho Pass, so we knew we had to move to get off the snow before it got too soft. It's only about 500 ft to the summit ridge, so we knew it would go quick. Dominic did most of the work with the trail breaking. We took pretty much a direct line through the cliff bands to the ridge. Right off the bat the slope seemed steeper than the 40 degrees advertised by Cooper, and I measured it at 45 down low.
The snow was a bit soft down low, but improved as we ascended until we got just below the ridge where the sun was hitting the slope directly. I measured a clean 52 degrees of steepness just above the cliff bands more than once, so this line is much steeper this year! My inclinometer has been consistent with other observations on Little Bear and Pikes this year, so I trusted that the measurement was accurate. I wasn't sure that we took the correct line, but I think we were after looking back at a photo on summitpost.
Video in Juliet
The finish was scintillating, which made the 12:15am wake up call worth it! I was glad that our route finding gaffe didn't cost us more time, because the snow was getting very wet near the top.
I would not want to be on this route any later than we were on a clear day with the early sunhit it received. The couloir itself took 45 minutes to climb and we were on the summit at ~ 8:35.
Neva to 12660-Another BlunderRob was up for the easy ridge run over to Jasper, but would call it a day from there as this was his first trip up high since Sept. He kept a good pace for not being out in awhile! The trip over to Jasper was scenic as there were many lingering cornices to gawk at from a safe distance.
We saw Bob Dawson's Rainier team on the summit of Jasper as we had heard they were doing the Snow Lion couloir. Sarah had ants in her pants and left Dominic and I in the dust trying to make it to the summit before they left. I knew I had to conserve for the long day ahead, so I kept a steady pace and plodded on. It took me an hour to get over to Jasper and Bob's team had left and were glissading down the Gatoraid route. It turns out that Rob reported seeing some small to medium sized wet slides set off by skiers on his way down, so were glad to be off the steeps early.
We took about a 45 minute break on Jasper and scanned our long route over to 12660 and Skycraper. As we descended the s.e. ridge of Jasper, we went across a brief mini-knife edge. Cool, I wasn't expecting that as the ridge looks pretty broad on the map. Sarah noticed on her GPS that we were not making much progress approaching 12660. That's because we were on the wrong ridge! There she blows due s.w. of us across the drainage. We all felt pretty stupid making this mistake and didn't feel like going back up the ridge, so we dropped down into the valley via a reasonable gully that was pretty steep near the top but mellowed out to soft scree at the bottom. A nice glissade brought us down to a lake, and now a 900 ft grunt up to 12660 stared us in the face. We finally topped out on 12660 at 12:25 after a slow plod up grassy slopes.
Skyscraper and Descent: Anybody Got A Boat?Skyscraper was our last goal for the day, and it is a long 2.1 miles from 12660.
Devil's Thumb is the highlight of this walk, which is a technical unranked 12er with only 40' of prominence, but a worthy climb indeed. It looks severely exposed and the summit is tiny. Maybe someday!
The wind was behaving most of the day until this last segment of the traverse when it started gusting to probably 30 mph, enough to be annoying. We topped out on Skyscraper at 2:05 and Dominic and I took a short nap on some nice, flat boulders.
I was not looking forward to the descent, envisioning a giant 7-11 slurpee to slog through in the valley below. Clouds kept the snow from softening up too bad late in the day and we were able to go w/o snowshoes, although we hauled them all day. We dropped down the east ridge of Skyscraper going over a few minor bumps to about 12K', and found a nice low angle snowfield to glissade down. We then found decent snow in the trees and were able to plunge step down to Woodland Lake, which was easy on the knees.
Now all we had left was a 4.5 mile hike back to my car following a trail down the Jasper Creek drainage, but there was plenty of snow and water to deal with! The snow was too deep to find the trail, so we just followed the creek until we found it at a bridge at around 10200 ft. Luckily the snow wasn't too soft and the postholing wasn't too bad. I just saw where Dominic and Sarah postholed and went around it. There's advantages to being the caboose! The trail pretty much turned into a creek as Jasper Creek was flowing mighty fast from spring runoff. The last 1/4 mile of the hike we were pretty much wading through a foot of water as there was no choice. I was so happy to finally be back at the car at 5:30 after a long loop! Spring in the IPW. You can't go wrong there!