This is a classic mixed climb that required many different skills ranging from steep snow climbing (30-70 degrees), to climbing 5.6 in boots and crampons, to short aids moves, to free scrambling over easy, but exposed terrain. The quality of the rock varied from solid to crumbling.
Alan, John, Bryan and I left the Redfish Lake trailhead at 6:45am and made it to the uppermost Bench Lake by 9:50a and put on our crampons. We traversed around the left side of the lake on easy snow and found our way to the base of the Petzoldt Couloir at about 8600 ft. The Petzoldt Couloir runs up the north face of Mt. Heyburn, bisecting the East and West summits.
We roped up about a third of the way up the couloir, near where it divides. We took the left slot and the snow angle went from about 30 to 45 degrees. We encountered the first band of rock that required a hand boost to get John up it, and then the rest of us prusiked up the blank rock face. After another stretch of snow, we came upon a larger band of rock that had lots of loose scree all over. In a narrow chute, this was quite dangerous and we had to be very cautious not to launch rocks down on each other. One large rock whizzed by me as I stood on the steep snow slope under this area. John excavated the rocks out of harms way and lead a 5.6 traverse across a rock band…in his crampons. We followed and came upon the final section of snow. This climb was truly becoming more than a steep snow/ice climb- it was a genuine mixed climb. I lead this last part, as the snow conditions deteriorated and the angle of slope increased to about 70 degrees in spots. At times I needed to stem out and place one crampon on the rock, and one in the snow. I drove pickets into the snow, but they were worthless, as the snow wouldn't take them. I climbed over a small band of rock, then back on snow. Near the top, some large blocks of rocks the size of tabletops nearly toppled as I climbed around them. I finally emerged at the saddle exiting under a chock stone that created a giant window to the route. I brought the others up and we enjoyed our first real warmth of the day. The route would probably have been all snow or ice earlier in the year, and thus the rocks moves wouldn't have existed. I was sure glad I brought stoppers and runners for our climb.
At the Silver Saddle, we were at 10,000 feet and could see the east side of the West Summit of Mt. Heyburn (blank wall). We could also see the summit block for the west face of the East Summit of Mt. Heyburn. John and I scrambled 4th class up an exposed ridgeline over really solid rock to about 10 feet below the East Summit. Here we found a metal summit tube engraved with "Mt. Heyburn- Iowa Mountaineers 1953". We logged our names and I noticed that the East Summit only sees 1 or 2 visits per year, judging from other signatures. A short crack move led to the small summit block and we could barely both fit on.
We down climbed and descended down the south side of Mt. Heyburn, which was mostly snow free. When we reached the trail, we ran so we could catch the last shuttle boat across Redfish Lake and save from hiking an extra 5 miles. We barely made it, but we did.
It was a very enjoyable climb and the one of the most diverse climbs I've ever done.