OverviewThe Chockstone Couloir is one of the most visible snow
climbs in the Sawtooths. The route can be easily viewed from
area. As one of the closest climbs to a trail in the region, I’d been waiting
for the optimal time for this climb. Early
season is perfect, as much of the backcountry is still snowed under.
The Redfish Lake Lodge is often crowded during midsummer with hikers,
backpackers, boat enthusiasts, and families staying in the cabins and playing
around the high altitude beach. The
Lodge also offers a nifty boat shuttle that takes climbers across
to the edge of the wilderness area.
On this early June Sunday, there was virtually no one
area, including the shuttle boat driver. After
a substantial delay, he was awoken and took across the lake.
From the Inlet Transfer Camp, we followed a trail across a raging Redfish
Creek and up to Lily Pond. From
here, we made our way just east of an unnamed lake and south toward the lower
bowl below the climb.
Chockstone Couloir Route
is a prominent slash on the north side of the Grand Mogul that climbs up
steeply from about 8400 feet to 9400 feet. We
followed the prominent snowfield below and entered the narrow chutes.
With crampons and ice axes, we kicked easy steps up steep snow.
The condition of the snow was nearly perfect, as it took mostly just one
kick to create a great foothold. About
half way up the couloir, we encountered the Chockstone section.
Early in the season the stone, which is a massive lodged rock that blocks
the way, was mostly covered with snow. The
small section of exposed rock was troublesome though, as it contained solid ice,
loose rock, no good exposed handholds, and a long steep drop below.
The anchor on the right side of the wall was most likely below the depth
of snow. We made our way through
this tricky section utilizing some very ugly, grungy, and sprawling moves.
We didn’t place protection, but found an abandoned 200m rope hanging
down over this section. It was
obvious someone had to bail, because you would never willingly rappel this route
"Above the Chockstone, which I would classify as the crux of
this route, the snow climbing eased out a bit, before ending on some really
steep snow that gets more sun than most of the rest of this route.
After cresting the high angle top of the couloir, we were at a small
saddle just northwest of the summit. As
we stepped over to the more southerly exposed side, we switched from crampons to
our approach shoes and scrambled Class 3-4 over mostly large blocks of
beautifully solid granite. A very
fun traverse around the base of the summit block to the southeast side of the
peak, revealed a Class 3-4 chimney above broken snow fields.
We took this to the summit, where we found the metal summit box.
The views from the summit were spectacular as an
approaching storm neared. Nearby
with its two technical summit towers sits just to the north and the seldom seen
northeast side of the Elephant’s
Perch is visible. In the
Peak and Packrat Peak sit ragged and jagged, but within just a few miles of
this summit are The Rotten Monolith, Quartzite Peak, Braxon
Peak, Chockstone Peak, Redfish Peak, Goat
Perch, The Splinter Tower, and Decker
Peak. All these peaks contain
enticing climbs or scrambles.
DescentThere is no good descent from the summit, and I would say
that the scramble down over broken ledges, snowfields, loose scree, and through
heavy brush was the most tiresome portion of the day.
We descended east directly down to the unnamed lake at 8600 feet. The
lake was completely frozen over, despite the recent string of 70-80 days.
From the lake, we descended north, just east of the avalanche gulley
(steer clear unless you enjoy heavy brush) and make good time until we were 500
feet above Redfish Lake where we encountered the heavy brush that seems to on
most of the lower slopes. An
alternative would be to find the trail that sits east of the frozen lake, but it
would still require bushwhacking with some more scrambling. This trail will take
you back in a round about way.
The Chockstone Couloir is one of the area’s premier snow
climbs and is one of the most accessible with its relatively short approach.
Other good steep snow climbs in the area include The Petzoldt
Couloir on Heyburn, The June Couloir on Williams,
Couloir on Horstmann,
and the McGown
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