Couloir Between the North and South Peaks

Page Type
Trip Report
Utah, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Apr 5, 2004
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Created On: Jul 3, 2005
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I was looking for a half day hike close to home so I decided to start on the Mt. Olympus trail at 4800'. I left the car at about 11:15 am and hiked to the stream crossing. Along the way I saw a spectacular waterfall cascading hundreds of feet down a rocky drainage in Tolcate Canyon. This is there only a few months during heavy runoff from snow melt. I also had a good view of the multiple North summits and higher South summit.

At the stream crossing I decided to follow it a short distance and climb a steep talus slope and up thru a steep drainage that took me to the base of Geurts Ridge. From here I thought it would be interesting to climb the steep snow filled couloir to the saddle between the North and South summits. The snow started about 7200' elevation. This white ribbon can be seen over 25 miles away on a clear day from Great Salt Lake. I had not planned this hike as I didn't have my axe or crampons but I thought I would go as far as I could.

I always like spring and summer snow climbs because often a cooling breeze keeps you very comfortable and your feet are cool from the snow. I kept climbing up the steep snow, sometimes front pointing or using the French tecnique or just walking like you would up a steep hill. I had a pair of mountaineering boots on that were fairly rigid and worked perfectly for this, much better than regular hiking boots even without crampons. There were a few places where it got pretty steep and a slip or fall could result in an unplanned rapid descent so I found a stick and carried it with me to the top and back down in case I needed to self arrest. Near the top of the Couloir I plunged a couple of times up to my crotch and I was glad it was just one leg as my foot didn't touch anything below. A careful body roll helped me to get upright again.

Soon I made the saddle and it looked familiar as I had done three rapels from the North summits a couple of years ago and free soloed the North face of the South summit from here. The saddle elevation is about 8740' with the North summit some 219' higher at 8959' and the South summit at 9026' or 286' above me at this point.

I was a little uneasy to start my descent from here as it looks a lot steeper looking down than it did looking up as is always the case. I remembered a notch on Geurts Ridge slightly below the summit that I might climb to and be able to take the trail down but I was unfamiliar with the details and didn't want to try it without crampons and an axe. My biggest fear was trying to arrest a fall and punching thru a weak undetectable snow bridge. I started my standing glissade and was surprised how smoothly it went. There was little avalanche debris and very little rock in the chute to cause problems. I made it down in good time and only punched a couple of times with one leg. A couple of falls too and the usuall cold legs from wearing shorts. A great hike overall, had the mountain to my self, 3940' elevation gained and lost, 1540' snow chute climbed, car to car in 6.5 hours.


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