I climbed this route solo in early July 1997. It is a somewhat more difficult and committing alternative to the standard Airplane Gully route, avoiding the loose rock and scree found there. I thought this to be a more enjoyable route as well, and I have not seen it in any guide books.
Follow the description on the main page to get to Brainard Lake
, and in the Airplane Gully
route description to reach the base of the climb. Note that if there is still snow on the slopes above the unnamed tarn past Lake Isabelle you will already be using your axe down there.
As you are walking south towards Airplane Gully, veer slightly to the west (right) and approach the face of the peak, keeping Navajo Snowfield farther to your right. Look for a narrow gully that has a small icy waterfall, about 20-30 feet tall. There is a V-shaped snowfield above that points at this notch. I elected to climb the rocks to the west (right) of the waterfall and get on to the snow just above it.
Climb the rocks below the upper snowfield. I clambered up some large blocks with small ledges that included some class 4 moves. There are many variations through here and it will be possible to find easier or harder alternatives.
Make your way to the snow above the waterfall where you can stop and put on your crampons. The snow at this section is about 40 degrees and this is the mental crux of the climb. A fall here would send you tumbling over the falls to the rocks at its base. The day I was there the snow was in perfect firm, consolidated, crampon-gripping condition.
Chose your line and climb the snow towards the summit block. I gradually made may south (left) staying above the standard route until just below the summit. I used Airplane Gully for the descent.
This was one of my most enjoyable days on this fine mountain.
Standard hiking gear, basic mountaineering ice axe, crampons, and helmet.