Intro/StatsSayres Benchmark (13738')
via X-Rated Couloir (North Face)
UN 13300 (soft ranked)
10.5 miles RT, 5100' gain
From LaPlata TH
June 13, 2009
Participants: Sarah, Dominic, & Kevin
I've had my eye on the north face of Sayres as a snow climb after reading a few reports. The approach makes this climb less than appealing though after reading about nasty bushwacking amongst huge willows and a raging Lake Fork Creek to deal with on the descent. I convinced Sarah to give it a shot and we met at the La Plata trailhead Fri evening. I was expecting a lot of car campers, but only 2 other cars joined us.
The X Rated Couloir: Hide the Women & Children!
We set out at 3am in anticipation of a long approach. It was fairly warm down low, so we were worried about finding firm enough snow for a safe climb on the north face. We followed the standard La Plata trail and made good time up it until the trail started leaving the basin at around 11200'. From here, we dropped back down a bit and stayed above the creek on the east side, hoping to avoid the worst of the willows. Dominic did a great job keeping us away from sustained willow bashing, and we were able to descend back down to the creek high up, which was still covered in bullet proof snow. Good sign for things to come!
The sun lit up the top of Sayres as the magnificent north face beckoned us onward. The north face offers a number of options, and we decided to take the inviting narrow line that ascends the middle of the face and tops out just a few feet to the right of the true summit! We later found out that this couloir is dubbed X-Rated due to the prominent X near the top of the face. A Nazarene conservative on an X-Rated couloir. Don't tell mom!
The long apron of the couloir was in great shape and it was clear that are worries of soft snow were unfounded as the clear night had really solidified things. We geared up a ways up the apron, eager to enjoy a rare near bluebird day for once!
The moon sets over Sayres north face:
The snow was in great shape for cramponing and we made our way up to a narrower section of the couloir which featured a couple of steep rock bands that were a bit icy as the snow was very thin here. We weren't expecting this, and it made for a nice challenge.
Negotiating the rock band:
Once above the crux, the couloir widened again and it was apparent that we would be able to top out just a few feet to the right of the summit! The slope angle steepened to around the upper 40's near the top. There was some fresh snow near the top that was well anchored to the slope and Dominic led the charge to the summit.
Sarah nearing the summit:
We topped out at around 8am and were greeted with a stiff breeze that made us head down the ridge and look for a nice place for a break. We headed down the west ridge a ways and found a pleasant spot to take a much needed break out of the wind. We soaked up the views to the northwest.
Traverse to 13460 & 12601
The rest of the day featured a mellow ridge run north from Sayres to UN 13460 and UN 12601. The firm snow made for quick progress, although there were many ups and downs to be had. I couldn't get enough of the view back to the amazing n.w. face of Sayres.
The traverse to 13460 featured a brief scramble that turned out to be a bit exciting for me as I grabbed a good sized boulder that I thought was firmly anchored to the ridge. It ended up pulling loose and grazed my thigh! It left a few scratches on my leg and gave off that weird smell caused by the friction of rock on rock.
Traverse to 13460:
Since a ranked 12er was on the way down and the weather was holding, we decided to add it to the day. Dominic and Sarah obliged me with yet another repeat, only their 2nd repeat 12er! They may end up leading the league in repeat 13ers on account of me. We also unknowingly added soft ranked 13300 to the day on the way to the 12er. We took a long break on 12601 enjoying the views over to La Plata. We could see a few folks on the ridge.
For the descent, we bombed north down steep, annoying, loose talus to treeline. We bushwacked n.w. in hopes of catching the trail a bit east of the footbridge that would allow us to cross the creek. The bushwacking was mellow at first, but the deadfall got worse as we descended. We ended up a bit north of the bridge and had to reclimb a steep 60 degree slope of dirt to stay above the canyon. Annoying sidehilling ensued and we finally caught the trail. The final 30 minutes of the hike took more out of me than the rest of the day! We were back at the cars by 1:30. Those insanely early alpine starts have their benefits! The north face of Sayres turned out to be a fine snow climb that I highly recommend.