Snow climbing Mt. Waas

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 38.53912°N / 109.22785°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 28, 2017
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer

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The prominent Waas has one of the most spectacular views in the nearby rocky mountain region - where else can you be 8000' above the largest nearby town (Moab) and see: desert; Canyonlands (the massive national park and as well as discrete canyon segments along the Colorado river); rock spires; and distant mountain ranges (San Juans and Abajo just to start) from the same peak? Many colors are visible from the summit!

Waas is most commonly climbed from Beaver basin in the northern La Sals in the summer. To avoid the boulders and scree, we did a snow climb of one of the couloirs on the north face of Waas. We followed up the Bear creek drainage, starting off of ''On The Mountain'' road. To get to "On The Mountain" road from Gateway CO, turn left at N38.67632 W108.97759 at 4,564; proceed to N38.57315 W109.14668 at 8,281'; then N38.58023 W109.18442 at 8,389'; then turn left at N38.58945 W109.18851 at 8,500', following on that the road into the forest.

From near the turnaround in the road  at N38.55863 W109.21240 at 10,017', we proceeded to the base of the lower snow section at N38.55500 W109.21515 at 10,121', putting on crampons and climbing up to the base of the rock island at N38.55235 W109.21911 at 10,534'. We passed through a relatively open spot in the exposed boulders above the lower snow section to follow above the remaining exposed boulders to the base of the rock island. The lower section starts at ~36 degrees to give way to a ~34 incline mostly perpendicular to the path to the base of the rock island. A possibly better way to get above the lowest snow sections would be to start at N38.55547 W109.21527 at 10,163' and follow the drainage (lower angles than our more direct approach) up to the right of the rock island. We followed around on snow to the climber's right of the rock island to avoid the large area of exposed boulders. From  N38.55081 W109.22084 at 10,614', we went to the base of one of several couloirs at  N38.54780 W109.22336 at 10,892'. From a view below the previous night, this seemed to provide the path that was highest up and closest to the summit. In practice the snow was a little thin in spots and we did have to cross over a couple short rock sections. The couloir was ~36 degrees at the base, approaching ~40 degrees in its steepest sections. I kept my crampons on at N38.54399 W109.22226 at 11,773' to follow the north ridge line to the summit. The angle here briefly approached ~41 degrees. Another way to the summit from the high ridge line above the couloirs would have been to cut left then proceed up the northeast face of Waas - a more continuous, shallower grade to the summit ridge. The huge runout below that approach ensures more severe consequences should you fall along that way, though. I brought both an ice ax and ice tool. The cool weather and consequent hard freeze overnight found really hard snow (for the Rockies), so i was glad to have the ice tool, which bites well into hard snow. Once we left the road, we found good snow coverage to the summit. Recent late season regional snow storms certainly boosted the snow pack in CO to above average; probably the same applied to the La Sal snow pack on our visit. The summit revealed much of Beaver basin was  snowed in.

To get back down, we descended the north ridge, then proceeding NW to the large saddle between Waas and La Sal peak. We then snowshoed down the shallower angle (~22 degrees) drainage. An alternate descent might be made on skis - the couloirs on the north of Waas are all relatively wide, looking to top out in the angle range of low ~40 degrees. Once you reach the rock island above the snow sections it should be easy to retrace your route to On The Mountain road.

We got up at 4am to get going at 5:30. So we reached the end of On The Mountain road at 6 am, and started from the base of the snow sections at  6:30. We reached the base of the rock island at 7, the base of the couloir at 7:30, the top of the couloir at 8:45 and the top of Waas at 10 am.

We left the summit at 11; reached the shoulder  11:15 and were back at camp at 12:30.

Link to photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/19047247@N04/albums/72157681609851013


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