Enlarge photo for more detail.
This is a fun, and challenging route that climbs South Heavenly Peak via a deep gash on the east ridge. I was very fortunate to climb this peak in early spring, so most of the approach and climb were on snow and ice. It is however climbable year round, and the season you choose will determine the type of climbing you get to do. Summer and Fall will be over low to mid fifth class rock, with sections of simul-climbing/scrambling likely. Winter and spring will require snow pro. Irregardless of the season, you can look forward to a long 4.5 mi. approach by trail then a steep cross country hump for a couple of more miles, to gain the wonderfully exposed terrain of the knife like east ridge.
Since I have only climbed this route by snow, I only have 2nd hand knowledge of the conditions that might be encountered in the summer and fall. This information was relayed to me by my climbing partner Luke, who soloed the traverse of the North Heavenly Twin, to the South Heavenly Twin in a 20+ hour push in Sept of 04, and he descended from the S. summit via this route.
We later [3/28/04]climbed "The Notch" together, and found the climbing to be tremendous. Although our attempt of the traverse was thwarted by poor snow conditions in the saddle between the peaks, we had a great day, and vowed to return for another crack at it.
The approach to this route is via the Kootenai Creek trail, and the avalanche chute below the massive S. face of the South Heavenly Twin. A detailed description is found here
The Notch in Snow Conditions, Winter/Spring
This route description will focus on the snow climb;
From a semi level point at about 8,500 feet in the cirque below and south of S.Heavenly,and to the west side of the notch is a safe place to gear up.
Climb an ever narrowing, and steepening couloir directly into the notch. This pitch can likely be simul-climbed as the angle toward the top of the couloir is only about 45deg.
Coming up out of the Notch. 3/28/04
From the col, climb west on very steep snow [up to 60 deg.] to a good belay ledge under an over hanging section on the ridge. There are opportunities for a rock anchor here.
This is the actual angle of the snow on pitch 2. 3/28/04
A look at the varying conditions the upper section of pitch 2. 3/28/04
continue up steep snow slopes in a northern direction to gain the ridge line. there are small trees that can be slung, or zig-zaged through that make effective protection
The overhanging ridge is visible in this image, belay at the base of this feature. 3/28/04
Traverse along the ridge line [staying well back from the corniced edge] in a westerly direction until just below the summit.
Gaining the east ridge. The overhanging buttress is barely visible in the clouds below right. 3/28/04
A large summit cornice guarded this pitch, and required some very steep snow work, and then some digging to clear a channel to the summit.
Luke on the Summit of S. Heavenly Twin. 3/28/04
Necessary Snow/Ice Gear
3 pickets, 1 fluke, 3 ice screws, light alpine rock rack to 2 inches, 6 runners, extra slings for trees, transceiver, shovel, probe, helmet. Extra layers for the belays, and an extra pair dry gloves, twin 30 meter, or 50 or 60 meter alpine dry rope. Extra webbing, and rap rings if you plan, or need to rappel the route.
The Notch in Summer/Fall
I will include some general information, and impressions, about the rock route. Although I have not seen the rock under the snow, I believe Lukes` assessment to be substantially correct. Luke relayed to me that this would likely be a low 5th class rock route up to about 5.6-7. depending on route finding.
120 ft. 5.6
Climb up and out of the notch on well featured steep slabs, belay at ledge under overhanging section of the east ridge.
Make your way through cliff bands and ledges to gain the east ridge. This pitch can likely be simul-climbed or scrambled. If you decide to belay this pitch, there are numerous large blocks on the ridge for anchors.
200+ft. 4th class
Work your way along the thin east ridge to the summit.
Necessary Summer Gear
A light alpine rack with gear to 3 inches, runners and extra slings, webbing and rap rings. Twin 30m alpine rope, or 50-60 meter single alpine rope. A helmet is strongly advised as there is much loose rock on this route.
Either continue on the traverse to the N. Heavenly Twin, via the saddle, or, descend the west face of S. Heavenly Twin to Beaver Creek, or, rappel the route.
Just a Few Words of Caution
If you attempt this route over snow, be aware of the likely variable conditions that will exist in the snow pack from the base of the approach couloir to the summit ridge. Constantly assess snow stability, and be thinking about what is is like in the deposition zones of the upper cirque.
If it is at all sketchy down low, it could be deadly up high! We determined that if caught, an avalanche on this route would be unsurvivable due to the funnel nature of the chute.
Avalanche debris clogs the approach couloir to The Notch. 3/28/04