Horstmann Peak


We climb a Sawtooth couloir that's been on my list for 30 years.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

The Sickle Couloir on Horstmann Peak is an old goal of mine. It is prominent from the highway, making it very enticing. I had approached it with Brian a few years ago, but snow conditions had turned us back.

So this time, Tom and I were watching the weather closely- it was warming up but promised an excellent day starting just below freezing. So we drove up Thursday night and camped just north of Stanley in the full moon.

We got up at 4:30, made coffee, and drove to Redfish. As we headed up Fishhook Creek, it was 32 degrees and the sun was coming up.

Fishhook Creek and Horstmann Peak
We found old trail tread almost the entire way up the valley, but it was intermittent. As we got close, we could finally see our goal, the Sickle Couloir.
Sickle Couloir

We crossed the creek into the thicker, north-side vegetation. Although we couldn't see much, we knew our goal wasn't too far off.

Then we turned the corner and there it was. The snow was crisp, so we put on our crampons in anticipation.

Snowfield below Sickle couloir

It wasn't too steep at first, but there was a lot of vertical to gain before we actually got into the couloir.

The snow was...interesting. It was firm, but with a sugary surface. And in places it hadn't frozen to any depth, so the axes would feel a little "soft." I couldn't identify anything that would tell me if the snow in a spot was solid or loose.

Tom did most of the climb with a single axe. I chose to use two.

About to enter Sickle couloir

The couloir got progressively steeper as we went up, and near the top the snow was getting softer. The sun was hitting the surrounding terrain, letting loose the occasional ice cube or rock. Glad I had my helmet on. And I didn't feel like getting out the camera.

Tom was ahead of me the whole way. So when we finally got to the top, he climbed back down so I could get an "action shot."

Tom exiting the Sickle couloir

At the couloir exit, we immediately were in the sun. And it was hot.

We had a bite to eat and contemplated the route. The summit is marked with red. Not too far away, but a lot of steep, loose, shattered rock separated us from our goal.

We could see some week-old footsteps in a snow patch, but we chose to climb higher on the ridge than had they.

Lunch spot with the summit in the background

We followed the ridge, although not always on top of it. There was a succession of gullys and towers to negotiate, and several very exposed snow saddles to cross. Tom is circled here so you can see him.

Loose rock

Eventually, we got ourselves treed on this ridge. There was a large, vertical drop to our left, and it looked like a long ways down to escape.

We went up.

This led to a very exposed traverse across a series of broken edges. Nothing was particularly solid, and we theorized that the entire pile could go with us on it. Spicy!

Last tower before the summit

Tom turned the corner out of view and yelled down, "Damn. We're on the wrong ridge."

I've known Tom a long time, so I knew he was on the summit.

Tom and John

The camera can't really capture a Sawtooth view. But here's a small taste.

Sawtooth view

Then we traversed the remainder of the summit ridge to the west, descending the left-most gully you see here. After plunge-stepping down a couple of hundred feet, we started a series of long, sloppy butt-glissades.


Sout face of horstemann

The descent continues wrapping around the mountain, but the glissading opportunities decreased. We were able to walk on top for the most part, but some of the occasional post-holes went all the way to our waists.

Moving around the mountain

When we got back to the creek, we were able to look back on a great climb. The route is in faint red, and dots indicate the route in on the other side, out of sight.

Click for a bigger version.

Tom glissading

Mr. Natural Home | 2007 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski