Merritt Peak




Another visit, another rejection. But we find the key (we think) to Merritt on a great outiing.

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

I've been trying to climb Merritt Peak for a long time. I want to do the snow route. I know there is an easier way, but that is not the point. The trick is getting it when there is access, but before the snow goes. Here are other attempts:

So this time Ralph joined me. After a late series of late-spring snow storms and cool temperatures, the Stanley cam was showing full coverage for the route. We were hoping for a hard freeze. NOAA predicted 31° in Stanley, with a 20% chance of precip. Perfect!

Stanley cam

We walked in to Goat Lake on Friday afternoon. Other than a couple of small snow patches just below the lake, the trail was dry the whole way. The lake had a skim of ice chunks over the entire surface, and pollen on the ice, making the lake look cold and mean. Up higher it looked like solid snow so we changed our plans and camped by the lakeside. There was one other tent at the lake.

About 9pm a storm seemed to be brewing. After being notified by a few droplets, we dove in the tent, zipped it tight, and went right to sleep. During the night the sky blew and spat. Hard. When we unzipped the tent for the 2:30 pee break , the bright moon showed fresh snow on the ground. This could get interesting.

Photo by Ralph

We got up at 4:30 and were moving at 5:30. But the snow had not frozen. At least the snow was pretty.

Goat Lake

After another hour of stumbling amongst slippery, rime-covered rocks and slushy snow, we were below the headwall. Time for crampons. And what's that? Sunshine!

The headwall didn't look nearly as bad "in person" as it had in the many photos I had collected. Maybe 45°? But the snow was not continuous, so we would have to ascend a rock band in our crampons.

But the hard hike last night, then the tricky, unstable ice-covered talus had flared up Ralph's "schwankle" injury, which was also making his knee hurt. Knowing that descending would be worse, he decided to check out the headwall but go no further. And although we got some brief sunshine, it was brief. So any chance of a view from the summit was poor. And the snow was not in condition. Three strikes, yer out!

With that, I left my pack and climbed the headwall, determined to see the upper route. For the future.


After climbing in my crampons through the rock band, which turned out to be Class IV mossy rubble, I attained the upper snowfields and quickly made my way to a vantage point, hoping to catch a break in the clouds. Elevation:9800'. This picture was as clear as it got in the 5 or 10 minutes I sat patiently (not) waiting.

But Ralph was waiting below, so I turned and started down. Sure enough- my crampons immediately started balling horrendously, like 6" thick. Yuk.

Upper route
From the top of the headwall, the drop looked a bit intimidating. If you click for the bigger picture, you can see our tracks down by the wind moat. Looking down the headwall

I didn't really want to downclimb the cliff I had ascended, and from near the top of that I thought I had spied an eaiser route.








Below, you can see some of the views we had on the descent (after we got under the mist layer).

Looking down the headwall
Photo by Ralph


It was only 8:45, so we did a scenic tour before heading back to our camp.

Anyone for a swim?

Looking down from 3k

On the way back down we figured out this bitchin' shortcut. It is a wide, flat ramp that turns into a steep, narrow (10'?) gully. The gully tops out just below the point where we put on our crampons. Probably saves 30 minutes?


We made our way back to camp at about 9:15 and brewed up another round of coffee. We broke camp, and then were lazing about sipping coffee and eating cinnamon rolls. A commotion on the other side of out little rock ridge got us to our feet. The Stanley Swim Team had arrived and promptly hopped into Goat Lake. Unusual sounds followed. Until that point, we were thinking we were pretty brave... but we didn't even compare.

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