Mt Dade (13,600+ ft) via the Hourglass Couloir

11-12 Jun 2005 - by Arun Mahajan

This was a Sierra Club sponsored trip led by Dee Booth and scribe, Arun Mahajan and the other participants were, Balaji Venkataraman, Lisa Barboza and David Altmar.

Conditions on 11/12 June 05.

  1. Sonora Pass is open.
  2. The road to Mosquito Flat trailhead, while possibly driveable, was gated shut about a mile and half before the trailhead.
  3. There is continous snow cover in the Little Lakes Valley area from 10,000 feet onwards.
  4. Snow shoes were not needed at all the places where we went at the time of the day that we were there.
  5. Also, at the time we were on the Hourglass Couloir, the snow conditions were almost ideal. Lots of snow. Despite the high angle, comfortable to kick steps and traverse (using axe and crampons) for the group experience level.
  6. Treasure Lakes mostly frozen, Long Lake had lots of ice cover but thinning
  7. Rippled and brittle sugary snow in several places right near the summit of Dade on the south and south-east sides
  8. The drainage from Treasure Lakes to Long Lake, usually a walk/hop on large boulders, now completely snow covered making the climb more uniform but sun cups were forming already.

We were walking at 9am in good weather and were at the Treasure Lakes, our campsite, a little after noon. After stashing sleeping gear away and putting excess food in bear cannisters, we were walking towards the beautiful Hourglass Couloir on softening snow but snowshoes were not needed. We overtook a party of two (David/Samantha) but then they remained with us throughout the climb. We took axes out and put on crampons at the base of the couloir which, with so much snow and a 1000-ft rise looked quite intimidating. It is likely that several people have been up it already this year but the snow looked untravelled. We started our climb by doing several zig-zag traverses, with Dee doing most of the leading and breaking steps and by 3pm had topped out to the lowest point of the yoke-like top. After a brief rest, we started off towards the summit. After crossing a large snowfield, a never ending talus field and a final steep snowfield, we summitted at about 4.30pm. We had fantastic views all around but the clouds started to blow in towards us, so after a few summit photos, we daparted at about 4.50pm or so and were quickly down to the top of the couloir. Luckily for us, despite the cool winds and the passing clouds, the snow had not hardened in the couloir and after dropping a few hundred feet by the same careful zig-zag traversal, several of the group enjoyed an express glissade descent.

We were back to the Treasure Lakes at 6.30pm. Tent and bivy spots were scarce but we made do. We were all feeling the effects of altitude in varying degrees since we had gone to the top of a 13600+ ft peak right from the trailhead but we went to bed, content that we had only a short hike to do to get out in the morning. On sunday morning, after a relatively late start (7.30am), we walked out in the still-firm snow to be back at the cars at 9.45 and got home at the shockingly early hour of 5 pm!

It was a pleasure to climb an excellent peak via a great route with a very capable group of participants.

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