Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - Ingalls Peak/South Ridge

A successful climb after a change of venue during a short window between spells of rain and cold - dry trail and hard snow on approach, dry rock and mild weather during the climb.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • No issues getting to the trailhead. Dry trail until the pass, with just a handful of snow patches along the way. Hard snow with a handful of rock crossings on the traverse after the pass. Snowshoes were not needed, we did not experience any post-holing. Used crampons all the way - snow in the morning was crusty, softened up in the afternoon but balling up was not an issue. Thin sheets of new ice had formed after the weekend in water puddles in some shaded areas at elevations near the pass, but all sun-exposed rock was dry and free of ice. There is a moat at the base of the climb that can be down-climbed a few feet and used for gear stash / belay. The rock on the climbing route was dry.

The climb was a change of venue from the Tooth originally scheduled for 6/11 due to a concern about freeze-thaw conditions after the spell of rain and cold last weekend and the possibility of the rock route being icy with Monday morning temps still around freezing. The forecast indicated a two-day window of dry weather and raising temps at Ingalls Peak between Monday morning and late Tuesday afternoon, with wind picking up and eventually the rain and cold returning on Tuesday evening in most areas. The forecast proved accurate for our trip.

We had a small party of 4 = 2 leaders + 2 students. All of us have car camped at the DeRoux. We gathered shortly before 5:30am at the campground, and proceeded as a group to the Esmeralda trailhead from there. The road was dry, and getting to TH posed no issues for any of the vehicles despite some of the recent reports warning of washouts, etc. There were a couple of cars already parked at the trailhead, but as it has turned out later, we were the only party climbing Ingalls that day.

We started hiking at 6:10am, and reached the Ingalls Pass in exactly 2 hours. The trail was dry, with just a few patches of hard snow right before the pass. We put on crampons before reaching the pass, as the snow in the morning was nice, hard and crusty, but later realized that was somewhat premature, as we continued running into dirt patches all the way up. Before the pass, we saw thin sheets of new ice formed in water puddles and over some rock in a few shaded areas on the trail at elevations near the pass, but none of them were in places exposed to the sun. After the pass, it was consistently all nice hard snow, and crampons were definitely the way to go.

From the pass, we saw  a few tents pitched in the valley. We continued to move along swiftly, hoping to be the first party at the climb (we ended up being the only one). It took us about 1 hour and 45 min. to get from the pass to the base of the climb,  longer than what members of last Friday's party reported, but overall consistent with the Mountaineers' route description. We were at the base of the climb by around 10am. We hit a few short rock scramble sections on the way up - glad to have had steel crampons on.

The climb starts at a red slab to the climber's right of shark fin and camel back-like formations. There is a moat at the base, with the snow overhanging it hard, but getting very thin. We stepped down a couple of feet into the moat onto a ledge a couple of feet wide, and stashed all our packs there clipped to a sling. One has to be careful, as on the right side that ledge, in what looks like a good belay spot, ends with a steep drop-off deeper into the moat. Setup protection for the belayer with a quad on 2 pieces in the ballpark of 0.75 inches in the cracks on the left.

Started climbing around 10:50. The red slab that begins the first pitch has a wider crack of the left that reportedly offers harder climbing, and a thinner one of the right. Opted to use neither, and instead go mostly with face features towards the right. Set in the ballpark of 4 or 5 pieces. Ended the pitch short at the boulder with slings to allow everyone to start moving. The second pitch was very short, and ended on a large ledge that some refer to as the "dancing floor" with another set of slings. The climbing was mostly a scramble, used only one piece.

By the end of pitch 2, the wind started picking up, and sun has hid behind the clouds, so we all promptly layered up.

The third, proper pitch went a bit longer to a pair of generously-oversized satisfying bolts on a narrow ledge. On the first half, opted to use the left, more "airy" of the two cracks. On the second section, opted to climb the right of the two cracks (what's referred to as the "5.6 variation") to avoid the need for a traverse to the bolts, but resorted to face climbing about a foot to the left of the right crack in the middle of it, as the inside of the crack looked slippery, whereas the face offered a couple of small, but confidence-inspiring nubbins on dry rock to edge on. The short, steeper section warranted nesting a couple  pieces of pro. Otherwise, pro options were not as great as one would hope, but climbing was easy, so ended up running parts of it out. Used in the ballpark of 9-10 pieces.

The bolts at the end of the pitch had only 2 slings of unknown quality. Donated a double sling to reinforce it. A some reports noted, there was enough space there for about 4 climbers.

The last pitch was again mostly easy climbing, except the slippery corner top-out at the very end, to the right of the 3 giant bolts. Placed 3 pieces to protect it, BD C4 #1 fits well at the very top of the corner. Topping out requires a mantle move and using a small face nubbin on the left side to edge on. Belaying from above the bolts was not so comfortable.

Beyond the last pitch was an easy scramble to the summit. There was ample space at the summit for the whole party to seat and eat lunch.

Overall, the climbing part took the first rope team about 3 hours. Carried and used doubles of BD C4 cams in the 0.3 to 1-inch range, singles of  2 and 3 inch cams, an offset nut, and a nylon sling around a rock feature. Did not carry, but could have used a triple of the 1-inch cam. Carried, but did not use regular nuts and tricams.

Rappelled in 3 steps. First, a simple single-rope rappel down the last pitch to the two bolts on the narrow ledge to avoid rope getting stuck in the crack at the top. Next, a double-rope rappel to the first slung boulder. We had 70m ropes, and that was just about enough to reach the boulder. Finally, a single-rope rappel to the base, which with the 70m rope ended up just barely a couple of feet above the belay station (60m rope would have required some easy down-climbing).

Our double-ropes did get stuck pulling - the knot has cleared it without issues, but the end of the second rope got wedged in a crack near the second slung boulder at the end of the second pitch. Fortunately, the 2nd pitch being easy, we were able to scramble up and release it. Some reports suggested ending rappel on the large ledge above and scrambling down the 2nd pitch, or aiming for a rappel station to the skier's left of the climbing route, and in retrospect, that probably would have worked out a little better.

We made it back to the cars shortly after 7pm, for the total 13 hours - at the upper end of the time estimate from the Mountaineers' route description. The rain started in an hour or so on the drive back, as expected.

There were several firsts on this climb: first alpine climb for James, first mentored lead for Krzys, and first-time climbing  the North Peak of Ingalls  for everyone in the group.