Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - The Brothers/South Couloir

Barely any snow left on the Brothers South Couloir route.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • There is barely any snow left on the route. We used crampons and ice axes to cross a 200' snow finger that will probably be gone in a week or so. We observed other parties complete the entire route in trail runners and avoid the snow completely by going up and around the snow finger.


    There is plenty of water at the Brothers campsites at 3000'. The last water before the summit was found at around 4500-4700' (which could dry up soon).

    A WTA crew came through last week and added a lot of new flagging to the route. We did not have any challenges staying on course, and did not encounter anything beyond class 3 scrambling.

    Bugs were bad. It was very hot. We had folks run out of water before reaching sources, even with 3 liters to start.

I set this trip up as a basic alpine climb with capacity for 6, not quite knowing how much snow would be on the route based on recent trip reports. We carried ice axes, crampons, harnesses, a very light rack, and 30m rope. In the end, it was no more than a class 3 scramble, but the variable nature of the terrain still led to a lot of learning opportunities for folks.

We departed the Lena Lake trailhead at around 10:30 AM on Saturday, July 23. The parking lot was already full, but we were able to find parking on the roadside without issue. The bathrooms were clean and well-stocked. We made quick time to the Lena Lake trailhead and found that the toilet at Lena Lake was out of service.

Beyond Lena Lake the trail starts to look less like a highway and more like a climber's trail. The trail goes over several downed trees and crosses dry streambeds as it meanders up the valley, barely gaining any elevation for a couple miles. A WTA crew had recently been through and flagged the entire path, making navigation easy. Streams were easily crossed using logs or rocks (a couple of us waded through because we were hot.) We arrived camp at around 3100' at 2:30 PM, ate dinner, and went to bed early. We didn't encounter any descending climbers on our way up, so we weren't able to get a sense for current conditions.


We woke up at 4 AM for a 4:45 AM start (and ended up starting closer to 5 AM). Flagging tape and cairns marked the entire way up. We didn't encounter any snow at all until about 6000', which made for a several hours of scrambling up very loose dirt and scree. Everybody did a fantastic job sticking close together and not kicking rocks down on each other or other parties. The Brothers South Couloir is not the worst, loosest climber's path there is, but it definitely requires deliberate footing. It's probably on par with what you would experience in the Cascadian Couloir on Mount Stewart this time of year.

Thanks to Craig Schwartz's awesome beta, when we got to the summit block, we found the correct gully without issue, avoiding going up to the false summit and having to make some sketchy 4th class moves to the true summit. The correct gully did still have 200' of steep snow. We observed other parties going up and around it, but we opted to take our crampons and ice axes out because we had them and because we knew that it was on the route that we intended to take. Beyond the snow, we followed cairns and enjoyed some mostly solid and fun class 3 scrambling to the summit at around 9:30 AM.

After enjoying the summit for 30 or so minutes, we were very slow and deliberate on our descent, careful not to slip or kick down loose rocks on other parties. We did not use crampons to descend the snow finger, and a few folks slipped a bit, self arresting almost immediately. Afterward we discussed whether we should have worn crampons, but in my personal opinion, the snow was too soft and probably would have led to balling up if we had been wearing them. I think that it could have made people feel more comfortable though.

Some folks ran out of water before getting to the next source at 4600', despite bringing 2-3.5 liters each. We got back to camp at 1:45 PM and most of us refilled again. We left camp at 2:45 PM and arrived back at our cars at 6:30. It was a very slow descent because a couple folks were cramping up and had knee and hip pain, but everybody made it back safely and in great spirits, proud of what they'd accomplished.

I think we all enjoyed this trip but agreed that 1) it wasn't really a basic alpine climb and 2) it would have been more enjoyable with more snow.