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Trip Report    

Corteo Peak/Southwest Ridge

Trip Date: 07/26 to 07/27/2014
Party Size: 6
Summit register needed

Day 1 (Saturday): Hiked in and camped on meadow at about elevation 6500, adjacent to the top of the moraine. Here we had running water and sweeping views in all directions.
Day 2 (Sunday): Left camp at 5:50 AM, dropped down maybe a hundred feet onto snow and put on crampons and harnesses. Nice firm snow for cramponing up the Lewis glacier remnant. The snow looked steep from camp but was actually pretty mellow, never more than maybe 30 degrees, and typically with a good runout. No pickets or roped travel required. We gained the lower ridge via a southeasterly ascent on snow at a 7420' notch (easy). Then scrambled west on a combination of talus, sand, snow, and sand over slab (somewhat exposed) to gain the ridge proper (need to manage rockfall). Here we removed our crampons and continued west along the ridge crest proper. A short class 3-4 down climb on the ridge crest led us to the 7500' notch. From here we dropped down about 400' by way of a traversing descent to skiers left. The descent was on very loose sand and talus (need to manage rockfall). We made an easy snow ascent to gain the notch 1/3 way up Corteo's SW ridge. First stretch of rock scramble along SW ridge was very dirty class 3-4, up a right facing corner (used a protected down-climb with prussik through here on descent). Had to go one at a time through here because of all the loose rock. This was followed by some easier but exposed class 3. Set a ~15m handline around a very exposed class 3 corner on the west side of the ridge. Here we reached a second notch 2/3 of the way up Corteo's SW ridge. (We re-set a hand line in this same location on descent.) There were some ratty old rap slings here. With more snow, you might be able to reach this upper notch via some steep, exposed snow climbing, and skip the lower, spicier portion of the ridge. Or bail off, if you hadn't left your ice axes and crampons at the bottom as we had. At this point the summit was still quite some distance away. Based on the time we'd gained, the SW ridge (~9:30 AM), we set a turn-around time of 12:30 PM. Fortunately, the rest of the ridge was class 3 (sometimes quite exposed), required minimal route-finding, and went much faster than the lower portion. The summit was large and flat, plenty of room for all of us to take in the grand views. A small pile of rocks marked a make-shift register consisting of a piece of paper and pencil inside a plastic baggie. We enjoyed about 30 minutes of summit time, departing about 12:15 PM. Last person was off the SW ridge by 2:30 PM. Back camp 4:30 PM. Packed up and departed camp at 5:15 PM. Everyone back at the cars at 8:30 PM. Dinner at Mondo's in Marblemount (they were still open at 9:30 PM).

Gear carried on climb: 2x30m twin ropes, 2 pickets, 2 cordalettes, small rack
Gear used: 1x30m rope, 2 cordalettes, couple double length slings (no rock pro placed)
Roped travel: 1x15m handline on ascent; 1x15m handline on descent and 1x15m protected down-climb

Efficient T5 snow scramble and T5 rock scramble skills are required to complete this route in a timely manner. Lots of black lichens on SW ridge - only attempt if forecast is dry. Our party of 6 consisted of 3 intermediate grads, 2 intermediate students, 1 basic grad. Other than the rap slings 2/3 of the way up the SW ridge and the pile of rocks at the summit, there was no evidence that anyone else had been on this route before. No tracks in the snow, no boot prints, no cairns. Our day of climbing felt very remote. And the scenery all around us was truly spectacular.