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Trip Report    

Corteo Peak/Southwest Ridge

Trip Date: 6/6-6/7/2015
Party size: 4

Day 1 - Our party consisted of a climb leader, a mentored climb leader and two basic students. This was the first climb for one student, so the pressure was on to get the summit. After arriving at Rainy Pass TH, we started walking just after 10 a.m. After about an hour, we hit Heather Pass and hit snow, making the hike down to Lewis Lake a breeze. We then made our way up toward the moraine. With so much snow, we were lucky to find a decent camp site with running water, so decided to make camp at 6100 feet. Lots of time in the afternoon to kick back, take a snooze, and read my New Yorker on a gorgeous late spring day.

Day 2 - We started walking out of camp at 4 a.m., not sure exactly what snow conditions we would find. We wanted to leave ourselves plenty of time to make it to the summit and back down. The snow was not as firm as I would have hoped, but we strapped on crampons anyway. The climb up to the ridge at 7500 ft was straightforward. The snow was somewhat soft, requiring kicking steps the entire way. No ropes or pickets were needed along here. There was a nice snow-covered ramp up to the ridge that was fairly steep toward the top. Our basic students handled it like pros though.

On the ridge, there was no snow, so after a short break to catch our breaths, we took off our crampons and made our way down via some soft sand/talus along with a bit of bushwhacking and veggie belays, then on firmer rock down to some snow, which we down climbed because it was a bit steep and firm. This took a bit longer than I anticipated, but we finally made it down the 400 ft to the cirque under Corteo's west face.

It was a quick climb up to the notch on snow, and then we started making our way along the ridge, which was almost entirely free of snow. The first part of the scramble was a bit steep and sketchy for unroped travel, but our basics again handled it like pros. We gradually made our way along the ridge. There was a combination of class 3 and 4 climbing/scrambling, pretty straightforward though all-in-all. We did not set up any hand lines, even on the more exposed sections. Everyone did great! We made the summit exactly 4 hours after we started, and spent a half hour on the summit.

On the way up, we passed a rap station that had some ratty runners and two rap rings. It was only about 100 feet down to snow, which would be an easy spot to bail off the ridge. That's exactly what we did on the way down, rather than risk some sketchy and exposed down climbing. We brought two 30 m ropes, which worked perfectly. I had to sacrifice a cordelette because no one brought any triple runners, but no worries. We made it down to the snow, and it was easy peazy back up to the climb to the ridge. A little tiring, but we made it back up to the 7500 ft point, then down climbed the steep snow section and made our way back to camp on the glacier. By this point - mid morning, the snow was already incredibly soft, and we plunged stepped our way down. After packing up camp, we made our way out and were back at the cars by 3 pm or so. Not bad at all. It was really, really hot out on the snow, so it was nice to have some A/C on the drive back.