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[TR] Granite Peak - Southwest Ramp 7/30/2014


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Trip: Granite Peak - Southwest Ramp


Date: 7/30/2014


Trip Report:

While doing some research on Granite Peak, I found a couple of notes about a route on the south face that was Class 3 the whole way. I hadn't heard much good about Frozen to Death Plateau, and wanting to go light the southwest ramp appealed because it would mean no climbing gear. The other appeal was the fact that the trailhead started at 8700 feet and much higher than any of the north approaches.


My wife and I left the Lady of the Lake Trailhead near Cooke City, MT at 9:00am with packs around 25 lbs a piece. We followed trails all the way to Lone Elk Lake where the trail ended. From there we continued past Rough Lake and into the Sky Top drainage. Finally found a good spot to camp after 11 miles near one of the upper Sky Top lakes around 10,600 feet. The whole area is very scenic and there was plenty of water all along the way.


Up and going the next morning by 6am. We continued up the valley over boulders to the base of Granite Peak. Started up by the "snow tongue" on the right side of the south face. We were able to easily climb around the snow on the rocks. Then traversed across the scree slope below the "slabs". Just after passing the "slab" we turned up into the first gully. I have heard this called the Southwest Couloir or Southwest Ramp. Technically I believe there are 2 gullys with 1 named the Couloir and the other named the Ramp. We took the first one which is on the left edge of the "slab". It was pretty easy scrambling and very straight forward navigation. There was even a fixed rope to use as a handline over one of the steeper sections.


About half way up we encountered 40 degree snow. Being as it was still 8am in the morning the snow was actually very hard. My wife climbed it with a pair of crampons and ice ax while I found a Class 4 route around on the rock. Above the snow it was an easy Class 3 scramble up the gully to where it ended at the lip of the "Gash" (a large couloir that splits the face on the right side). From the edge of the "Gash" we turned left and continued up to the summit.


After a brief time taking in the views we reversed our route back to camp. Then packed up our gear and headed out. On the return trip we decided to take the next drainage over by way of Upper and Lower Aero Lakes. It is a little shorter but more boulder hoping and more elevation gain to get out of Sky Top lakes. Overall I thought this approach and route was relatively easy and very enjoyable. Nothing super hard, and no need for climbing gear. If you are comfortable scrambling some Class 4 rock you don't even need crampons or ice ax. The scenery was great and camping spots at Sky Top lakes are nice too.


Here is a link to a topo with our GPS track overlaid to show our route. http://caltopo.com/map?id=183I


Our camp in the pre-dawn hours as we ate breakfast on summit day.



An annotated view of the south face of Granite Peak showing the route. We ascended following the red line. Our descent was along the red line as well until we got to the bottom of the "Slabs" then we just headed straight down along the blue line down the scree gully.



A view looking up the Southwest Ramp from the base near the "Slab".



Looking down into the Sky Top Lakes basin. Our camp was in the center of the valley near the first small lake (first next to the larger lakes).



Me on the top of Granite Peak.



Another view of camp with Granite Peak in the background.



Hiking up the hill to the pass into Upper Aero Lake. Snow was soft enough by this time to not need an ice ax, but hey if we brought them why not use them.



Panorama of the beautiful Sky Top Lakes basin with Granite Peak in the distance on the left.



A parting shot on the hike out. The Spires and Mount Villard tower above Aero Creek near Lower Aero lake.




Gear Notes:

Took crampons and ice ax. Could leave them if comfortable on Class 4 terrain. Other wise use them to keep the scrambling to Class 3.


Approach Notes:

Up through Lone Elk and Rough Lake, and out to Upper and Lower Aero Lakes. Lady of the Lake Trailhead near Cooke City, MT.

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Yea I think most people call it the Southwest Couloir. I was using this website for research before the trip and he calls it the Southwest Ramp (http://climber.org/reports/2012/1809.html). He is calling the next gully over the Southwest Couloir (scroll down about half way to a large photo with routes drawn in). Not sure who is right but there are definitely 2 gullys/ramps/couloirs.

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Nice work! I considered that route a few years ago and went with the standard Froze to Death route to keep the second day more manageable (shorter climb from camp). It was still a long day and I assume the SW Couloir will gain popularity as route info becomes more well known.


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Stunning! I think I may have to get into the whole state highpoint thing, at least out west. Any fish in those lakes?


We saw 6 others groups, and I know at least 3 of them were in there to fish. So I guess if the numbers tell you anything than yes. We did see some smaller fish along the edge but didn't pay too much attention since we don't fish.


And yes, you should get into the state highpoints. I will say I would rather go spend a week climbing in the North Cascades, but the highpoint thing does get you into some cool remote areas of the country. I have greatly enjoyed the 46 states I have done....well maybe all but the mid-west :)

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