Mt. Neva 12,814 ft

North Ridge, class 4-5.0 , ~8 miles, ~3200 ft, May 2007 (Jared and Dave Pneuman)
(pictures courtesy of Dave Pneuman)

The plan for Memorial Day weekend of 2007 was originally going to include a trip to the San Juans.  I have only a handful of 14ers left and they are all in that range.  Unfortunately recent snowfall and rockfall made it likely that several of the access roads would remain closed and I didn't fancy the idea of driving hours, at $3.50 per gallon, only to turn around, so the plans changed.

On Friday the 25th Dave Pneuman and I climbed McGregor slab via some 5.7 route and kicked around the idea of doing something in the Indian Peaks.  Dave and I have been knocking off classic climbs in this range and thought that the North Ridge on Mt. Neva looked interesting.  Dave wasn't sure if he would be coming or not but I decided to give it a go with Jen and my friend Brian Morsony.  On Saturday Dave called me and informed me he would be coming as well.  The plans were set.

The four of us met at my house around 7:00 on May 28th.  We packed up the Tacoma and headed out.  Between stopping for gas, food, and avoiding the Boulder-Boulder race detours we didn't really get going until around 8:00 but the weather was forecast to be good and none of us cared.   We arrived at the end of the 4th of July trailhead around 9:30 and set off.  Along the way we were joined by a fellow named Robbie who was planning on doing one of Neva's couloirs.  

We made decent time to Arapahoe pass as the trail was either melted out or consolidated snow.  I offered to have Robbie come along with us and told Brian I'd short rope him the whole way if he wanted to come but I could tell that there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm on their parts.

Mt Neva

The North Ridge

Once we reached the starting point of the climb we noticed that several clouds were forming and spent some time watching them.  After awhile Dave and I decided to go on but Brian and Robbie and Jen all turned back.  Oh well, Dave and I would just move quicker without other people.  I'm sure Jen would have made it but the weather was clearly bothering her.  Dave and I forecasted no lighting but snow or graupel and, that was indeed what we got.

Starting Out

Dave and I headed out along the ridge which turned out to be quite a good bit of fun.  We moved quickly on it but occasionally encountered stretches that had to be bypassed or were a bit snowy. For the most part the climbing was fun 3rd class punctuated by the occasional 4th class with good rock.  The route finding was also straightforward as it was obvious when something had to be bypassed. The climbing was fun and solid and the weather and snow made it more interesting.  After descending and ascending a few walls rock bands and notches we found ourselves at the base of 40 or so feet of icy, snowy ledges which lead up to a slot separating the Ridge from the huge colored wall on Neva.  This was the crux of the day for me as it was very icy and a fall would have stunk.  We made our way (carefully) to the top of this section then climbed into the slot. 

Once in the slot I headed up to the left and Dave headed to the right.  The climbing was  a bit loose and a fall would have resulted in a tumble down several hundred feet to the snowfield below so we took our time with at.  At the top our paths diverged and I found myself on a slightly tricky (but dry) downclimb into another little notch.  Dave found himself about 20 feet to my left on some ice and snow.  I headed up a decent little bit of class 4(5.0?) which was pretty fun in boots.  As I was climbing I noticed Dave was on a section that was probably 4th class but was very icy.  Since neither of us feel that taking stupid chances is a good idea I told him to hold on for a minute.  I climbed up to the ledge above and set up a quick belay using a rock as an anchor.  I then lowered the 20 meter rope Dave had brought along to him along with a carabiner and sling.  Dave made himself a quick diaper sling and I belayed him past the annoying section.  All of this took about 5 minutes and I'd recommend people bring a small assortment of gear, even on 4th class routes for situations just like this one.

Our Impromptu Belay

Looking Back At Our Route

After Dave was up we paused to look back at our route and then headed on.  At this point we found ourselves in a 20 minute snow storm.  Fortunately we had packed clothing for this likelihood and were quite comfortable.  The final push to the summit was fun and went quite smoothly along the neat, snow covered final stretches of the North Ridge.  By the time we reached the top the sun had come back out and the weather was perfect again.  We would not hear thunder for the entire day.  I think part of climbing in this state is knowing when big puffy clouds mean annoying weather and when they mean dangerous weather.  This comes with a bit of observation, studying, and experience.

The Final Snowy Stretch

We didn't want to keep Jen and Brian waiting so only stopped long enough to take a few picture, don gaiters, and get our axes out.  As it turned out getting off would be the crux of the climb.  Neither of us wanted to reverse the route as it would mean downclimbing the 40 foot stretch of sketchy, icy stuff so we set off looking for the easiest way down.  After climbing through a few gullies and looking around for awhile we decided that the easiest way down would be to simply descend the snow right from the summit.  The snow was pretty consolidated (although it was getting mushy) and the only real danger was from cornice collapse.  We picked a route free of cornices and headed down.  The initial stretch was pretty steep but mellowed out to 40-45 degrees.  At one point the snow got soft enough that I had to sort of lean in on my knees and thighs to prevent from going to my waist but this only lasted for 20 feet.  Even if we slipped the run out had to be a football field long.

Heading Down


We kick stepped and plunge stepped to a point below a rock band then started a long glissade out.  The glissade was a ton of fun and dropped us about 600 or so vertical feet (and a whole lot more horizontal distance) in a short time.  The other option would have been to descend towards the connecting ridge with Jasper and take a much longer way out.  


Looking Back

Once the glissade was over we hiked back to the trail.  This consisted of the typical post holing, mowing through willows, trudging, and occasionally stepping into snow covered streams.  We were lucky enough to see two ptarmigans that were busily trying to keep us away form their nest. I was lucky enough to talk Dave out of a third of his home made chicken salad sandwich, yum.


A Ptarmagin

Our Entire Route

Once we were back at the trail we had a pretty easy hike out.  There was a bit more postholing as the snow had softened considerably but it wasn't to bad.  Along the way I noticed that Skywalker Couloir was in good shape and decided to jump on it during the week. I've done it before but figured it would be good practice for The Bell Cord Couloir and The Notch Couloir  We met Jen and Brian back at the car and headed home.  All in all it was another fun day in the mountains and a very worthwhile route.  I'm glad Dave and I knocked another classic out in this range.  I would not however suggest this as a first 4th class route for people who have not done them before unless they go with someone else or under completely dry conditions.

Skywalker Couloir

A Cool Waterfall

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