Redemption On Mt Neva Juliet Couloir

Mt Neva is a gem of a mountain nestled in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.   Its complex North East Face holds several quality snow routes. The route we climbed is a steep couloir called Juliet. We had an absolute blast on this route.
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Click for interactive map and downloadable GPS route

Click for interactive map and downloadable GPS route

Last Spring we made an attempt at climbing this exciting couloir, we were turned back by poor weather. You can read more about that attempt here. Even though we were happy with our decision to turn around, being defeated did not sit well with any of us. So we coordinated our schedules for a rematch.

As we drove up towards the mountains the weather enveloped us. By the time we turned on the 4wd road that leads to the 4th of July trailhead, we were in a thick fog bank. This dreary weather left us afraid that we would once again encounter bad conditions on the mountain. Jeremy and I arrived at the trailhead around 8PM Dayton arrived a short while later. We agreed on a 3:30 wakeup and headed to the back of our trucks for some rest.

Enjoying the beautiful views on the drive to the trailhead

Enjoying the beautiful views on the drive to the trailhead

 

My alarm startled me awake at promptly 3:30. As I fumbled to turn it off I looked out the truck window and saw a clear, star filled sky. “Check it out Jeremy”, I exclaimed, “Looks like we are going to have a good shot at this.” Jeremy had already noticed this fact because he had not been able to get much sleep. We hurried about the trucks eating breakfast, and getting ready for the climb. It took longer than usual to prepare and we didn’t get hiking until 4:20AM.

The trail to timberline went quickly we frequently alternated between dry patches and hard snow. We reached timberline around sunrise. Some of the hard snow traverses were steep enough we decided to pull out our ice axes. There was a good boot track in so a fall was not likely.

Dayton is already ready to get those skiis of his back on on to snow!

Dayton is ready to get those skis of his back on on to snow!

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The views from Arapahoe Pass are simply amazing!!

Neva is very aesthetic from this angle, especially with snow.

Neva looks beautiful in the early morning light. We were all excited to see good coverage on the North East Face. Juliet is the hour glass shaped gully, left of center

 

We made good time up to Lake Dorthy.  There we encountered some interesting snow formations. Clearly this area gets some nasty weather in the winter.

A colorado crevase at the edge of lake Dorthy

A Colorado crevasse at the edge of lake Dorthy

Looking back over a frozen lake Dorthy

Looking back over a frozen lake Dorthy

Cool Cornice at the base of Neva

Cool Cornice at the base of Neva

 

Once we got up above the lake we stopped to put on crampons, and take in some food.  The sun was just starting to warm the snow.   The couloir looked quite steep from this angle.  The slope approaching Juliet wasted no time in steepening and was 35-40 degrees right off the bat.  There were really good steps already kicked into the snow so we made fast progress. As we entered the constriction I measured the slope angle using my ice axe / iPhone.  I had it at 49°

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Dayton walking up the snow staircase

As you can see I am having a good time.

I was messing around with a second tool to get to self belay with a technical axe. This earned me the moniker “Two tool Keith”

 

The finish on this climb was definitely exhilarating! Things got quiet as we carefully concentrated on what we were doing.  We paused for a minute at the ridge line to catch our breath.  All three of us had huge grins on our faces from the fun climb!   It was a short walk to the summit with a choice of snow or class two talus. We arrived on the Summit around 7:45 AM.

The temps were warming quickly and we agreed to keep the summit break brief.   While we sat and ate we discussed descent options.  We decided to go down the NE face.  Dayton would ski down first Jeremy and I would follow in crampons.

The first part of the descent was easy we plunge stepped down in perfect snow.  Just soft enough to get your heal in securely.  We opted for a patch of rocks to skirt some steep snow that was soft (probably due to surrounding rocks). The rock patch was loose and unpleasant class two, made less fun by the fact we were wearing crampons.  Dayton removed his skis and also walked across this section.  Once back on the snow Dayton took off and was at the base of the mountain in 30 seconds flat.

Dayton making a turn before disappearing down the NE face.

Dayton making a turn before disappearing down the NE face.

 

We made one more traverse and then hit some steeper soft snow.  The runout on this section was not good, and the snow was getting greasy.  I felt much more comfortable facing in to downclimb this section.  It was slow going and getting HOT quickly.  The hard work of descending this way had both of us sweating!!  We faced in for maybe 10 minutes.  As the slope angle relented and we reached an area with a safe runout, we turned around to finish the climb.  The snow at the bottom of the slope was very sloppy I was going in to my knees with every step.

We met back up with Dayton at the base of Neva.  He was heading down the drainage hoping to get some skiing in, and Jeremy and I were returning via the normal trail.  There was another party getting ready to head up the route.

The party behind us in the cooly.  You can see our descent route marked by Dayton's ski tracks.

The party behind us in the cooly. You can see our descent route marked by Dayton’s ski tracks.

The hike out went smoothly with a rainstorm catching us 10 minutes before we reached the car (Around 1100AM), Dayton had beat us out by a about 10 minutes.    We were happy that  we got an early start, because the storm looked fairly nasty as we drove away.

This was a fantastic route done with some great partners.  Overall one of the best days I have had in the mountains!!

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