Ascent of Calliope Mountain on 2017-08-07

Climber: Brendan Lee

Others in Party:Nathan Hebda
Date:Monday, August 7, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Calliope Mountain
    Elevation:6821 ft / 2079 m

Ascent Trip Report

After finishing work, we hit the trail at 6pm. Followed the South Fork trailhead behind Symphony Lake, went up and over Triangle Pass and into the Ewe Valley. Dropping into the Ewe Valley, we found a really nice sheep trail about half way down the slope and followed it above the Ewe Valley until it ended by a massive bolder. This sheep trail saved us TONS of time and effort on the way out, I would highly recommend keeping a keen eye out for it as you make your way down from Triangle Pass. We bivied for 3 hours in the upper Ewe Valley until daylight returned. From the beautiful Ewe Valley we climbed the moraine between Mt Ewe and Calliope and followed the valley to the South Face of Calliope Peak. We climbed 3rd and 4th class terrain (not too chossy) to reach the open scree slopes that flow down Calliope's South Face. We followed the scree slopes up and reached summit ridge 3 hours after leaving our bivy site. Following the ridge to the summit block we reached the crux. To reach the summit, one must climb the summit block, which is very very steep and exposed. We reassured ourselves that surely there was a way around this intimidating block .... We traversed to the South of the summit block and realized the only option was to climb the block directly and then traverse climbers right. We did not have a rope, nor were we expecting this cruxy surprise. I'm no expert at rating climbs but this easily felt like a 5.2, my climbing partner Nathan agreed the difficulty was class 4++ or easily a 5.2 rating. This rock is AMAZING quality for the Chugach though, solid foot holds everywhere, perfectly positioned hand holds, it was good fun!! As we climbed and then traversed the steep and exposed summit block we passed a rusted piton, confirming that we weren't the only ones who felt this was a tricky pitch. After a very airy traverse across solid rock we were back into class 3 terrain. The summit was a quick scramble from here. At 9am, we crested the summit and were treated to a glorious morning scene, views up top do not disappoint, all the Eagle River giants, the music peaks, Bird country, Turnagain, the Front Range. The register is in bad shape, a soggy piece of paper in a film canister. Reversing our route, the down climb required extra focus, but we were thankful for the excellent rock quality. It was too steep to "crab crawl" down, we had to face the wall and feel around for foot holds, then step down. We then followed the scree fields back to the moraine, cruised back into the Ewe Valley and out to the South Fork trailhead. The sheep trail from Ewe Valley to Triangle Pass saves about 1,500ft of climbing, so be sure to find it! Total time was about 26 hours from car to car, we stopped from 1am-3:30am for hot food and a quick nap, plus two more stops to cook hot food. If you are a speedster and have a good understanding of the route this is probably possible in one long day. Roughly calculating distance on Bing Maps I came up with ~26 miles with 7500ft of elevation gained (Up and over Triangle pass, up Calliope, back up and over Triangle Pass). A helmet is mandatory as a few rouge rocks tumbled down the South slopes as the rock heated in the afternoon. **In my own personal opinion**: taking a rope is the great question with this route, is it worth hauling a rope and gear all the way up for a 75ft section of 5th class at the summit block? Or is it worth it to save the weight and go lighter/faster keeping a cool head and knowing your limits when you get to the final summit block? Either option can be argued, my best advice is know your limits and comfort level and plan accordingly.
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