On any given day during the winter, you can find a veritable United Nations in the parking lot of the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. Its reputation as a ski touring mecca is well earned, but perhaps overshadows that fact that for the other half of the year, it becomes one of the best, most accessible alpine rock playgrounds in North America. Despite living just down the road in Golden for the past few summers, I’ve barely made a dent in everything the area has to offer once the skiing melts away. This year though, I’ve been doing my best to turn that around.
I was feeling like a long day in the alpine back in mid July, so I pitched the Uto – Eagle – Avalanche Traverse to Ryan. He was game, and the plan was set. We chose to do the traverse from South to North, which we feel is the better direction. The most enjoyable climbing on the route by far is the SW ridge of Uto Peak, at a solid and juggy, old school 5.1 and this allows it to be done as an ascent.
After making quick work of the approach, we had a great time cruising up that classic ridge. Moving fast in the alpine is an amazing feeling, and exactly the one I envisioned when I bought my first set of climbing shoes at age 15. I reflected on that a while at the summit, then we set off down the NW ridge towards Eagle.
In the way is the miserable formation known as Sulzer Tower. It seems tiny and insignificant on a map, but it’s a crumbly, steep piece of garbage. We took great care and burned an enormous amount of time here but did avoid getting out the rope. There isn’t much to rap off of anyway.
It’s little more than a talus grind to Eagle from there, and we summited without any notable difficulty. The real annoyance would come on the descent towards Avalanche, which is actually quite technical for its 5.0 grade. It felt just as hard as the west ridge of Tupper, but maybe only because of its inferior rock quality. Again, we avoided getting out the rope but it was a near thing in places.
Now quite tired, we made our last push up the easy scramble to Avalanche, where we lounged for a while and ate. Both of us were dreading the long descent down the SW face and endless feeling Avalanche Crest trail.
In the end though, we found some snow to glissade and the trail did, in fact, have a bottom, so it wasn’t so completely awful. It was certainly a great reminder of why we prefer to ski, though. Ultimately we spent a full, but not excessive 11 hour day up there, and both had our summer alpine stoke reignited quite nicely. We’re incredibly lucky to have alpine access of this calibre less than an hour from home.