April 14, 2001 & December 26, 2010 - Southeast Ridge from Guanella Pass
April 14, 2001
Gary and I had both climbed Mts. Bierstadt and Evans and rather than repeat them, we headed for Squaretop on the other side of Guanella Pass. Our trip to Bolivia was in the works and I needed this climb to start breaking in a pair of double plastic mountaineering boots. We parked about one mile beyond the top of the pass and put on snowshoes for the gentle climb to the saddle we would to cross to get onto the flank of Squaretop. The snow was sufficient for shoeing in the basin but the shoes came off for the climb proper, which was mostly on rock with some patchy snowfields on the lower slopes. About 500 vertical feet below the summit, the gloomy weather that had held off all morning finally dropped onto the peak. Blowing snow and wind cut visibility first to just a few hundred feet and then to barely one hundred feet by the time we reached the summit.
We snacked at the top and then headed down the ridgeline toward the saddle we crossed over on the ascent. Enroute the saddle, the snowstorm became a snowy thunderstorm and with the threat coming closer, we vetoed the saddle crossing and instead took a steeper draw to lower ground. The storm passed and we crossed the drainage to make the interminable final climb (all of 75 vertical feet and three rest stops) back up a short slope to the truck. The climb took about six hours and was an attractive alternative to the more popular 14’ers nearby.
December 26, 2010
I took a shot at the same route described above on the day after Xmas. The weather report was calling for a warmish, low wind, bluebird day and this seemed like a good route for a solo climb. The road in from Georgetown remained closed so the approach had to be from the Grants side and I was able to make it to within 0.8 mile of the regular winter closure gate at Duck Lake. I tried to get a bit further up the road but the price of a few extra yeards would clearly be hours of shovelling if the truck ended up off the packed track and into the softer snow the covered most all of the road. Knowing discretion ws the better part or valor, I executed a 180 and parked the truck.
The day promised to be clear and warm and the weather man was correct in his forecast. I left the truck at about 9 a.m. and made good time up the road to a reasonable cut off point for the trek toward Squaretop. The road was well compacted by snow machines and snowshoes were not needed. However, snow conditions changed as soon as I left the road to head cross country toward Squaretop. The recent storms dropped enough snow, which soon demonstrated this would be a challenging approach to say the least. The snow was unconsolidated and the snowshoes provided no flotation whatsoever but for a layer here or there. As a solo act, there was no trail breaking rotation among other climbers, hence all the drudgery would like with me and me alone. After about 0.2 mile, I'd had enough, retraced my steps and continued onto Guanella Pass to take a look at Bierstadt before heading back to the truck. No summit but I did get 5.5 miles of late December physical conditioning.