Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hooky on Neva

Paul Gagner and I skipped out of work (he's the president of Sierra Designs) and did a little dawn patrol yesterday—we headed into the Indian Peaks to explore a route I'd been eyeing for a couple of years. I'd been drawn to the elegant spur that seems to split the east face of Mt. Neva, a 12,814-foot peak on the Continental Divide, as seen in this photo from June 2004 from the trail to Arapaho Pass. When we arrived at the base after a two and a half hour walk, we realized the spur was chossier and less defined than I'd hoped, but the 600-foot face just to its right had a narrow strip of solid golden granite. Although a large cornice sat over the face, we were confident it would fall to the left of our line if it broke off. Anyway, it was still early and cool, and we figured we could climb the line quickly before the morning got too warm. And that's what we did.

The route went in four long pitches, with moderate rock climbing broken by pleasant scrambling. Neither of us was wearing climbing shoes, so it's tough to grade the difficulty precisely, but the line we followed was probably 5.6 or 5.7. Many of the difficulties could be skirted by deviating into rubble- or snow-filled gullies, but by staying close to the narrow rib that splits the face we found some lovely face and crack climbing. After topping out via a boulder problem just to the right of the cornice, we plodded up a short steep snowfield to Neva's summit, and then descended via the fourth-class north ridge.

We saw no sign of a prior ascent and I've never read of a route on this face, but it's very unlikely that such a prominent feature would not have been climbed at some point in the popular Indian Peaks. Colorado mountaineers who enjoy moderate alpine-y routes like Sharkstooth or the Spiral Route on Notchtop in Rocky Mountain National Park would love this climb. It's probably at its best in June, when there's still lots of snow around to give it an alpine ambiance and to cover some of the junk left and right of the rib, but it might be a bit safer once that cornice drops off. Either way, this is a climb that deserves attention.

5 comments:

Andy Moore said...

Hey Dougald, I just missed you up there -- we did a tour de Jasper ending with a nice ski descent on Saturday.

Regarding that east side of Neva, years ago I read an account of an early climb of that part of Neva -- I'll try to find the reference.

Dougald said...

Andy, you inspired me to search the American Alpine Journal index, and I found a reference to an ascent in 1973 by Bruce Adams and Bart Chandler. They did six pitches up the "southernmost of three dihedrals." I believe this would have been just to the right of the line that Paul and I climbed. Undoubtedly there have been other ascents, too.

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Jeff said...

My friend Brian and I climbed this route on 7/11/08. Great day out, beautiful weather, not another soul in sight. Thanks for the info!