mount aetna - 13745' - Grand Couloir Class 2
In an effort to meet and climb with Sarah before we planned to go to Alaska together we made a springtime ascent of Mount Aetna in the southern Sawatch Range on skis. The Grand Couloir was pretty dry as I drove over Monarch Pass from the west, but it looked like most of the route would be able to go on skis so I got stoked. I met Sarah at the parking area in the small village of Monarch, where FS 230 heads up the Middle fork South Arkansas River valley. By 9:30am we started skinning up the snow covered road. After a little over 2 miles up the road, we reached the big opening in the trees at the base of the Grand Couloir. Here we started switchbacking up the gentle slopes. I continued up on skis to about 12800 feet before I ditched them and continued the remainder of the ascent in boots since the snow thinned and I stayed mostly on the talus. Angle of ascent really never passed 35 degrees in steepness. Sarah opted to ditch skis a little higher. A little bit after noon we reached the summit and enjoyed the view as a band of high clouds passed overhead. We returned down to our skis and swapped footwear and clipped in. Amazingly I was able to make the ski all the way back to the FS road with only 1 fall. The snow was pretty sticky. Super fun half day out though and I made it back home to Grand Junction well before dinner.