Date Climbed: 10/20/18
Elevation: 12,814 ft
Climbing partner: Andrew
Mount Neva has a lot of great, unexplored routes, and it just so happened Andrew an I were in search of an adventure, and hopefully some ice. An early arrival at the trailhead revealed the meagerly "4 inches" of snow turned out to be a good foot. Little did we know this was just a foreshadowing of the wallop we would get in March.
Up the trail we went, looking all over for ice, with none to be found (not unusual for October). A few hours later, we entered the basin below Neva and found no ice, but quite a bit of snow. At this point we spied our line; a rocky west facing rib off of the North Ridge of Neva. It looked fairly rocky and somewhat low angle, so we geared up, expecting a quick trip.
We weaver our way up through the cliff bands, creatively picking our way through the snow covered gulleys and rock. About halfway up the rib, we encounter our first small avalanche path. It had obviously slid within the last 24 hours, and it was at this point we decided to keep things conservative and stick to the rock rather than the gullies. We crossed the path one at a time. From here up, every step we took increased the consequences of a slide.
A few hundred feet later, we encountered our first roped pitch. At this point, Andrew took the lead, making quick work of the awkward rock moves above. Once he had made a belay, I followed. After hooking my way around the lopsided, bulging rock, I traverse my way right. Just as I was about to pull up over the lip of the cliff, an avalanche released somewhere above us and swept the gulley about 10 feet below and to the right.
Our time was up, and we needed to get moving. Once I rejoined Andrew I communicated what I had seen. The rock ahead appeared too difficult given the snow, and descending our route was too risky as we were close to the ridge and it would expose us to the fresh now above. What's more , the entire apron we had initially ascended seemed to have slid. We opted to bail to our left, which would inevitably force us to cross primed avalanche slopes. Our first path was already baking in the warm sun, and the next safe spot lay about 40 meters away. I opted to take the lead while Andrew set the anchor.
With great trepidation, I began crossing the deep snow, certain I was about to be swept down the cliff by an avalanche. About half way across, the rope went taught and I was stuck! We had not created enough slack to get me across, so I shouted back to Andrew to feed me more rope. The process was agonizingly slow, and I was not a fan of being stuck in the middle of an avalanche path on a hot day. Once I had the slack I needed, I moved across the slope as quickly as I could.
Once I was across safety, I took a minute to collect myself. My heart was pounding out of my chest from the exertion just as much as the fear and adrenaline. I set up a belay as quick as I could so that Andrew could get across before it became any warmer. I could hear the nervousness in his voice as he followed my footprints, and I made sure to keep the line tight should anything release.
Thankfully, nothing eventful happened, and we simul-climbed the last few hundred feet to the ridge. Once off the face and out of the avalanche terrain, we took some time to enjoy the accomplishment and the views as we packed up our gear. The snow on descent was deeper than anything we had yet encounter. The trip back into the valley was uneventful, but painfully slow. A couple hours of trail breaking later, we stumbled upon our uphill trail, and made much quicker progress back to the truck.
A coveted first ascent was ours and the day was a worthy adventure. Sadly, this would be the last adventure we would have together for a long time as Andrew was moving to Wyoming that day to begin his new work with an outdoor ministry in the area. After a little reminiscing, we parted and went our own ways: Andrew to a new state, and I back home.