Peak(s):  Storm Pk A - 13,487 feet
"East Storm" - 13,325 feet
Date Posted:  03/16/2022
Date Climbed:   05/30/2021
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   hr011242
 Four Ups and Downs Three North Couloirs Two Peaks and a Partridge in a Pear Tree   

The two Storm Peaks near Silverton, Storm Peak A and "East Storm", area among the harder thirteeners of the area. Situated northeast of town they separate several basins including Velocity Basin to the north, with part of Silverton Mountain Resort, and Boulder Gulch to the south, which can be walked to from Silverton. Velocity Basin is the more interesting of the two, and gets its name from a 1982 speed skiing championship held there. It also contains a number of interesting north couloirs that held my and Heather's interests. When I attempted "East Storm" last year I turned around a few hundred feet from the summit. The east ridge isn't technically difficult but it's extremely steep and during last year's drought the upper slopes were so dry they would just crumble and slide under my feet. Microspikes or crampons would have worked on the dirt and scree, but I didn't bring them because it was late August, and then the snow came and that was it for the season. They don't combine well together - "East Storm"'s west face is a vertical wall of crumbling rock, Storm's east ridge is barely any better, and their south sides, the most logical way to connect them, contain doable scrambling that's nonetheless rotten, steep, and seems unpleasant at best.

21082_01
The north faces of "East Storm", Storm Peak A, and mi casa in Velocity Basin.

With a bunch of good snow climbs under my belt already this year I wanted to put these two peaks to rest via snow climbs of their own. Prior to heading to Silverton on this trip I was enamored with the idea of climbing "East Storm"'s incredible north face as boggyb had in his trip report. I still hadn't really worked out a way to get Storm from there, and would have been content just doing "East Storm", but two peaks is better than one. Mathematically twice as good, in fact. If "East Storm"'s wild north face had a good climb, perhaps Storm's did as well. As it turns out, there are several, as SummitPost describes. But how do you connect two north facing couloirs on two separate peaks on one trip? Who cares! We'd figure it out as we went.

The two days prior to this climb we'd climbed Potosi Peak's north couloir and Snowdon Peak and "South Snowdon" via Snowdon's Naked Lady couloir. With warm weather arriving we weren't sure if we'd get the Storms or whether the snow would be too crappy to climb. We scoped out our intended route the evening before - up Storm's Gnar couloir, down the south gully (which we couldn't see - was it already melted out?) to the Grande couloir, which was also north facing, and then traverse over to "East Storm"'s northeast couloir. We couldn't tell if the latter actually went to the summit, but we also couldn't tell whether boggyb's line was already melted out at the top and wouldn't be good thus we chose a more reliable option. So in reality we'd be getting four couloirs, three of them north facing, one south facing, on two peaks all in a single day. Talk about having our work cut out for us!

21082_03
Most of our route and all the good bits visible. We'd go up Storm's Gnar couloir on the right, down the Grande couloir in the middle, and up the far left couloir on "East Storm". A route topo is available at the end of this report. (Taken the evening prior.)
21082_04
Our overall route.

We left our vehicles just before 4:45am and headed up the road to the lake below the peaks. The snow began right at the parking area and was good and firm. I had been concerned it was going to be mush. The snow the day before on the Snowdons was terrible on our deproach and neither of us were sure it was going to freeze overnight, but we had apparently gotten lucky. We booted up the road and Heather experienced some minor postholing between the upper parking area and the bottom of the apron on the Gnar couloir's approach snow ramp, but otherwise the snow was in good shape.

21082_05
Closer shot of the Grande and Gnar couloirs, with part of the approach ramp on the right. (Taken the evening prior.) Photo: Heather R.

We put on crampons and got our axe and ice tool out and I took the lead up the apron. The snow at the bottom was a mess of frozen wet avalanche debris but we quickly passed through it into smoother snow.

21082_06
Me leading up the approach apron. Photo: Heather R.

The approach climb was short and led to a relatively low angle bench, and from there we traversed to the left over increasing exposure to the bottom of the Gnar itself.

21082_07
Looking across and down the approach climb towards "East Storm". Photo: Heather R.
21082_08
Slightly easier climbing up and left to the bottom of the couloir.

The night before we had seen a snow feature that split the approach climb from the Gnar - a fan of snow we called the Snow Cone. From a distance we couldn't tell if we could get around it or if it would turn it to be vertical snow, a hidden cliff, or what. As I got closer it became clear that it was easy to get around and merely looked unusual from a distance.

21082_09
Standing directly on top the snow cone looking into the Gnar. Nothing to worry about.

We finished our traverse into the Gnar, took a few pictures, and admired the sunrise.

21082_16
Looking east from the bottom of Gnar couloir. Photo: Heather R.

It was 800 to 1,000 feet of snow to the summit and there was a giant cliff at the bottom to add to the exhilaration. We began up.

21082_17
Looking up Gnar. Photo: Heather R.
21082_18
San Juan glory. Photo: Heather R.
21082_21
Me comfortable at home... Photo: Heather R.
21082_22
... and Heather doing what she does best. Steep snow.

Snow in the couloir was locked in the 40 degree range, and perfect in consistency. We French stepped our way up the couloir, incrementally increasing our exposure above Velocity Basin.

21082_23
Heather drinking it in.

The angle drifted upwards slowly, gaining only a few degrees over the course of the climb, but enough where step kicking was required at the top.

21082_24
Serious snow. Photo: Heather R.

We enjoyed the simplicity of the climb, and the shared solitude, oxymoron though it may be. There were others in the basin - our friends Rick and Troy were climbing nearby Tower Mountain and Macomber Peak - but the Storms were ours to weather, just the two of us. I always feel immense gratitude when a good snow climb comes together, and this was one of those moments.

21082_25
Purity. Photo: Heather R.

At the very top of the couloir we encountered a set of frozen switchbacks left by previous climbers. We used them to our advantage and topped out on a small saddle.

21082_26
The switchbacks to the top. Photo: Heather R.
21082_27
Looking all the way down Gnar. Gnarly indeed! Photo: Heather R.
21082_28
Heather nearing the summit ridge.
21082_29
Topping out.
21082_30
Mountain moon. Photo: Heather R.

From the small saddle we were on the summit was only a couple hundred feet away. We crossed over the top of a rib and hit Class 3 scrambling that blocked easy access to the high point. The rock was both smooth and somewhat loose, which made scrambling in mountaineering boots difficult. Exposure to the north was intense, as the entire face all the way to Velocity Basin was just a few feet away.

21082_31
Summit ridge from the saddle.
21082_32
The Class 3 scramble. It's both taller and harder than it looks.

We opted for an alternate way up that would only be viable on snow. We dropped a couple body lengths north down a thin, snowy gully next to the scramble and traversed underneath all of the rock. A few exposed, awkward Class 3 moves around a slightly bulging ledge led to more Steep Snow, the steepest of the day thus far. After maybe 50 feet of it we were on Storm's summit.

21082_33
Down about 10 feet from the block on the ridge, Heather making the moves on the ledge. (Taken on descent.)
21082_34
The steep climb to the summit. (Taken on descent.)
21082_35
Looking down on our steep climb up to the summit with the Gnar couloir right of center. Our boot prints and switchbacks are visible on each. (Taken on descent.)
21082_36
Me looking towards the San Miguel across Storm's west ridge. Our tracks are hard to see but they come up the sharp triangle of snow in the bottom center, then cross in front of my legs. Photo: Heather R.
21082_37
South into Boulder Gulch.

Since we still had to down climb the entirety of Storm back to Velocity Basin, all on snow, and then climb and down climb the entirety of "East Storm", all on snow, we didn't dilly dally very long. We quickly reversed our route down the Steep Snow and across the ledge, back to the summit ridge, and then back to the top of Gnar.

21082_38
From the summit down our final snow climb. The Gnar can be seen below the sunlit wall. Photo: Heather R.
21082_39
Closer shot. Photo: Heather R.

To the south from the saddle ran the south gully, a route some people use to ascend the peak from Boulder Gulch. We were glad it was still full of snow, as it would undoubtedly be a loose mess of scree otherwise.

21082_40
Storm's south gully. Praise be to the snow!
21082_41
The gully was somewhat icy due to repeated melt/freeze cycles.
21082_42
Heather coming down the gully.
21082_43
From near the bottom.

Overall the south gully was simple Moderate Snow. It would make a rather plain and short climb, and definitely wouldn't be as high quality as Gnar was, but would be easier for those who aren't up to the steeper stuff. The bottom was a little melted out and from there we had a decent traverse to get to the top of the Grande, once again fortunately on snow.

21082_44
Bottom of the south gully.
21082_45
Start of traverse, up and over. Photo: Heather R.
21082_46
The obvious saddle is the top of the Grande with "East Storm"'s west face.

We quickly walked down the upper part of the Grande and glissaded the bottom before returning to our snowshoe cache underneath Storm.

21082_47
Grande couloir looking north. Photo: Heather R.
21082_48
Heather descending the Grande.
21082_49
Rock tower along Storm's east ridge. Photo: Heather R.
21082_50
Looking across Velocity Basin towards where we'd ascend "East Storm" from where the Grande's apron begins. Note the ski tracks near center.

We grabbed our snowshoes and began another long, ascending traverse towards "East Storm"'s north face. We checked out boggy's north couloir along the way and while it looked enticing we were unsure enough about the topout that we decided to continue to the northeast couloir instead, which we knew was in.

21082_51
Start of the north couloir. I'll be back for you some day.

"East Storm"'s northeast couloir steepened as we approached it, this time with snowshoes on our backs. We didn't bother dropping them this time and started chugging up the couloir. As we climbed higher Storm reared up while the unnamed lake in the basin dropped away.

21082_52
Climbing the apron. Photo: Heather R.
21082_53
Storm Peak looking kind of insane. Photo: Heather R.
21082_55
Yep. Insane. Photo: Heather R.
21082_56
Lake in Velocity Basin.

"East Storm"'s northeast couloir is straight forward and is less steep than the Gnar but similar to the Grande - Moderate Snow.

21082_57
Start of the couloir.
21082_58
Easy does it. Photo: Heather R.
21082_59
Looking down from about halfway up. Photo: Heather R.

Near the top the couloir is capped by a large tower, and it forks. Both forks would have been fine but the right-hand fork got us just a little closer, without having to traverse the south side of the tower.

21082_60
The tower. Photo: Heather R.
21082_61
Closer shot. Photo: Heather R.

We took the right branch at the bottom of the tower and once again topped out on a small saddle separating north and south faces.

21082_62
Right branch.
21082_63
Nearing the top of the couloir.
21082_64
The tower just east of "East Storm". In dry conditions the tower is bypassed on the south side. Photo: Heather R.

From the saddle we could see a large part of the remaining route. We'd have to traverse farther west on a mix of snow and dry ground before reaching solid snow on the upper south face that would continue to the summit. I began across the snow and up a steep, short Class 2+ section of loose scree through a cliff band. The dry ground continued past the cliff band for a short distance before the snow began.

21082_65
Starting up through the saddle. Photo: Heather R.
21082_66
Terrain above the cliff band.
21082_67
Snow to the summit.

"East Storm"'s south face was very straightforward and somewhere in the Moderate Snow range, and after a few hundred feet of climbing straight up we hit the short summit ridge, where we traversed to the summit.

21082_68
Me on the south face with Tower Mountain behind. Photo: Heather R.
21082_69
Easy summit ridge.
21082_70
Storm from "East Storm". The top of Grande couloir is the obvious saddle between Storm and the foreground ridge. Photo: Heather R.
21082_71
Looking back along "East Storm"'s summit ridge with Uncompahgre in the distance. Photo: Heather R.
21082_72
Kendall massif and Weminuche Wilderness.
21082_73
Velocity Basin and Sneffels Range. Photo: Heather R.

It was approaching mid-day and we wanted to get off the snow before it became dangerously soft, so after about ten minutes on the summit we began down. We were careful on the south face, which was indeed softer than just a few minutes prior, then made quick work of booting and glissading the northeast couloir.

21082_74
Heather making her way down the south face.
21082_75
Traverse towards the tower.
21082_76
Descending the northeast couloir. Photo: Heather R.
21082_78
Glissading the apron.
21082_79
Safety of Velocity Basin.

Once back at the lake it was an easy walk back down the road to our vehicles. Rick and Troy had already finished so we went into Silverton for lunch. Given how crummy the rock is on these two peaks Heather and I were both glad to have excellent, exciting snow to climb up and down both. Either of these lines would be great by themselves, but putting them together was an amazing and fun time. If there's a Storm or two on your radar and you want to satisfy your storm chaser dreams then give these lines a shot, for there's no dark clouds to be found on this pair.


Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Heather R.
Trailhead: Velocity Basin

Total distance: 6.58 miles
Total elevation gain: 4,455 feet
Total time: 6:22:56
Peaks: Two ranked thirteeners

  • Storm Peak A, 13,487'
  • "East Storm", 13,325'

Splits:

Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Velocity Basin Bottom of Gnar Couloir 0:44:26 0:44:26 0:00
Bottom of Gnar Couloir Top of Gnar Couloir 1:18:51 2:03:17 2:31
Top of Gnar Couloir Storm Peak A 0:18:49 2:24:37 6:15
Storm Peak A Snowshoe Cache 1:01:00 3:31:52 0:00
Snowshoe Cache "East Storm" 1:26:02 4:57:54 8:45
"East Storm" Velocity Basin 1:16:17 6:22:56 Trip End

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 16 17 18 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 78 79


Comments or Questions
Bombay2Boulder
User
Thanks
03/16/2022 18:41
Great info on these Ben, these are my final two left in the Silverton area and I have been slacking off getting to these, maybe this season!


Boggy B
User
Nice twofer
03/16/2022 18:59
They sure don't combine well. When we went up Gnar (that's my SP page), we descended the same S gully as you but then traversed E/SE across the basin until we could gain the S ridge of E Storm, then went over and descended that NE couloir. Probably a good deal less vert than your linkup, but tedious and involving 1 fewer snow climbs.


Skimo95
very cool
03/16/2022 21:26
thanks for posting, would make for a gnarly ride! I dig the "mi casa" picture


Will_E
User
You
03/16/2022 21:39
Are my hero.

Great pics!


supranihilest
User
Stormy
03/16/2022 22:21
@Yusuf: do these peaks on snow for sure, they're kinda piles otherwise. Whiley said she enjoyed Storm's west ridge if you do them dry.

@Mike: I'm all about the snow climbs! Your route does sound a lot more logical though. I mostly wanted more snow with a healthy dose of avoiding the vagaries I'd read about between the two.

@Skimo: thanks! These lines would all make great skis. "East Storm could even be done from the summit! Storm might be harder to get a true summit descent.

@Will: thanks, homie. Come out and run laps on these as training for your last few remaining snowflakes!


Mtnman200
User
No arguing
03/17/2022 11:34
...with your math (2 x 1 = 2)! I did Storm Peak from Boulder Gulch and thought about adding East Storm to my day. After looking at the ridge/weather, I thought better of it. So kudos to you and Heather for combining Storm Peak and East Storm. I still have East Storm on my radar. BTW, there's a tower on Tower Mountain.


supranihilest
User
Storming the castle
03/17/2022 10:54
After my poor experience on the Class 2 terrain of "East Storm" I wanted nothing to do with the south ridge scrambling. Derek's report with John Kirk didn't make it sound fun at all. Usually when I encounter a loose pile that I'm not a fan of I start thinking of ways to climb it on snow. As for the tower, when I did Tower and Macomber in August, 2020 the tower had collapsed. I don't know if it will be rebuilt (or has been since) but it was just a pile of metal when I was there.


Bombay2Boulder
User
Tower
03/17/2022 23:02
Oh wow, that Tower was present when I did it in July last year, seems like it's been rebuilt.


supranihilest
User
Tower of Power
03/18/2022 09:14
Whiley said the tower was up in 2019 when she did those peaks, so it must have only been down for a somewhat short period of time. I wonder what happened to it that knocked it down!


Mtnman200
User
Tower of Power
03/18/2022 14:51
The tower was up by 9-2-2016 (see photo below) through at least 7-10-2019, was down on 8-29-2019, and then was rebuilt by July 2021. That means the tower came down in the seven-week period between 7-10-2019 and 8-29-2019 and was rebuilt in less than two years. The tower must have been in active use and therefore probably was rebuilt fairly quickly.



supranihilest
User
Power Mountain Man 5000
03/18/2022 19:03
Eddie, where'd you happen to get those dates? Wondering if there was a Silverton news article that might provide some additional context.


Mtnman200
User
LoJ tells all
03/18/2022 19:33
I logged into LoJ, went to Tower Mtn., and clicked on "View Ascent Detail/Comments" to see when you and Whiley climbed Tower. I also noticed Bergsteigen (Otina) was there two days after me.


seano
Work harder maybe smarter
03/18/2022 21:38
That's a lot of up and down for those! Given the related names, I was expecting the Storms to be easily-connected piles of tundra and talus like everything else in that area, so the ridge was a rude surprise. I guess there's no easy way to link them.


supranihilest
User
Snow is smart on these
03/21/2022 14:49
@Eddie: Gotcha! I wondered if that might have been it as well, thanks!

@Sean: Yeah, I expected these to be more like the most of other Silverton 13ers, which are almost all easy lumps. Not these two! Much more work for these together or individually than others, but snow helped.



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