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Help me understand Cox Col better

Posted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:01 pm
by Lambec
Hi all.

Cox Col has been on my to do list for a while. I was close to doing it two years ago, but got derailed. This September might be my time, so I'm re-researching all my Cox Col data.

I've found a very recent report here on HST which was great: viewtopic.php?f=34&t=19881&p=149794&hil ... ol#p149794

I've also read up on Gerry Czamanskes post on and I think another small mention by Bob Davey

Macpaulter's blog is where I started having conerns and really wanted my data to be as good as possible for obvious reasons. ... -mono.html

It almost sounds like Cox Col is, in a way, sounds so much easier with crampons and ice axe. Alas, it looks like the majority of the snow is gone for now with the exception of the Sun Cups noted in the above 2019 trip report.

My approach would be from Dade Lake with the goal of dropping down into Lake Itay. Everything seemed okay until I read Macpaulter's post (and then others) about how awful Cox Col can be without snow pack. That's it is basically a dry gravel shoot that is constantly shifting loose. Then that lead me into North Cox Col and I started getting confused about that. Sadly my copy of Secor is at home and I'm at work, otherwise I'd look for some data in there too).

It sounds like this North Cox Col might be a smarter choice so I can avoid all the loose detris of doom. I'm hoping if I drop a couple pictures on here, could someone mark them up and point out Cox Col versus North Cox Col more accurately? A UTM would be even better or a Caltopo pin.

Is my data correct: Image

Here are two pictures you can mark up if you'd like. One if Google Earth, and the other is a great picture taken by the macpaulster blog author.


Re: Help me understand Cox Col better

Posted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:07 pm
by Harlen
Hello Lambec,

I am also dead keen to cross Cox Col, though probably in snow. It seems that you have done a lot of good research on the route. The best advice I can give you is to be prepared for the unexpected. This happened to the couple whose blog you included (macpaulster blogspot). The guy had crossed it once, but east to west, and many years before. They made it down by scouting the best route, taking their time, and rolling a pack when necessary. You are better off than them crossing east-west upward through the hard parts... makes a huge difference. When solo I usually take 100' of light rope and a couple of slings and a carabiner. With this light setup I can lower off on the doubled rope, carabiner/Munter hitch if the climbing becomes too sketchy. You don't want to become stuck way up high.

Most here wouldn't want to try to give you the exact perfect route description, for a variety of reasons, (*see Giantbrookie quote below) and one is that it would just be their best guess from when they were there last; back-country passes can change radically with one avalanche or rock slide. I think you are doing everything right Lambec, but you need to be mentally and materially prepared to back off if it becomes too much. If you are truly confidant picking your way though obstacles, then go for it. The alternative- Mono Pass, is a really beautiful route itself- just look at those Mono Pass photos from the macpaulster blog. Good luck, Ian.

*Giantbrookie wrote this in another Post:
It is my opinion (and I could be way off base in this) that too many people rely too heavily on paint-by-numbers sort of descriptions so that folks that lack the requisite terrain reading skills will slavishly follow the rock-by-rock descriptions thinking that this obviates the need to learn and improve their on-spot terrain reading skills (which should build on topo map reading skills). I think this has gotten some folks lost and over-their-heads. Maybe I'm wrong, but I do not want to contribute to any safety issues out there.

Re: Help me understand Cox Col better

Posted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:31 pm
by Lambec
I can respect the no route description. I get it. I was just trying to root out this whole North Col/North Cox Col bit. There just seemed to be some strangeness about the name. Like it sprang to life because Cox Col could, in theory, be questionable at times... and thus North Col/North Cox Col was born... :)

I'm doing this with a group I routinely work with and we're quite capable of evaluating routes and judging if they're too sketchy or not. I'd love to explore Mono Pass, but this is a "try to stay off an established trail" hike as much as possible. So sadly with that factor in place, the Mono Pass doesn't seem a good choice for me. I'm on a really tight time frame. Heading from Mosquito to North Lake and Lake Italy is a definite goal followed by Italy Pass.

If I were to take the Mono Pass trail the only way I see hitting Lake Italy would be dropping through the Gabbot Pass or Hilgard Pass. Either choice adds a lot of time and a lot of established trail.

I'm sure Cox Col will be okay. I'm sure my over cautious crew will go in with ice axe and crampons as a just incase.

Re: Help me understand Cox Col better

Posted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 9:14 pm
by Harlen
Hey Lambec,
Now I feel like I did a poor job of advising you guys. I really don't want to be a nay-sayer. I'm usually critiqued for telling folks to go for it too readily, and with their dogs, and babies on their backs. To explain my comments above, for one thing, I have never crossed Cox Col, so I wouldn't presume to know the route in any detail, and secondly, I guess I was just trying on being the voice of responsibility and caution. Well I tried and failed. You sound just a bit miffed, and deserve to be if you guys are as solid at route-finding as you now sound:
I'm doing this with a group I routinely work with and we're quite capable of evaluating routes and judging if they're too sketchy or not. I'd love to explore Mono Pass, but this is a "try to stay off an established trail" hike as much as possible.

So my new advice is to try it by all means, and why not tag Bear Creek Spire while you're at it? On the way south toward Granite Park/Pine Creek, I would recommend that you guys duck into Bear Basin via "Dancing Bear Pass," which I reckon is always dead easy, and from there, you could drop down and then up and over either "Granite-Bear Pass", or "BearRoyce Col" to reach Granite Park. There are good descriptions/discussions of those two here in the HST posts. I think BearRoyce Col is especially exciting, and stunningly beautiful when you crest the top from the west. Here are a few photos of of me and my dog in Bear Basin last summer: Good Luck! Ian.

gemini trip 091.jpg
That's the stunning "Seven Gables Mountain" in the background.

gemini trip 112.jpg
I think Bear Basin is one of the most scenic high basins of all, and would add a lot to your trip.

gemini trip 143.jpg
View south east from BearRoyce Col.

Re: Help me understand Cox Col better

Posted: Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:24 pm
by giantbrookie
I've been over the crest here twice, once in 1986 and once in 2015, and neither time did I cross at the low point, the so-called Cox Col. I actually crossed north of the low point and north of what you marked as "north" Cox Col near or at the high point 13120+ (old 15' elev) On the topo you can see this as a rounded shoulder and the average slope angle coming up from the east is much mellower, which is why I chose this route in 1986. In my opinion, the actual low point is much steeper and has more loose rock on the east side compared to hiking over the shoulder. In addition, whereras steep snow can choke the chute to the low point one can commonly steer around the snowbanks going to the shoulder. It is for this reason that in my 2015 Topix post viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13276, I called what I consider the easiest crossing point (ie high rather than low point) "Cox Col es ist Nicht". The easiest passage over a divide is commonly not the lowest point, and I think this is a good example.

Re: Help me understand Cox Col better

Posted: Mon Aug 26, 2019 7:44 pm
by Gazelle
north col is definitely easier just head up like going to cox col and go right more the easiest way possible. I did it and I had no idea where north col was and did just fine. I did go down cox col with no snow once and do not recommend it.