Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
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bcrowell
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Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by bcrowell » Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:24 pm

A friend and I have discussed doing the Hourglass route on Mt. Dade. From word of mouth, I hear it's pretty awesome. Secor says:
The hourglass. Class 2. [...] In early season this fine 1000-foot climb is filled with snow, and the angle approaches 40 degrees in places. Later in the summer it has patches of ice surrounded by loose scree.
Mountainproject describes Mt. Dade, but only briefly mentions this route: https://www.mountainproject.com/area/11 ... mount-dade

Summitpost has this:
The Hourglass is usually covered with snow, or ice in late season. The couloir is about 1000 feet high and steepens to about 40 degrees. In early season this is a straight-forward climb, but in late summer you either have to climb ice, or choose the small chute to the right of the Hourglass, which is steeper and contains much loose rock. In late summer the parts of Hourglass not covered by ice contain very loose scree. Once above the couloir, it is an easy ascent over moderate angle slabs for another 1000 feet.
Has anyone here done this route? Based on my fairly limited winter mountaineering experience, I'm left with a lot of unclarity. My first dumb question is what is meant by "early season" here. It seems like it's basically a snow and ice climb, which makes me think the "season" would be winter. But this doesn't seem to make sense when the summitpost description contrasts "early season" with "late summer." Is it a permanent snow field? Is it a snow field that melts out in the fall only?

So basically, what is the best general time of year to plan a climb on this route? Would that be a time of year at which the road would not be open all the way to Mosquito Flat?

Is the idea to climb it during the time of year when it's got snow, not ice? I would think that a 1000-foot ice climb at 40 degrees would require roping up, since inability to self arrest would leave you in big trouble. Describing it as class 2 seems to imply that nobody would use a rope, but maybe this depends on conditions? If using a rope, would you be using ice screws for pro? Would there be any point in bringing pickets or rock pro?








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c9h13no3
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Re: Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by c9h13no3 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:52 pm

bcrowell wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:24 pm
My first dumb question is what is meant by "early season" here.
Typically, this means late spring/early summer. So May-July or so. Secor's referring to the mountaineering season here.
bcrowell wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:24 pm
It seems like it's basically a snow and ice climb, which makes me think the "season" would be winter. But this doesn't seem to make sense when the summitpost description contrasts "early season" with "late summer." Is it a permanent snow field? Is it a snow field that melts out in the fall only?
It's a northeast facing snowfield. So big winters, it may not all melt (it still has snow/ice in satellite pics right now). Smaller years, it's probably dry in September. And as I hope you know, the snow consolidates as the season goes along, so by now it's probably an ice climb (similar to the Dana couloir, North Peak couloirs, ect.).
bcrowell wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:24 pm
So basically, what is the best general time of year to plan a climb on this route?
It depends what you wanna do. Skiing the route in powder conditions, skiing it in stable corn conditions, enjoying a pleasurable snow climb with axe & crampons, or doing an ice climb. The lowest hazard time to do it would be when it's a dry scree field in September of a low snow year. But that sounds like torture to me.

Your line of questioning leads me to believe that you know about mountaineering some, but you don't know much about snow. But the short version is that snow starts off powdery in winter, and then consolidates & becomes harder as the season goes on. Corn in spring, and that bulletproof crap you can't pierce with your trekking poles in September. Around October, it's consolidated to the point where it's neve or firn. Snow that's been around for more than 1 season is essentially alpine ice.

I've always heard of the Hourglass in the context of back country skiing.
Last edited by c9h13no3 on Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by Gazelle » Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:55 pm

Doing it when it is dry really sucks! I know from experiencing it. But it is easy that way just loose crap the whole way
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Re: Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by bcrowell » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:54 pm

Thanks, all, for the replies. My winter mountaineering experience is mostly in So Cal, where snow persists for weeks at a time and then melts off, plus some very limited experience in the Sierra and Cascades. My trad climbing experience is much stronger than my weak mountaineering/alpine experience.

So what I'm basically getting here is that if one wants to do this with ice ax and crampons, this is a good climb for late spring or early summer (in a typical snow year), when the snow has consolidated enough, but has not yet turned to ice or melted out completely. In these consolidated but not icy conditions, one would expect to be able to pretty easily get a solid self-belay with the ax, or self-arrest if necessary, so it would not be necessary to rope up or use pro.

Does that sound at all right?

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Re: Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by c9h13no3 » Tue Oct 08, 2019 6:53 am

Sounds right to me.

A night or two with freezing temps & an early-ish start will help some too. And no big recent snows. Our snow pack doesn't turn rotten as easily as the Rockies, and the couloir is shaded. But you don't want to get flushed out of it by a wet slide.
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Re: Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by bran_daid » Wed Oct 09, 2019 5:06 pm

its very unlikely such a broad low angle couloir would ever see true alpine ice conditions imo. firm neve would be the closest thing you'd find.

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Re: Hourglass Couloir on Mt. Dade

Post by bcrowell » Wed Oct 09, 2019 6:00 pm

Thanks, all -- I really appreciate the help.

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