Uintas - Siren Song - Ostler Peak, Amethyst Basin first ascent - October 2017

The sounds echo’d off the cliffs. Intermittent yet consistent. I kept hearing it over and over but could not place it. Natural yet foreign. It sounded like whales talking. Matt finally reached me, and I asked if he heard the sounds as well. “I don’t hear it…wait, I do now. What is that?” We tried to place it until it dawned on me. “It’s the lake.” Amethyst Lake more than 1000’ below was just coming into the sun. Partially frozen over, the ice was reacting to the heat and started to sing. The lake kept up its symphony for over an hour while we climbed before stopping.

A few days earlier I had hiked 13 miles into Amethyst Basin to scout for ice. I’d thought there was something on the peak for a while, but the views from the road blocked the gully systems from view. At first, it looked like another long hike for nothing, but as I traversed the base, I could start to see into the corners. Ice flowed down narrow crevices only to end 1/3 of the way up the mountain. Continuing left, I found another gully with ice starting a little above where the first one ended and went all the way to the ridge. A small ledge would allow a traverse between the two gully systems linking them into what looked like a fun moderate line.

Once I got home, I got a hold of my friend Matt, one of the few partners willing to go back out for a long-distance FA in the Uintas with me. We made plans to climb two days later.

We met in the parking lot at 4:30 am and started the 6-mile approach. We reached the base of the wall much earlier than expected so built a campfire to stay warm while we waited for the sun to reveal our route.

Early morning campfire

Early morning campfire

Ostler Peak and Lake BR-24

Ostler Peak and Lake BR-24

Low snow coverage made navigating the talus slow and tedious, but we still reached the route in decent time. We decided to simul solo as much of it as we could and set off swinging.

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Nathan Smith on pitch 1

Nathan Smith on pitch 1

Matt Tuttle on pitch 1

Matt Tuttle on pitch 1

Matt Tuttle on pitch 3

Matt Tuttle on pitch 3

Nathan Smith on pitch 3

Nathan Smith on pitch 3

The first 400’ went quickly, fun alpine ice in gullies and corner systems. Once I reached the steep pitch 4, I started up, intending to solo but brittle ice dinner-plating caused me to back off and pull out a rope. The steeper pillar had blue plastic ice, so I switched to the left and brought Matt up. The route could continue up the same gully system, but there would only be 100’ more of mixed technical climbing before it was all hiking to the ridge.

Nathan Smith on pitch 4

Nathan Smith on pitch 4

Matt Tuttle on pitch 4

Matt Tuttle on pitch 4

We unroped from here and traversed a ledge to the left to reach the other gully. Unfortunately, the first pitch wasn’t quite in enough. Matt was sure it would go in its current state, but it would be difficult. I was certain he could send but not so sure about myself, so we decided to do a mixed variation to the right I had spotted on the way up.

Nathan Smith on the traverse between pitches 4 and 5

Nathan Smith on the traverse between pitches 4 and 5

Matt Tuttle checking out the direct option for pitch 5

Matt Tuttle checking out the direct option for pitch 5

It looked like 5.2-3 on rotten rock but ended up more like 5.6-7 on HORRIBLE rock. Matt took the pitch and did a great job weaving in and out of stacked blocks ready to fall and crush us. Once I followed, I realized just how bad this section was. Almost no pro and a fall as a follower would result in significant damage if not death. Luckily, neither of us fell.

Matt Tuttle on the pitch 5 variation

Matt Tuttle on the pitch 5 variation

Pitch 6 continued up the gully for 100’ before transferring onto the left wall.  Matt took pitch 7; a fun vertical pillar leads to lower angle ice and snow before a final ice step.

Nathan Smith on pitch 6

Nathan Smith on pitch 6

Matt Tuttle on pitch 7

Matt Tuttle on pitch 7

Nathan Smith on pitch 7

Nathan Smith on pitch 7

Pitch 8 went up firm snow and ice to a short vertical pillar then low angle ice in rotten shale rock.

Nathan Smith on pitch 8

Nathan Smith on pitch 8

We unroped for the final pitch, scrambly 5.1-5.2 terrain leading to the summit ridge at almost exactly 12,000’.

Nathan Smith topping out pitch 9

Nathan Smith topping out pitch 9

As neither of us had summited Ostler before and any good new route should go to the summit, we left the packs in the talus and continued to the top at 12,718’.

 

The descent was agonizing snow covered talus, one slow and careful step after another, thankful to still be in the last of the day’s sun. We reached the trail just before complete darkness, happy to switch back into trail runners for the marshy slog out. 2 hours later we were back at the cars. Tired but psyched to have completed one of the longest alpine routes in Utah.

Matt Tuttle and Nathan Smith on the summit of Ostler peak after the first ascent of Siren Song WI4 M4 1600'

Matt Tuttle and Nathan Smith on the summit of Ostler peak after the first ascent of Siren Song WI4 M4 1600'

With summit included we were 15.8 miles round-trip. 

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