Andrews Glacier and Taylor Peak

Taylor Peak via Andrews Glacier is a trip Eric, Kevin, and I have been talking about for a long time. I’ve been up Taylor from the other side and up Andrews on my way to Flattop. Heck, Amy and I once attempted this trip as an overnight trip but I’ve never managed to go up and down Andrews in the same day and it’s a beautiful part of the Park no matter how many times you’ve been there. In any case, Eric and Kevin have shiny new ice axes and are looking for something to do with them. We started at the crack of 7 am and made good time up the summer cut-off and up to the Loch. The day was gorgeous and we had great ambitions and we were much heartened by the fact that the snow seemed to mostly hold our weight as we got above tree line.

Yaktraks are *not* crampons! (photo by Eric)

Eric climbs above Andrews Tarn

The slope below Andrews Tarn is definitely the crux of the route. It’s shorter, but far steeper than Andrews Glacier itself and holds significant avalanche danger in the winter (though not so much today). Still, it’s not so steep and I anticipated any problems. None of us had brought real crampons, but we had axes and hiking poles and a strong will to use them. Eric and Kevin ascended the north side gully; a concave snow slope above what, in another month will be, the outflow stream from the Tarn. I had brought YakTraks and was interested to see how they’d do on moderate snow, so I tackled the steepest nose of the slope I could find. They may be fine on level ice, but on snow the verdict is “worse than no traction at all.” I plunged axe and pole and pulled myself up mostly with upper body strength.

Eric on the Divide

Once at the tarn, we paused for breath, then tackled the glacier itself. It’s not terribly steep and doesn’t look very long. But the slope is convex and you can never see very far ahead. Thus it seems to go on forever. When we finally arrived at the Divide, I strode gratefully for the tundra… and immediately fell waist deep into a covered bergshrund! There was at least another yard of air under me, but fortunately my pack and arms stopped my fall into the abyss. It’s rare enough to find crevasses and other glacial hazards in Colorado; Andrews Glacier was the last place I’d expected to find them!

This was as close as Kevin was willing to get to the 2000' precipise.

The final push to the summit of Taylor was a relentless push up a slope of tundra and felsenmere. The others might not know what lay ahead, but I did. The beauty of Taylor from this side is you don’t get the view until you arrive on the summit. And what a view it is! Longs, Powell, Thatchtop, Chiefshead, Pagoda, and all the other Glacier Gorge summits arranged conveniently at eye level, decorated with steep snowfields and dark cliffs. In particular, the view nearly directly down 2000′ to Sky Pond and Lake of Glass takes your breath away no matter how many times you’ve seen it! I hustled ahead just to watch the reaction of the other two as they arrived on the summit and had to sit down for reasons only partly related to the thin air at 13,000′.

But this was the view he was missing!

We ate a quick lunch on the summit as clouds built in from the south. By the time we hurried off, it was getting distinctly threatening and we enjoyed the gravitational assist down to the glacier. Snow conditions back on the glacier were just right for a nice, long glissade nearly all the way down to the tarn. Then, it was a second glissade down the much scarier slopes below, dodging rocks and other hazards. The weather never really turned nasty though we did get a few sprinkles as we hiked back past the Loch. Tourists in sneakers and jeans admired our rugged bearing and we felt quite smug looking back up at towering Taylor Peak.

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