Mountains has taken a back seat to my running this past year so I signed up for a refresher interm. alpine mountaineering course. I've never been to the northern part of the Sierras, specifically the Sawtooth Ridge area and it definitely did not disappoint. It was just as beautiful as anything else in the Sierras but without the crowds. We were outnumbered 2:1 by skiers or split boarders but there were a few couloirs to choose from, that and with the standard shouts down the mountain to alert people ascending it was pretty safe for all. We took the east couloir of which the first 1/2 reminded of the mountaineers route however the upper portions did get somewhat steeper topping out at about 40-45% grade the last 100 ft. or so. Climbers with good foot work and confidence can climb up without a rope but crampons and an ice axe are definitely a must. Beyond the couloir we traversed the west side (I believe without the snow there is a trail there) where we negotiated some slushy, punchy snow. This was the sketchiest part of the route IMHO. Once we got through the slippery slush we scrambled up some class 3 to finally reach the breathtaking summit ridge then to the small summit plateau. The trip back down was uneventful, I actually did not use crampons down the couloir and simply took my time plunge stepping with poles.
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