Some great views of The Diamond once you top out o...
Hike to Chasm Lake, walk about halfway around its north side (or just cross the lake when frozen), and ascend 400 feet of talus to the base of a very prominent gully on the south side of Mount Lady Washington. This gully leads to the saddle between the twin summits of the peak.
Climb the gully for 700-800 feet, and then scramble up 400 feet of talus to the top. Descend the east ridge of Lady Washington to the trail junction at the west end of Mills Moraine. It may be possible to return to the base of the route by descending a ramp which leads to the mouth of the gully. This ramp is quite evident as one approaches from Chasm Lake (it lies to the right of the route), and it appears as though it leads to open talus on the southeast shoulder of the mountain.
The route itself alternates between 40-50 degree snow chutes and tight, bottleneck constrictions in the gully. There are a total of five bottlenecks; the first, third and last are the most difficult (M2+, perhaps M3-). In the conditions we encountered, there were small ice flows at each of the constrictions, thick enough to accept short ice screws. The final exit out of the gully (the fifth bottleneck) provides a great finish to what we thought was a very worthwhile mountaineering route.
Bring a light rock rack with a few short and medium screws. One ice axe is sufficient.
I submitted this as a new route only because it doesn't appear in any guidebook, and I know of no one who's done it. It would be surprising to find that we actually did the first ascent. If anyone knows who climbed this first, feel free to correct the FA info.
The suggested rack is an educated guess. We were hoping to hike up Long's Peak the day we did it and had only crampons and one axe each (no rope or gear). When we bailed from Long's because of high winds, we decided to salvage the day by climbing as far up the gully (Martha) as felt comfortable and ended up making it to the top. It appeared to us that an alert leader could find adequate protection and belays and that the ice at the hard spots was thick enough for (short) ice screws.
Given that this year is one of the driest we've had in the last century, it's reasonable to suspect that the conditions we found are not the norm for this route. I'm guessing there's usually a lot more snow in the gully, so much more that the mixed bottlenecks may be entirely buried (which would be too bad -- the bottlenecks give the route its character). Go do the route in the next 6 weeks, and you'll likely find it in conditions similar to what's described above. It may provide good climbing (rather than just a long snow slog) in a normal year as well -- time will tell.
It's a good distance right (east) of the Camel gully. The Camel drops into the lower portion of Mills' Glacier, while Martha drops from the pass between the twin summits of Lady Washington to the talus above the north shore of Chasm Lake. If the line of the gully is continued through the talus, it'd drop right into the lake about halfway around.
I spoke with Topher Donahue about the FA, and he thinks the CMS may have guided this route on different occasions over the years (which is just as I suspected). It's curious that it's never been given a name, because it's a pretty cool route (we thought so anyway).
I climbed a gully/ice route on the Southwest face of Mt. Lady Washington with Tom Jensen last Saturday. The Sunshine Gully - I'll call it for now contained 4 full pitches of WI3, M4 kinda fun stuff. Has anyone done this? Know of it, or beta on it? Approach by Chasm Lake, about 1/2 way around the lake on the normal trail. Bust up right on scree and into the gully. Top out by the summit and retreat by hiking down the east face of Mt. Lady Wash. Your input would be appreciated. BTW: look for some pic's of Alexander's, Smear, and Crazy Train, I'll post. All forming nicely, just about ready for you.
Climbed on 11/4. Great route, personally, I found more enjoyable than Dreamweaver, easier access, more ice (than when I climbed DW, June, but I got sick on DW at halfway, also). Time line: left trailhead at 4:00am. At P1 at 8am. P1- WI 2, M3- (awkward) 40 feet to moderate snow (200ft). P2 - WI2+, moderate snow to 15ft vertical ice step, moderate snow (250ft w. simul-climbing). P3 - WI2, M2+; some low angle rock into ice runnel, good stemming, one or more hands/feet on rock at all times (150ft). P4 - WI2+, M3; steepest, sustained part. Ice and rock to loose scree to steeper snow. More of previous pitch but a little bit harder. In better conditions, this would incredible! (230ft, some simul-climbing) P5- WI2+, M2+; Good ice, screw placements are "cored out" hard to find new ones that are not too close to old ones. Moderate, awarkward ice, to loose scree.
Top of route at 3pm- we let two guys from Neptune's pass us at mid-way. They simul climbed most of the route and probably finished an hour or so ahead of us. Trail head: 6pm
Finish- 300+ feet of scrambling to east ridge descent. Recommended gear- Nuts-small to mid, only small cams, pitons-4, screws-5, 6 slings and 2 screamers. No fixed gear that we saw.
Summary: Great route, great setting, good moderate climbing. Lots of loose rock, and you climb with your pack on the entire way so be prepared.
The rating I gave for this route when it was first posted is a little off. We climbed it in April 2002, and WI2+ M3- seemed about right for the conditions at that time (probably more snow in the gully for a spring ascent, which translates to shorter ice flows, not as much mixed climbing, and an easier rating). Just did it again yesterday (Dec. 28 2004), and I think WI3 M3 is more indicative of the difficulties for a late fall ascent.
The conditions are still excellent: good hard snow, a nice amount of ice, sheltered from the nasty wind.... I'm having a difficult time coming up with a more enjoyable alpine route in RMNP at this grade, and I think 3 stars is reasonable. It's a lot more interesting than Dream Weaver, for example (which I did again last July -- nice route, but not as good as Martha).
By Eli Helmuth From: Estes Park, CO Mar 22, 2006 rating: 5.33+10IIIVD 3a WI2+ M1
Ratings are a funny thing for alpine climbs as the routes are continually changing. Having said that, they typically have a "best" time when conditions are "easiest" or "most ideal". Martha is usually "best" in shape from Dec. through March-April. Because it is south facing, it gets great winter sun and the ice that forms in it is from snowmelt and the snow is typically firm due to the sun effect. When done in these typical mid-winter conditions, I have found it to be around WI2, 4th class in difficulty- the M system starts at 5.5 and after at least a dozen guided ascents since 2001, I have never found it more difficult than 5.3? Certainly if the snow or ice is missing, it would be more of a rock route and a loose one at that. I think of Martha as the winter equivalent to Dreamweaver.
By the time Martha is out of shape (end of April?), Dreamweaver is just starting to come into shape, and when they are both in "ideal" conditions, they are almost identical in difficulty except Dreamweaver is longer and higher with a better summit. I have climbed Dreamweaver when it is melted out, and it can be as hard as M3 staying right in the middle of the gully. Of course, ratings aren't what climbing is all about- it's all about the joy!
M5 is considered the equivalent to 5.9 in the rating system and calling this route even 5.6 is way off as it's not even comparable to 5.6s like the Bastille Crack and The Bulge (Eldo) or High Exposure (Gunks) or Osirus (5.7) at Lumpy Ridge. Check-out this page for more information on the mixed rating system: climbinglife.com/tech-tips/climbing-grade-comparative-chart.>>>
Both are beautiful, relatively easy alpine routes in one of the more classic settings in Colorado.
How's the route coming into shape? Any idea if Martha's will be in decent (protectable) conditions around X-mas week?
Eli's latest report says that the route is in. Is the high avy danger at the bottom of the route or is it on the way to Chasm, where I am at in this photo heading back from Chasm View?
By J. Fox From: Black Hawk, CO Feb 4, 2008 rating: 5.33+10IIIVD 3a WI3- M2
Anybody been up here recently? I'm heading up to do this route on 2/10/08 (avy condish permitting) with two teams of two. Would appreciate any beta on the approach conditions near Chasm View. Thanks!
By Eli Helmuth From: Estes Park, CO Feb 13, 2008 rating: 5.33+10IIIVD 3a WI2+ M1
The avalanche danger for Martha has been primarily in the middle of the photo above posted by Tracy. This slope can be avoided by:
1. Coming up the Peacock Pool/Chasm drainage and staying on the south side below the falls and meadows if conditions permit. This wouldn't be a long detour but will require flotation to get around some deeper snow. Being in the valley bottom could be a terrain trap if these slopes release while you are under them, so this risk should be thoroughly assessed. Or maybe better,
2. Without wind (good luck), hike to the Boulderfield and then up to the Camel descent and start down to Chasm Lake from just west of the summit of Mt. Lady Washington. From here, you could leave extra gear, do the Camel descent which is usually mostly large rocks and windswept enough to have minimal avalanche danger. The final couloir to the Mill's bivy spots could have some avi danger but below there, across Chasm, and up the route is typically LOW to MODERATE danger in the current, windswept conditions.
The route is likely in stellar conditions and these alternative approaches, in good weather, could make for a longer but more interesting alpine adventure. Let us know what you find?!
We just did the route yesterday and the word EPIC comes to mind. Good route and the preivous posts are right with the tiny ribbon on ice at the top. We got stuck high and the sun started setting.. so needless to say we came down in the dark and with a bunch of fresh white stuff. We had to rappel down part of the Camel Couloir. If anyone finds a yellow double ropes attached to a rap ring on two pitons, could you let me know? email@example.com.
By Rick Casey From: Lafayette, Colorado May 5, 2008
Climbed this May 4. Excellent snow, though a little mushy in the heat of the day. The two 'icy rock' sections at the beginning of P1 and end of P4 are thinning, though could still get a good stick on the ice crux on P4. The thin ice made ice screws difficult and risky to place, though still possible in spots. Rock protection is sparse but adequate. The trail up still had snow cover all the way. Additional warning: be sure to check your descent direction off the top of Mt Lady Washington, as it is quite easy to descend the northeast face (instead of the southeast arete), adding at least an hour to your hike out.
I was up it May 17, 2008. The snow was kind of crappy, but the ice in the pitch 4 crux was fat. I got two solid screws in it. I don't know how long these conditions will last though given the extremely warm temps forecasted this week.
During a late-season ascent (June 21st, 2008) of Martha we found you can escape the crux section by climbing the rock face to the left of the black rock (see Photo here). This section probably goes at 5.6ish and is doable if the crux is starting to melt out with questionable remaining ice. You'll have to deal with alpine Jenga, but at least you won't get wet.
By Curt Nelson From: Fort Collins, CO May 20, 2010 rating: 5.44a12IVVD 3c WI2 M3
In late April, we did the whole narrow technical part in two long pitches. I went to the left at the rock rib and thought that the step there (with a 10 ft. vertical gouge and a little undercut roof) was quite a bit harder than the upper "crux". I also thought the pro was quit hard to find the whole upper part. I did get in 2 ice screws and mostly small stoppers and cams. Could have used a knifeblade or two.
With regard to ice conditions, I did it with very dull KTS Steel Kahtoola crampons and a single CAMP Nanotech Corsa axe. There was some ice but not much and always a good stem onto rock or snow if needed to get around it. But, I think conditions are probably changing up there daily at this point.