4/22/2022 3:55:00 AM, Nathan

Mount Julius Caesar (#64)

Day 56, Mount Julius Caesar

The trip started out well: a lovely walk through the pine grove deep in Pine Creek canyon.

I had three days of food and an ambitious plan: a long loop, containing 7 SPS peaks – Julius Caesar, Gabb, Hilgard, Seven Gables, Gemini, Royce, and Merriam. Most of the peaks were over 13,000 feet, and I would carry overnight gear over four high passes. The linkup was bold and aesthetic, and I was stoked. The forecast called for moderate winds and a dusting of snow on the third day, but nothing terribly concerning.

As I made my way up the winding trail, however, I saw dark clouds gathering above the jagged peaks. Quickly, the morning sun was obscured.

Undeterred, I continued on, climbing through a barren valley to Italy Pass.

As I crested the pass, I was met with the full force of a powerful west wind. Moments later, it started snowing, flurries quickly turning to heavy showers.

I stashed my gear and picked my way up a steep boulder field towards Julius Caesar. As I climbed, the rock quickly became coated with snow and ice.

I tagged the summit in a total whiteout, blindly returning to the pass. I hunkered down on the leeward side of a boulder and took stock of my situation. I had planned to climb Gabb that evening, but, barring a drastic improvement in the weather, that was out of the question. Descending the west side of the pass, deeper into the backcountry towards Lake Italy, promised a chilly, exposed night in an ever-growing storm.

Retreating back down the east side could provide sheltered camping and a much easier bail out. I debated, gazing blindly off into the whiteout one way, then the other. I ultimately decided that I hadn’t lugged 3 days of food up that pass for nothing.

I steeled my resolve, faced the driving storm head on, and descended to the west. My glasses were quickly iced over, so I took them off, squinting hard, ice stinging my face. I skied down the slope with virtually no visibility. At times I thought I had coasted to a stop, then I would slide into a bump, careening off balance.

Slowly, I picked my way down to Lake Italy, found a small boulder, and frantically pitched my tent on its leeward side. I dove into the fragile shelter, wet and cold, eager for reprieve from the storm. I slowly unpacked my things, made dinner, then dozed off for a fitful night of sleep, often awoken by the nylon walls flapping in the wind.

Continue reading in the Mount Gabb and Mount Hilgard trip report.

View the activity here.

More pictures