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US alternatives to summer Alps trip

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If summer trips to Europe are off the cards* but US is on a green list** for travel, where are good places to go for a ~2 week holiday Alpine trip?

Some criteria for similarity with the Alps would be something like:

  • Accessible from an airport within a few hours' drive
  • Base camp in/near a town with reasonable amenities and accommodation (doesn't need to involve actual camping - could also be B&B/gite type places)
  • Good number of objectives with a mix of grades from PD-AD+ for mountaineering and Fr5a-6c for rock
  • Refuges / huts?
  • Cragging and walking options on rest days?

Clearly these criteria are for a "relaxed yet exciting" type of trip, nothing extreme, the likes of which I know many on here like to do...

*Speculative

**High speculative

In reply to OG:

I'm not sure you'll find snow/ice mountains in summer comparable with the Alps. Perhaps better to embrace the world class semi-alpine rock that the US does without compare. So the High Sierras or The Wind Rivers (perhaps combined with the Tetons) might be obvious choices. Though I think you might struggle for the alpine set up of nearby valley flesh-pots and huts in the mountains. Perhaps Bishop would work for The Sierras (and it has some local cragging and a bit of bouldering) or Jackson Hole for The Tetons. 

In reply to OG:

Dunno how exactly it compares as I’ve never been to the Alps, but I’m planning to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in September, staying near Estes Park (not far from Denver). I think the snow is mostly gone by then, but the rock climbing looks amazing. 

(I’m from neighboring New Mexico, so will be taking advantage of a family visit. There’s loads of climbing there too and even some nice long mountain routes, but far less developed.)

Post edited at 19:38
 cdpej 06 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

I think there is a reason you see so many American guides and their clients in the Alps every summer.  

In reply to OG:

Moderate rock climbing, peak bagging/ modest alpinism, challenging and accessible trails, decent town...you want to go to Ouray, Colorado. Telluride is the next valley over. There’s some Airbnb and a great climbers hostel. It’s pretty cheap and there’s so much to do in the realms you describe. I’d be happy to point you to more specifics, but the western slope is....it’s dope. Fly to Grand Junction I think? Maybe Montrose?

Post edited at 20:25
 Lrunner 06 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

If you can afford it another vote for Jackson Hole. Super close to an airport though you'll have to go through Denver or Salt Lake but the tetons are ace. The landing at Jackson hole airport is the best I'v ever done. The wind river range isn't too far away (by yank standards) and sinks canyon is good for cragging. I haven't done any climbing in the winds but did some great horse packing. 

If you can go I say go, totally different to the alps.

 pec 06 Apr 2021
In reply to alex505c:

> Dunno how exactly it compares as I’ve never been to the Alps, but I’m planning to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in September, staying near Estes Park (not far from Denver). I think the snow is mostly gone by then, but the rock climbing looks amazing. 

Just watch out for those thunderstorms which roll in very quickly on a regualr basis. I've never been anywhere where thunderstorms were so common. Sometimes they don't even have decency to wait until the afternoon, late morning will do!

http://www.rockymountainhikingtrails.com/lightning-hiking-rocky-mountains.htm

 neilh 07 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

At the moment it’s 14 day quarantine into the USA.  I have not read of any plans for the USA to drop this requirement.  Have you read anything along those lines?

In reply to pec:

Good to know!

 S Andrew 07 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

The Cascades would cover most of your list but lack a Chamonix-style valley base.

 Jim Lancs 07 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

I too would advocate going to do stuff in the States on its own merit rather than looking for a European Alps substitute.

One thing 'over there' has in abundance is space. You can walk in one direction for a week without seeing anyone or anything. There are still mountains (albeit a long, long way from the road and are basically just piles of frost shattered rubble) that have (understandably) only ever had one ascent.  But you won't forget the view from the top.

 joe.91 07 Apr 2021
In reply to OG

Bugs, Canada

 seankenny 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I'm not sure you'll find snow/ice mountains in summer comparable with the Alps. Perhaps better to embrace the world class semi-alpine rock that the US does without compare.

So much of US climbing is, from a European perspective, astonishingly under-resourced in terms of guidebooks. The are loads of world-class climbing areas with no or out of print guides - there is a lot of rock and it tends to be located quite a long way from the major centres of population. So for research Mountain Project is your friend...

High Sierras:

https://www.mountainproject.com/area/105791817/high-sierra

Sequoia and Kings NP, California:

https://www.mountainproject.com/area/108147148/sequoia-kings-canyon-np

Adventurous and very off-piste Utah:

https://www.mountainproject.com/area/105787863/san-rafael-swell

 Ged Desforges 07 Apr 2021

I'd head to tuolumne meadows. Absolutely loads of amazing low grade long rock climbs to do, in an amazing place with most likely stunning weather. 

 Roadrunner6 07 Apr 2021
In reply to neilh:

> At the moment it’s 14 day quarantine into the USA.  I have not read of any plans for the USA to drop this requirement.  Have you read anything along those lines?

There's talk of an air corridor and dropping the quarantine.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/travel/usa-canada/travel-corridor-between-uk-could-23789450

It's been in a few major papers over the last week or so. As two of the most advanced nations in terms of vaccinations I think it's very possible.

 Roadrunner6 07 Apr 2021
In reply to seankenny:

There's a real desire to keep things quiet in the US. even in pretty populated areas like New England many local crags have no guidebooks and is word of mouth.

 seankenny 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Roadrunner6:

> There's a real desire to keep things quiet in the US. even in pretty populated areas like New England many local crags have no guidebooks and is word of mouth.

Interesting. Surely that exacerbates rather than reduces honeypotting? And whilst I’ve heard of all sorts of access issues around private land in New England (not been so just what I’ve read), I find it bizarre in the Sierras or elsewhere in the west. 

 Roadrunner6 07 Apr 2021
In reply to seankenny:

> Interesting. Surely that exacerbates rather than reduces honeypotting? And whilst I’ve heard of all sorts of access issues around private land in New England (not been so just what I’ve read), I find it bizarre in the Sierras or elsewhere in the west. 

That's what I think. But also if you find a new crag and start to clean it up, surely you want people climbing there to keep it clear.

The issue is the lack of public land so I know spots around me which are semi legal, sort of like the slate quarries. Climbing is tolerated rather than permitted, or people don't even know the crag is being used at all.

 Martin Hore 07 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

Another vote for Tetons and/or Wind Rivers. I've been twice, but last in the late 90's so things will have changed. There was good alpine style climbing in the northern Winds then, but global warming will have taken it's toll on the glaciers. We went south to the Cirque of the Towers for 6 days. It's a long day's trek in with kit, but once there the opportunities for medium-long rock routes are amazing - all on perfect granite. We saw one bear - there's talk of more now - even grizzlies - but with proper precautions that should be manageable. You won't be alone camping above Lonesome Lake, but there's bags of climbing for everyone.

We then went to the Tetons for the second half of our trip. Jackson Hole is not Chamonix but should suffice for you. We stayed in bunkhouse accommodation up the road at Moose. One bivouac to do the Grand Teton by the Exum route; everything else was single day trips.

We flew to Denver and hired a car there.  

I recommend it.

Martin

In reply to OG:

Thanks everyone for the replies so far! Some epic trip ideas here, whether it works out this year or must wait until the future.

So far looks like:

  • Jackson Hole as a base for Tetons and Wind Rivers. Seems you can do a fair few Teton routes as long day trips from JH but might be more fun with overnight camps.
  • Bishop as a base for Sierras/Tolumne, but with lots of camping (though Sierra permits look tricky for the alpine stuff... do Yanks just pick a date and hope the weather is good?!)
  • Other options as Cascades, RMNP, and Ouray/Telluride.

Definitely hard (as someone mentioned) to find guidebook type info vs the European Alps, but that could be familiarity to an extent too. But I find planning these trips is half the fun!

Post edited at 21:05
In reply to S Andrew:

Cascades look great! Any ideas where one could base oneself in the Cascades for a multi-week period? Sorry if it's an obvious question, but I'm struggling to get my head around US geography (even with Google's help).

In reply to OG:

I've got the perfect Colorado combo for you - just follow in the footsteps of our "The Diamond and The Black" road-trip. A warm up on Lumpy Ridge in the Rocky Mountain National Park followed by an ascent of The Casual Route on The Diamond on Long's Peak.

The Casual Route (5.10a)

Then head across the State to the legendary Black Canyon of the Gunnison to acclimatise yourself before getting on The Scenic Cruise

Scenic Cruise (5.10d)

Stop in to climb Independence Monument in Colorado National Monument before heading back to Boulder to do Outer Limit in Eldorado Canyon

Outer Space (5.10b 5b)

before wrapping up the trip with an ascent of the mellow and wildly aesthetic Petit Grepon. 

You'll find a video slideshow here:

https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2021/01/06/the-diamond-and-the-black-lockdown-slideshow/

... and blog posts with logistics, beta and photos here:

https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/category/usa/rockies/

You'd be hard pressed to have a better fortnight in the Alps! 

Cheers, Dom 

 S Andrew 08 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

Suitable base for a long trip is the big problem with the Cascades.

I’d suggest as a first step seeing if you can get your hands on Selected Climbs in the Cascades. 

The National Park might have some helpful orientation info too. (As a US national park it’s oriented very much towards preserving the wilderness by limiting numbers/camping rather than the UK type which is more a cross between tourism and planning board)

 George Ormerod 08 Apr 2021
In reply to joe.91:

> In reply to OG

> Bugs, Canada

Currently you have to pay $2000 for a quarantine hotel and then when you get a negative test you still have to quarantine elsewhere for a total of 14 days. I’m not sure this will change in time for the summer.

By the way Rogers Pass in BC is great and probably has a better variety of climbing than the Bugs, which is obviously fantastic for alpine rock  

In reply to OG:

Another vote for the Tetons, absolutely stunning area. Some good airbnb 'condos' available up Moose Wilson Road, roughly halfway between Jackson Hole and the NP. There's a half decent bus service to Jackson Hole for a good 'early doors' session...

In reply to S Andrew:

> Suitable base for a long trip is the big problem with the Cascades.

Leavenworth might work I think (I based a few days around there once), though, like many areas of the US, part of the pleasure of a trip is being mobile and using the many excellent forest campsites. Another plus point of The Cascades is that you could get some snow climbing on the volcanoes (Glacier Peak was a  nice outing). 

 Trangia 08 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

What about Canada and Alaska? Being further north aren't the snow/glacier conditions more "Alpine"? But getting into the mountains is more of an expedition ie camping and less "civilised" in terms of non climbing facilities. 

 Roadrunner6 08 Apr 2021
In reply to Trangia:

Canada is pretty strict on entry at the moment. As far as I know the border to the US is still closed. They were pretty far behind us in terms of vaccinations.

In reply to joe.91: Apparently Canada is no longer part of the US? And their Covid is out of control and lead to infighting. I’m not kidding about any of this. Oh no, Canada.

 rpc 10 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

North Cascades in WA (a.k.a. American Alps) are pretty spread out. 

Down south, towns like Cle Elum, WA or even Ellensburg would be reasonable launch points for climbs in Mt. Stuart area (its N. Ridge route is one of the 50 classic climbs of NA).  You'd probably still need to bivy in the backcountry to do most climbs there.

Further north are The Enchantments with perfect granite and some classic lines (check out Prussik Peak for example or something like Backbone Ridge on Dragontail Peak).  Leavenworth, WA would be ideal (good cragging right outside of town; check out Snow Creek Wall & its classic Outer Space route) but Wenatchee, WA would work in a pinch too (& be way cheaper).

Even further north is Washington Pass (look at a route called Liberty Crack, another 50 classics example) with its "alpine cragging" (alpine views with crag-like approaches).  Also look at Wine Spires in the same area (those do involve significant uphill slogs though) For this place & many other climbs along highway 20, Mazama, WA (there's also The Goat Wall right above the village with some looong bolted routes on mediocre stone...but easy access) would be ideal or Winthrop or Twisp (bit further east) would work too.

For a more complete taste of N. Cascades (eg. long approaches involving snow or glacier travel), look at routes like W. Ridge on Forbidden (or Torment-Forbidden Traverse), NE Ridge of Mt. Triumph, or something on Inspiration Peak (E. Ridge is pretty alpine-y).  All of those likely require an overnighter with the last one probably needing 3 days in the backcountry.

For more quality cragging, check out Index as well.  No approach required and the granite is just so perfect.

Weather is generally solid July-August.  I think the biggest problem could be finding vacancy if you decide to go at the last minute.  Also, many of the above require backcountry permits if you're going to overnight (those are very hard to come by esp. for a place like The Enchantments...even weekdays).  Same goes for some of the other places mentioned here:  Sierras, Tetons, Rocky Mtns. NP.  Exception is the Wind Rivers - no permits (Pinedale, WY would be the jumping off point for Cirque Of the Towers).  Good luck.

Post edited at 00:42
 George Ormerod 10 Apr 2021
In reply to AtLargesse:

> Apparently Canada is no longer part of the US? And their Covid is out of control and lead to infighting. I’m not kidding about any of this. Oh no, Canada.

Whilst our vaccination campaign isn't going that well (due to our lack of domestic production), despite the US giving 165 million doses of vaccine, the per capita infection rates are still higher there.  The Atlantic provinces and Territories have also managed the pandemic nearly as well as Australia and NZ.

 redjerry 10 Apr 2021
In reply to OG:

you didn't really specify, but if it's more alpine as opposed to alpine rock then The Canadian Rockies has the most to offer, and actually ticks all your boxes pretty well.
Of course, the adventure quotient can be rather high up there.
Canada, like the USA has fairly strict access restrictions at the moment, but that might change by the summer.


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