Monday, January 13, 2014

Williams Peak - April 28, 2013

Weekend before last my friend Troy and I thought we would go have a look at the June Couloir, hoping to find it mostly covered in snow or ice.

This was kind of a last minute adventure, and we were in a rush as we left town late on Saturday evening, which may have contributed to the fact that I made a number of mistakes this weekend. The first was underestimating the Sawtooth Snowpack! While there doesn't seem to be much snow left in the Boise Mountains, or on the south faces of the Lost Rivers until you get up to a high altitude, the Sawtooths are still covered! We neglected to bring skis or snowshoes and paid for it with waist deep postholing all day. At one point we saw a group skiing a beautiful looking Couloir to the north of Williams and I was very jealous of their mode of travel. This definitely influenced my decision to strap the skis on and check out the Super Gully this past weekend.

When we finally managed to slog to the base of the June Couloir we found that it looked like a lot more loose-rock climbing and a lot less snow and ice climbing than we had hoped for. I'd be OK with rock if it was somewhat solid, but didn't have the stomach for what looked to be a steep choss horror-show. That's when I remembered reading this post about the Redemption Couloir and the east ridge. The redemption couloir was all snow all the way up to the ridge, and even had some ski tracks in it. We made short work of the couloir. At the ridge we roped up and climbed 4 or 5 pitches of extremely loose rock. Fortunately the climbing was never very hard, and since we were on a ridge all the loose pieces fell down the sides and not onto my friend Troy who was belaying me. Seems this would have been terrifying to climb unroped, although there wasn't very much good gear anyway . . . Despite the loose rock, the postion and exposure on the ridge were amazing!

All the postholing earlier in the day had taken their toll on the clock, 6pm rolled around when we reached what looked to be the end of the tricky rock, with nothing but an easy snow field separating us from the summit, which still looked several hundred feet away. Somewhere around this time I realized my second (and worst) mistake, in the rush to get our packs together I'd forgotten my headlamp! What a bonehead move that was! The late hour, plust my lack of light, made the decision to skip the summit and start the glissade descent an easy one.

Down we went, glissading in an old avy path. The warm day meant that the snow down lower was very soft and wet, so we couldn't glissade very far. Eventually we were force to resume the heinous postholing, sometimes past our waist, that seemed it would never end. "Thank you sir! May I have another?" During this time I realized my third mistake, no gaiters. I usually dislike them as they tend to make my feet hot, which makes them sweat more. This day, as I typically do, I skipped the real gaiters in favor of the built-in gaiters on my boots. This usually works just fine . . . not today. It didn't take long before I could feel the water sloshing around in my boots with every step. The wet, sloshing, postholing went on and on . . .

Thanks to Idaho's generous daylight hours we managed to make it all the way down out of the worst snow before it got fully dark. Troy had an extra flashlight for me, although it only seemed to work for a few seconds at a time. In the dark, with my flashing flashlight, we stumbled back down the last parts of the trail, then back out Redfish Lake Road toward the car. When we got there we checked the watch: 17:15 car to car. Ouch.

We were exhausted, but both of us had to be at work the next day. We started the drive, electing to go out through Sun Valley with the hopes of finding a restaurant still open for a late dinner. No luck. Gas station food would have to do. We then took turns driving. Each of us sleeping while the other went as far as they could until they could hold their eyes open any more. At which point we would switch. Funny how the most dangerous part of a 17 hour day in the mountains is the drive home. Anyway, we made it. I was in bed by the decent hour of 3:30am.

It was an exhausting but rewarding day!

Trudging uphill in a firmer portion of snow:
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Redemption Couloir:
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Climbing the couloir:
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Me, leading a portion of the ridge:
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Troy at one of the belays:
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Troy at an exposed step-around:
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Troy at a section of downclimbing that led to the final snowfield:
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