Solo on Golden Horn2009/10/11
Golden Horn 13,780
Ice Lake Basin Trail, Parked at the Upper Switchback
Last week I made an attempt to tour the Ice Lakes Basin for the first time. The forecast was marginal, but I thought I might get lucky. I arrived at the main TH and ended up taking a nap in the Subi and calling it a day. The weather was actually worse after my nap.
The weather report for today 10/11 was sunny but breezy (gusts up to 50mph). I was on the road towards the Silverton area shortly after 4:00. It takes roughly 2 hours or a little more to get to the TH. I decided to try to make the upper TH and was no problem in the Forester (I think in dry weather most cars could make it).
I started with my headlight. The stars were brilliant before yielding to the light. The trail is first rate and I made good time until the lake. I was lucky to follow a recent party after the lake (probably 2 parties of 2 on Sat.). I saw a few cairns after the lake, but mostly followed the broken trail. The snow above the lake averaged less than a foot in depth, with drifts around 2 feet. At the Vermilion Saddle, the snow was mostly absent from the top of the ridge. It looked as if one party did a Vermilion/Golden Horn combo, which was my original plan. The snow level and lack of PPE (axe and partner) changed my plans. Also, I’ve had either the Flu or the worst cold I’ve ever had for the previous four days. I make a terrible patient and called myself well enough. I’m sure I was hypoxic a couple of times as I had the light in the tunnel feeling like I was going to pass out.
At the saddle I took some photos in all directions. The wind had been steadily on the increase as the day progressed and was getting to be a real problem. Then, as if right out of a Ken Nolan winter TR, I was picked up and deposited a few feet downrange. I thought that was remarkable, since I weigh about 225. I donned my ice climbing gloves and fought for the summit. I was eventually victorious.
The wind actually continued to get worse on descent. My tracks were totally covered by blowing snow. I ended up taking the direct route a few times, plunge stepping in knee deep drifts. It was grim getting below Ice lake. I didn’t bring gaitors and had wet feet. I was soaked from sweating, but didn’t want shed any layers until out of the wind better. Below the upper shelf things calmed down. I was able to drink without immediately being cold.
Good times the rest of the way.....