Pre-tripI have made a few trips to Colchuck Lake over the last couple years and looked at the massive peaks that tower above the Lake and at the time wouldn't have even dreamed of climbing them. As short as last year on my Enchantments day hike in August the thought never really occurred to me to summit anything in the area.
This past year in Colorado has changed me. Starting in late August when classes started for the 2010-2011 year I all of a sudden felt the need to get more summits. For all of last fall I went out for more summits. I wanted to get more confident on snow travel so I bought my crampons in February and this cool wet spring we have had forced me to buy my snowshoes in the beginning of May.
Some of the climbs I did this past spring in Colorado were more like mountaineering climbs rather than the traditional summer "hikes" I have done in the past.
I now consider my comfort level in snow to be pretty good...something I thought I'd never have. Oddly enough, I am now determined to learn full fledged glacier travel.
So I decided to start easy. I asked Josh if he wanted to join me on a climb up the Colchuck glacier to summit Colchuck. He agreed and one more person joined us. We were off to Leavenworth by a little after 5am. After some stops along the was we arrived at the trailhead only to realize I don't have a FS pass.
Oh well, guess that only adds a couple hundred feet to our walk since we had to park on the "other" side of the "Entering fee area" sign.
That's five dollars better spent on pizza later that evening!
The ClimbThe three of us hit the trail just before 9am and talked about more mountains all the way to the lake. We took a quick break at the old cabin foundation that sits on a big rock at the very end of Colchuck Lake.
It was pretty cloudy but the air was crisp and we still had good views of Dragontail and Colchuck. Aasgard Pass was melting out nicely but the Colchuck Glacier was in great condition with complete snow cover nearly down to the lake.
Colchuck Lake is now completely melted out and we got some great reflection photos early on.
The mountain goats at the lake showed no fear and walked right up to us as if they were desperate for something!
We continued around the lake until we hit the snow marking the bottom edge of the glacier. We put the crampons on the started heading up.
All that time in Colorado climbing really paid off as I managed a stellar pace up the glacier despite being very clumsy on snow. Even with my crampons on I managed to slip a few times.
We made it to the top of the col but we passed the base of the clouds and were in fog at the col. We stopped here for a quick break and saw a group of three coming down. They told us they not once saw a view. I wasn't fooled because with my luck we will get at least 3 good clearings!
We continued onward up the talus on Colchuck Peak's south slope crossing one more snowfield before getting to the summit. We passed my more fearless wildlife that included a fat marmot.
When we first got to the summit we were still socked in but merely 2 minutes later we got a decent clearing and saw views to the south.
We sat at the summit for 45 minutes without anyone else up there.
We then made our way back to the col where more clearings came in! Dragontail in particular looks ominous in the passing clouds.
We then prepared for the epic glissade. Despite the cloudiness the snow had softened up nicely and the glissade down was one of the best I've ever done. I even managed to cheat death by sliding right over a moat... Phew!
Once we were back at the lake, the reflection of Cashmere was beautiful.
And one last look at Dragontail before parting down the trail.
The hike back down the trail was made quicker by all the arguing we did about stupid stuff...mainly having to do with things I hate!
All in all a fantastic climb. I climbed up my first glacier and got to witness crevasses and snow moats. Hopefully soon enough I can travel on bigger glaciers and summit Glacier Peak sometime...a big goal of mine.