Crescent Moon Couloir

Page Type
Trip Report
California, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
May 17, 2006
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Created On: May 24, 2006
Last Edited On: May 24, 2006

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It was looking to be another hot day in Carson City when in the midst of finishing up the planting of my garden I looked out toward the mountains and decided that the garden can wait. I quickly packed my truck and headed up toward Carson Pass for some high altitude adventure. I heard about the Crescent Moon Couloir from a couple of friends who have done it. I figured it was time for me to see what all the fuss was about.

I parked just East of the summit at the first pullout that didn't have a no parking sign. I headed out around 8:30 over the snow without snowshoes since the snow seemed pretty hard. I made my way through the trees heading in the general direction of Round Top. When I first broke through the trees and saw the Peak close up for the first time I realized that I may have bit off more than I can chew. The couloir looked very intimidating especially in light of the fact that it didn't even begin until one kick stepped hundreds of feet up a steep snow field. In addition, from my vantage point the angle seemed impossibly teep.
My confidence a bit shaken, I decided that I'd continue on and look things over with the idea that I can always turn around if the terrain looked too dicey.

As I came up to the first of the real steep terrain I decided that I'd head straight up the first slope at the absolute steepest section so I could guage my abilities on a safer ground before I even set foot in the couloir.

After approximately 500 or 600 feet I came to an area of flat rocks where I stopped for a bite and to don my crampons and helmet. I then headed to the entrance of the couloir where upon glimpsing the couloir from the base I decided that I could do it. I pulled my second smaller ice ace from my pack and slowly began ascending the chute. I really wasn't sure what the conditions in the chute would be like so I brought my ice climbing reverse curve axes in case the snow was hard, but as it turned out the snow was quite soft and I used the shaft of both axes instead of the picks to sink into the snow.

I have very little experience on snow in general and in couloirs in particular. A few years ago My partner John and I attempted to solo the Harrington Couloir but encountered hard blue ice conditions and had to chop an ice bollard to rappel back to the entrance of the couloir. From there, while front pointing our way back to the talus field John lost his balance and began tumbling head over kiester toward serious injury if not death at the rocks located at the base of the ice field. After nearly two hundred feet John somehow arrested his fall with his ice axe. That was my last forey into a couloir.

A third of the way up the couloir I encountered another chute heading up and to the left of the main route. I stayed to the right mainly to stay in the "crescent." After all it was the Crescent Moon Couloir. The higher I climbed into the couloir the steeper it became. I stopped looking down as I realized that a fall from the main part of the chute would be grim indeed. I also limited my glimpses above me to the absolute minimum as I realized that the best way to limit any psychological issues would be to just compartmentalize the climb into small sections of two or three steps each. As I neared the top the angle reached the steepest of the climb and the snow became very unconsolidated and unstable, but I soon found myself standing on solid, flat ground totally stoked by my climb and the awsome viewscape before me.

After bagging the summit and signing 1000 peaks pete's log I downclimbed seriously rotton rock to the East of the summit for five hundred feet or so until I gratefully stepped onto high angle snow again which after dealing with the rock on the downclimb seemed like a walk in the park. I glissaded and punch stepped all the way down to the base of the peak where I unexpectedly ran into some firefighters from Sacramento who just bagged the summit via some other route. We chatted a while and they seemed impressed by my route to the summit though one of them upon parting said that I shouldn't be out here doing this by myself, which I thought was weird.

I was back at my truck within an hour or so and back at the garden with plenty of time to finish getting in the remainder of the crops before the end of the day.

Don Reyes


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