Up and Down in 18 hrs
My partner and I certainly didn't set any records with this time, but in light of the amount of snow from the late winter/spring storms, and the ridiculous post holing, we did pretty good.
We left the climbers parking lot at 6 am. We reached Sam Mack Meadow at 10:30 a.m, after some dilly dallying around. Beyond Sam Mack Meadow there was a great deal of snow, so climbing to the glacier meant cramp-ons all the way.
We arrived at the top of the moraine/base of the glacier around 12:30. There was quite a bit of snow, and the bergschrund was minimal on North Pal, etc.
We followed the path of someone else up to the easiest route to make the saddle between Gayley and Sill.
We topped the saddle at 3:30 p.m. As we began the North Couloir snow field, my partner decided he needed to hang it up, so he downclimbed to the saddle to wait for me. The snow conditions in the Couloir were MISERABLE, just like the rest of the mountain, because of our late start time, etc., so my feet felt like they were in a goldfish bowl.
I came to the West Face Class 3 traverse and crossed with no problems. Climbing out of the West Face was challenging, but the snow climb was minimal, and then the hand holds were generous.
I hit the summit at 4:30 p.m. Total ascent time 10 1/2 hours.
We arrived back at the car at midnight, longer than I expected. Total climb time was 18 hrs. We then drove back to Sacramento immediately.
The Class 3 Traverse of North Couloir
Good read for those curious regarding the overall difficulty of the North Couloir.
Background: I am a weekend mountaineer, with a few simple 14,000 foot climbs of relative ease to my credit. I have led a few 5.9 multi pitch climbs at Lover Leap.
I was concerned regarding the descriptions of difficulty for the North Coulior of Mount Sill. Just how challenging is that traverse and subsequent climb?
The year we climbed this route, the area had seen some significant snow fall late in the Winter/Early Spring. Although overall averages remain low, these late storms left quite a bit of powder on The Cerc, as well as the Class 3/4 traverse.
As such, when I traversed the West Face, the circumstances were different. Other climbers before me had decided to kick step into the snow and traverse below the ridge which would be what you would traverse with no snow. This proved appropriate under the circumstances.
However, this then created an extra 10-15 foot snow climb to get to the Class 4 climb out of the West Face, and this was beyond what I had done previously. That being said, I did it, and downclimbed it, with no protection (I had to solo it; my partner tuckered out on the saddle).
So, check out the pics of this traverse. I would say that if there were no snow, I agree the climbing is relatively easy, and the exposure is manageable, making it in my opinion a strong overall Class 3 traverse and climb out.