I have climbed the North Face of Chair Peak in winter a half dozen times over the years, but my first trip up was the most memorable. I was still in school and I climbed with an ‘older’ climber who was 35 at the time. He was fond of making his own gear. We slept in the car at the parking lot to get the requisite alpine start at 2:30 am. We slowly made the approach, leaving excess gear at the thumbtack. Despite our early start (and due to our slow approach) we were one of a dozen parties on the face, all vying for a line on face. Fortunately it was thickly iced and everyone spread out. Outfitted with one state of the art Chouinard X tool and one north wall hammer I launched up a line just right of the commonly climbed dihedral and traversed left to the block with a fixed pin just as another leader was arriving. I chopped a step, placed two screws that bottomed out and set the belay. I nervously brought up my second and hoped he wouldn’t fall and rip the belay. I was watching another leader, about 100 feet up when he leaned back and fell off the face. He fell past his belayer and well down the slope towards Snow Lake. A half dozen climbers went over, bundled him up and hiked out with him. Crazy!
The rest of the ascent went smoothly under the best conditions I have seen. We scrambled to the summit and took hero shots, then made our way down to the col where we met two climbers looking for rappel anchors. Apparently the normal anchors were buried under snow. The four of us spent an hour driving in pitons only to have the block fall out or the pin bottom. Finally we got two pins in, one half driven, the other flexing in the crack. My partner tried to convince me to pull out the worst pin to save gear. I declined and held my breath as I rapped over the cornice watching both pins flex under my weight. I thought to myself that they wouldn’t last through the season. The pins we placed are still there, backed up with a spider’s web of slung blocks, more pins and what not.