The Hike In
June 7, 2009
Well, After 8 hours of hiking I made it back to the car with just a couple of blisters and some sore legs! The couloir was absolutely awesome. I started hiking close to 8am. The meadow just a ¼ mile away was filled with Elk, and soon my first obstacle was at hand.
The creek that fills Stanley lake was full to the rim with the rain of the past 3 days. The bogs just before this creek were noticeably deeper than the week prior. A week earlier Tom and I had walked the trail\bog to determine if the stream could be crossed without wading. I was concerned that the log we found would be too slick and\or the water would be too high. With a nice large walking stick in hand I slowly made my way across the log (No Problem!). This was actually the scariest part of the whole trip for me.
Another half mile of bogs and trees soaked with rain and it was time to jump off the trail and begin the lovely task of bush whacking up the steep forest slope to the base of the couloir. I really started to feel the heart rate jump here! After about a half an hour I made it to the base of the couloir at 9am.
I found a nice flat spot and started to gear up.
Brain Bucket – check
Crampons – check
Gloves – check
Ice axes – Check
Harness – check
The Main Couloir
I stepped out onto the frozen snow and to my enjoyment the snow conditions were perfect. I ascended a couple hundred feet then I had to jump out of the couloir to the left and cross a small rock spine to gain entrance into the main couloir. Wow this thing is HUGE! Looking down the main couloir I notice a small waterfall just below where I entered…
The next 4 hours consisted of ascending the couloir making sure to stay in the most protected part of the couloir at all times. The temperature was perfect. Looking off the northwest I could see some very ominous clouds..The weather threatened all day, but never produced any precipitation. This just increased my resolve to get to the top as fast and as safe as possible. Three points in contact with the snow at all times, slow and steady. Sections of this couloir definitely reach 60% where it narrows.
The last 20 feet were even steeper, but the snow conditions made it like walking up an enormous step ladder. This last section was a bit unnerving as the separation between the rock wall and the couloir created a 10 foot deep crevasse on either side. The narrow strip at the top was less than 8 feet wide. After close inspection of this formation I determined that it was good to go! This may be a show stopper in a week. It just depends on the weather and temperatures.
Once at the top I got out the cell phone just to see if I had reception. BAM! 5 bars! Sweet! I phoned my wife to tell her that I was at the top of the couloir and would be headed down the south side of the mountain. It was awesome to share this success with her and was definitely unexpected. The climb was definitely not over. I still had a significant down climb ahead of me.
Two hours of snow fields and cross country bushwhacking led me back to the trail! What a great feeling to be on the flats again, and a huge sense of accomplishment. I could let my guard down a bit and enjoy the climb that I had just completed. I arrived at the car at 4pm.
Many thanks to my wife for supporting my dreams and understanding me in the most important way. I married a great woman!