For those that just want the beta:
conditions at Sugarloaf are still a bit damp.
There's basically no snow, except on the north side on the descent.
That flarey bit at the top of Captain Fingers is not 3".
Doing a retro-ascent can add something different to the usual Sugarloaf experience.
And for those that want the full story:
The 30% chance of rain on Sunday seemed like the best forecast I had seen in a while, so Binh and I decided to put it to use. We were aiming to get some practice aiding, so we shouldered a massive load of gear (including a thermos of coffee) and trudged up the hill. Our objective was Grand Illusion, the old fashioned way. Well, except it wasn't called Grand Illusion in the old days, and we were going to take a detour up Captain Fingers, but same difference. The first surprise was that the big, dark crack at the top of Captain Fingers is not 3" like I was expecting. It's a tiny crack in the back of a flare. Standing in aiders with a biner full of micro-nuts and it didn't matter, but on the hot end in free mode and I would be a bit freeked. I am truly impressed by those working or doing that pitch.
Here's Binh cleaning up my mess:
We hauled the bag up to the ledge. Unnecessary I know, but we need the practice. Had a nice lunch, hot coffee included and then moved over to the base of that amazing dihedral that I've been looking up at for the last few years. When I saw the picture of Hidetaka doing Grand Illusion, it looked like a steep stemming dihedral. And then in person you realize it isn't steep, it's really really steep. Well, my pictures probably won't do it justice either. What an amazing pitch. It was full on dripping, so if you are thinking about trying it, you should wait awhile. We were in aid mode so it didn't really matter.
As Binh neared the lip, the clouds dropped and made for a really surreal environment. At one point we thought we heard a tugboat horn.
I cleaned, as gracefully as I could and dragged the bad up the last 20 feet to the top. Ending on top with the clouds so thick we couldn't see the ground, added the perfect climax to a non-standard trip to Sugarloaf.