Trip Report
Tis the season - back to North Peak - left and right couloirs - 9/8/10

by BMcC
Friday September 17, 2010 6:03am
Here are some pictures from my recent (return) trip to the north side of North Peak:

Was heading up to the Sierra for Bear Creek Spire (both the NE Ridge on Friday with a sibling and the N Arete over the weekend with Matt and Vito -- with whom I had climbed the Venusian Blind on Temple Crag a few weeks ago) and wanted to acclimatize a bit. The National Weather Service forecast for the week for the high country around Tuolumne and parts south suggested windy conditions for Tuesday (7th) through Thursday (9th), with gusts approaching some 40 or 50 mph (I forget which) and a chance of snow on Wednesday and Thursday. Chance of electrical activity, too. Clear skies were in the forecast for BCS on Friday and the weekend.

With the appealingly nice ice pictures posted by Corniss Chopper, Bergbryce, Carter Stritch, and others on SuperTopo, North Peak seemed like a good iffy-weather option for hiking, pics, and better ice than what I had in early August (http://www.supertopo.com/tr/North-Peak-Dana-and-U-Notch-couloirs/t10739n.html). I had climbed the left and the right couloirs, but not the middle one. Just maybe the middle couloir would have some ice in its shadowy and narrow upper half...

Bivied off the road to Saddlebag Lakes on the 7th. Stars were out - mostly. Some clouds. The wind continued to blow. Pretty gusty at times. Pretty cold out, too. Lazy day start after sunrise. Windy and chilly.

The clouds aloft were moving along pretty quickly:
Morning light on Mt. Conness - 9/8/10
Morning light on Mt. Conness - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Weather seemed to be changing:
Mt. Conness - 9/8/10
Mt. Conness - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

North Peak bathed in sunlight:
North Peak - 9/8/10
North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Pretty nice area:
North Peak - 9/8/10
North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Getting closer:
North Peak - 9/8/10
North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Clouds obscuring the summits of Mt. Dana (13,053') and Mt. Gibbs (12,764'):
Mt. Dana and Mt.Gibbs  - 9/8/10
Mt. Dana and Mt.Gibbs - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Getting closer with the 3 couloirs becoming more visible and the sky getting grayer:
North Peak - 9/8/10
North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

... and then the sun broke through the clouds briefly. Dang! The center couloir looked far less appealing than I hoped it would. From what I could see with binoculars, the top half was missing and the lower half was largely veneered with tool-dulling sand and gravel. Hoping for half way decent conditions, I had brought along a harness, a 140' length of old BlueWater ice floss rope, and a light rack consisting of 3 screws, a few stoppers and pins, and a cam. My wishful thinking that the center couloir was going to be fun climbing was not sufficient to convince me to disbelieve my eyes and start up it:
North Peak with its 3 couloirs - 9/8/10
North Peak with its 3 couloirs - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Options? Well, since I hadn't climbed the left couloir since 9/17/93, seemed logical that I climb it first and then the rightmost couloir:
Leftmost of the 3 North Peak couloirs - 9/8/10
Leftmost of the 3 North Peak couloirs - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Easy styrofoam snow (snice) leading to the melted out upper portion:
Leftmost couloir on North Peak - 9/8/10
Leftmost couloir on North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

The transition from the snow onto the loose rock for my hike to the notch was simple, as was my getting back onto the snow to downclimb back to the base where I had left my pack and other stuff. No worries about dislodging any of the exposed rocks and debris, as I had no partner and no one was below me:
Looking down the leftmost couloir on North Peak - 9/8/10
Looking down the leftmost couloir on North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Meanwhile, snow started falling. The middle couloir (bisecting the picture) looked dirty and unappealing (though surprisingly cleaner in this picture than what I remember):
Middle couloir on North Peak - half melted out and gravel coated- 9/8/...
Middle couloir on North Peak - half melted out and gravel coated- 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Next ... the rightmost couloir (teensy bit of a schrund showing on the left):
Middle and rightmost couloirs on North Peak - 9/8/10
Middle and rightmost couloirs on North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

The snowing and visibility came and went:
Looking up the rightmost couloir on North Peak - 9/8/10
Looking up the rightmost couloir on North Peak - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

View looking back down:
Nearly topped out in the rightmost of the North Peak couloirs - 9/8/10
Nearly topped out in the rightmost of the North Peak couloirs - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Mt. Conness from the col at the top of the rightmost couloir:
Mt. Conness - 9/8/10
Mt. Conness - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Summit (12,242') in the clouds:
Summit - 9/8/10
Summit - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Descent and hike out somewhat obscured by clouds:
Descent gully obscured by clouds - 9/8/10
Descent gully obscured by clouds - 9/8/10
Credit: BMcC

Wind continued to blow and gust as I hiked out. Snow flurries fell.

SUMMARY:

North Peak ice conditions:
Left couloir - fun styrofoam snow of varying thickness over ice. Top portion of couloir melted out with exposed boulders, rocks, gravel, and sand for 10's of ft - could be messy for the 2nd. Quite climbable, but not as long or as nice as the rightmost couloir.
Middle couloir - top half appeared melted out; bottom half appeared coated with sand and gravel debris - don't go there, really!
Right couloir - easy styrofoam snow leading to fun ice. Good conditions and great views.

Crowd conditions:
Saw no one on North Peak or the trails.

Booty:
Found a really nice all-weather Olympus digital camera on the trail (I left it at the Saddlebag Lake Resort's lost and found, if someone wants to claim it).





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BMcC
About the Author
BMcC is a trad climber from Livermore.

Comments
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cowpoke

climber
  Sep 17, 2010 - 09:35am PT
nice...I like the looking back down the couloir shots.
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Sep 17, 2010 - 09:46am PT
Sweet. Thanks for sharing.
rhyang

climber
SJC
  Sep 17, 2010 - 10:27am PT
Nice work Bill !
Pate

Trad climber
  Sep 17, 2010 - 12:33pm PT
killer.

rare "footless" solo pictures.
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Sep 17, 2010 - 02:03pm PT
I'm new here to California, but when I looked at the 5th pic..getting closer. I was surprised at how much it reminded me of Capitol Peak in Colorado.

Capitol Peak courtesy SummitPost.com
Capitol Peak courtesy SummitPost.com
Credit: ydpl8s
Alpine Raven

climber
Eugene, Oregon
  Sep 17, 2010 - 07:51pm PT
Nice climbing and really great photos. I've never seen or heard of anyone climbing the Middle Couloir. I climbed the Right Couloir in late September of 2002 and it was perfect ice from top to bottom. Thanks for sharing Bill.
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
  Sep 19, 2010 - 11:11pm PT
That was a snice tour,

Ydpl8s good catch. They look like they could be twin sisters.
jhog

climber
south lake tahoe
  Sep 23, 2010 - 01:26am PT
Great shots! great to see again!

A friend and I filmed Tom Burt and Jim Zellers snowboarding down both couliors for a movie called My Own Two Feet. Tom and Jim also rode some stuff on Mt. Conness. Check it sometime.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Sep 30, 2010 - 03:27pm PT
An ice conditions update with some pictures. North Peak's leftmost couloir has more exposed rock - I would avoid it if I were you. The right couloir is looking wonderfully icy - getting climbed, too.

Hiked the N ridge of North Peak on Sunday-9/26 before TuolumneTradster arrived for some climbing.

North Peak  - 9/26/10
North Peak - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC

Doubled the ridge hike getting onto the N ridge far to the north:
North Peak from the next peak over - 9/26/10
North Peak from the next peak over - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC

North Peak - 9/26/10
North Peak - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC

North Peak couloirs - left looking more melted out and right looking p...
North Peak couloirs - left looking more melted out and right looking pretty nice - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC

Climbers on right couloir of North Peak - 9/26/10
Climbers on right couloir of North Peak - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC

More climbers on the right couloir of North Peak - 9/26/10
More climbers on the right couloir of North Peak - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC

TuolumneTradster warming up after months away from it - 9/26/10
TuolumneTradster warming up after months away from it - 9/26/10
Credit: BMcC


rhyang

climber
SJC
  Sep 30, 2010 - 03:31pm PT
My hat is off to Vic for getting back on it !
tuolumne_tradster

Trad climber
Leading Edge of North American Plate
  Oct 2, 2010 - 02:47pm PT
Bill: thanks for spending some time with me while I get back into it.

Thanks Rob. I appreciate it.

Here's a pano with Bill coiling the rope at the top of Stately Pleasure Dome at sunset.

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Oct 2, 2010 - 12:56pm PT
Good going! Thanks for the TR.
Zander

climber
  Oct 2, 2010 - 01:21pm PT
Nice Thread, Beautiful pics. I wish I was waking up right there right now.
Z
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
Author's Reply  Oct 14, 2010 - 01:46am PT
Ice UPDATE (second hand):
Was in Tuolumne over the weekend with great rock climbing weather (except for getting rained off of S Crack late in the day on 10/11/10).

A couple of friends from Washington simul-climbed the middle couloir on North Peak on Saturday 10/9/10. Said it they penetrated the snow a few times hitting some ice with their tools down low in/on the couloir, placed screws 3 times, and found the upper part of the couloir to be snow over dirt. Laughed about their adventure (nervously?) and didn't recommend the route.

With a 3rd guy from Washington, they hiked the Dana Couloir on Sunday 10/10/10 with a single ax each. They did not use their crampons. Said it was snow covered.

Tenaya Peak - Northwest Buttress - 10/9/10
Tenaya Peak - Northwest Buttress - 10/9/10
Credit: BMcC
Echo Peaks and beyond - 10/10/10
Echo Peaks and beyond - 10/10/10
Credit: BMcC
Cathedral Peak - Southeast Buttress was free of snow - descent was not...
Cathedral Peak - Southeast Buttress was free of snow - descent was not - 10/10/10
Credit: BMcC
Dixie Peach - before the sky darkened, the thunder started rumbling, a...
Dixie Peach - before the sky darkened, the thunder started rumbling, and the rain drops began falling - 10/11/10
Credit: BMcC
Les

Trad climber
Bahston
  Oct 14, 2010 - 09:22am PT
great pics!
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