Trip ReportTis the season - back to North Peak - left and right couloirs - 9/8/10
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:
Weather seemed to be changing:
North Peak bathed in sunlight:
Pretty nice area:
Clouds obscuring the summits of Mt. Dana (13,053') and Mt. Gibbs (12,764'):
Getting closer with the 3 couloirs becoming more visible and the sky getting grayer:
... 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:
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:
Easy styrofoam snow (snice) leading to the melted out upper portion:
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:
Meanwhile, snow started falling. The middle couloir (bisecting the picture) looked dirty and unappealing (though surprisingly cleaner in this picture than what I remember):
Next ... the rightmost couloir (teensy bit of a schrund showing on the left):
The snowing and visibility came and went:
View looking back down:
Mt. Conness from the col at the top of the rightmost couloir:
Summit (12,242') in the clouds:
Descent and hike out somewhat obscured by clouds:
Wind continued to blow and gust as I hiked out. Snow flurries fell.
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.
Saw no one on North Peak or the trails.
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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