Trip: Lincoln Peak - X Couloir Trip Date: 05/05/2019 Trip Report:
Enticed by the prospect of some relentless steep snow climbing, I had been eyeing Lincoln for some time. Given the short season I was really hoping for a good weather window and it was delivered this weekend.
Max and I made a leisurely 4 pm departure from the car just a couple of switchbacks up the road from the Ridley Creek TH. After the road ended we endured about 5 minutes of slightly brushy trail before I lost patience and took us up into steep open forest and eventually to a crappy gully. We reached the end of the marked trail and discovered walking downhill 200' to the bend would be better than dealing with half a mile of dense new growth on the ridge. We eventually gained the ridge around 4800' and slogged up to find a decent patch of flat snow at 6200' where we set up camp around 7:30.
Alarms went off at 3 and we were moving a little after 4. Although warmer than the preceding week, clear skies overnight had firmed the snow up pretty well. We made our way north around the buttress to the open basin SW of the peak. I switched from walking to front-daggers around 7600'. The lower bergschrund was easy to cross, and after that it was a rising leftward traverse to a spot above a rock outcrop next to a wind lip separating this entry slope from the one immediately below the 1st couloir.
Key points of the route from here up to the summit are visible in a straight line. With foreshortening the location of the summit is not exactly obvious, which had me second guessing my dim recollection of the beta I had seen. It is easy to understand why one might pick a gnarly spot on the ridge as the summit rather than choosing the one it was, which from our perspective was a relatively benign appearing white lump. We roped up here and simuled 2 long pitches, swinging leads at the top of the 1st couloir on a steep wind lip. The crack below the 1st couloir was barely open. Snow was essentially perfect for this kind of climb. There was a thick supportable crust that took points and front daggers excellently. Most places whenever a rest was needed it was easy to kick in a few times to make a bomber step pocket. Runnels had not yet formed so we were able to move efficiently either vertically or laterally. Each couloir had a firmer streak near the middle, but still not ice or anything that would take a screw. I never measured a slope angle, but it never felt too steep.
We reached the top a little after 9 and took some time to enjoy the views and not be on front points. We belayed the downclimb from the summit block to the saddle at the top of the couloir. Max rapped the first rope length, then we simuled down the way we came up. We were below the bergschrund by noon or so. Every now and then a little rock would roll downhill nearby, reminding us to keep moving.
The descent went smoothly, this time we just followed the trail to the road. I discovered that my impatience with the trail on the uphill trek originated with insecurity wearing trail runners and carrying a heavy pack. Going down still wearing boots it went so quickly that I didn't even recognize the spot we had left the trail the day before.
6 pickets (used all), 3 screws (did not use) Approach Notes:
Parked at 2nd switchback ~2700'. Snow started at 3800' where the trail turns north. In this area we found attempts to use open forest instead of brushy trail were not worth the effort. The trail has actually been tended in the not too distant past, and not too bad by Cascades standards. Accept the trail.