Trip: Colonial Basin: Snowfield Peak, Colonial Peak, Neve, Paul Bunyan's Stump - Standards Trip Date: 07/08/2022 Trip Report:
What to do after finishing the Bulger List - was I done? Actually, in addition to a handful of Smoots, I have a long list of adventures I'd like to do, most notably some high alpine traverses and trips to the pickets. For July I had planned to do the Isolation Traverse with my son and 1-2 others. Unfortunately partners had to bail shortly before the trip leaving just two of us. My son has limited glacier experience and I felt a little anxious about a remote alpine traverse with just us two. So we opted for a less committing trip up to the beautiful Colonial Basin area where we could do some peak bagging. We figured we would probably have some company too, which ups the safety factor a bit - and we were right.
I had been to this area once before as part of a two-day trip up Snowfield Peak back when I was in the Mountaineers and just starting to climb. That trip went less than ideal - and although we had summited I really wanted to return and have a better experience. As you'll see, I made a great choice!
So, we headed up to Marblemount early-ish on a Friday, got a permit and drove to the Pyramid Lake TH where we ran into a familiar face from a separate party of three. We headed up in the warming temps and grunted out 6000' gain in just under 9.5 hours, all the way to the col below Neve Peak and overlooking the Neve glacier. The approach between Pyramid Lake and the bumps below Pyramid Peak were as heinous as I remembered, however with many other unsavory approaches under my belt in the intervening 15+ years, it seemed more run of the mill heinous, than extreme (ahem Silver Creek ahem). Unfortunately, the party we had met at the parking turnout hours before had beat us to the one primo spot at the col, and a second party (who had passed us) took the next optimal spot about 50-100' below on the N side. So we dug a platform in a semi-exposed area just N of the ridge. There was a nice stream of running water in the nearby rocks which made getting dinner and water much quicker.
The night was colder than expected, windy and a bit miserable in a 30 degree bag. Between that and the long day before, we slept in a bit. We headed onto the Neve Glacier towards Snowfield well after sunrise.
Glacier travel was straightforward with minimal crevasses. It took 3 hours from high camp at the saddle to summit. No issues with routefinding. The little class 3 step/moves above the gully seemed way more tame than when I did this climb years ago. We enjoyed the summit then headed back to camp. It took about 2+ hours.
At camp we were a bit tired - more from the day before than today's efforts, and chilled a bit. It was still early and we opted to tag Neve Peak. This went way faster than expected (25 min up, 15 down, and we lounged on the summit for at least an hour, enjoying the views).
We decided to go for Colonial Peak the next day, though we had done minimal route research.
We had another cold and windy night, and slept in again and set off at 7:30 or so. We ended up having a long day climbing both Colonial and Paul Bunyan's stump. We (I) second guessed the obvious snow gulley and tried the direct snow slopes on the left side first. Those led to scary runout on hard snow, so we backtracked and tried to go up the ridge on the right of the snow gully by looping around to the saddle between Colonial and Neve. We dead ended on class 4 terrain before the false summit, and finally just dropped to the upper snowfield and led out with pickets across the exposed slope we had attempted earlier from below. All in all I believe it took us 6 hours up with 3 hours wasted on shenanigans.
We were pretty tired and tempted to just head to camp. But there was still daylight left, so we went for Paul Bunyan's stump, continuing straight up the higher traverse above cliff bands to the saddle below Paul Bunyan's. We then went up as quickly as we could (40 min from saddle to summit), probably going farther left than we should have on the upper slopes. After enjoying the summit we descended efficiently and got back to camp before dark. We followed a better path down, especially on the upper slopes (still took a similar time to the saddle - maybe 40 min?). All in all 12:20 and 4750' elevation gain on the day. By this time (Sunday night) the other parties were gone so we moved to the nice spot at the col.
The last night was much warmer and quite pleasant and we slept well. We had considered tagging Pyramid during this trip but just wanted to get home at this point. We retraced our steps from the first day, with the exception of needing to go over the rocks to get around the lake. The lake was that much more melted out along the shore! Total time down, including rest stops and refilling water: 6:53. For once we got to eat a proper dinner and drive home in daylight.
Another great trip with my boy!
Glacier travel gear, helmets Approach Notes:
Strenuous, steep, hateful.