Went yesterday morning with an unexperienced friend. Was on the hogsback around 9am. Went up to the bergschrund.
Weather: was perfect. May weather (a “good” may, not last year’s) with January crowds. No wind most of the time.
Parking lot to top of Palmer: super easy, follow the cat tracks, no need for crampons or snow shoes, the best shape I've ever seen it in.
Palmer to Crater Rock: lots of scattered ice (both clear and blue), but extremely manageable with crampons, much better than the posthole hell that area can sometimes be
Crater Rock to Hogsback: nice firm consolidated snow, not icy at all really, easy climbing.
Hogsback: this is where it gets interesting. The hogsback was firm and consolidated, easy to walk across, not icy. EXCEPT, the left side was coated in chossy ice. Not really thick, just a bit awkward to get on, kind of like an awkward rappel. The right side was snow. The bergschrund was open, it was about 6 feet wide at the widest.
More on that:
There were some other teams up there, they turned back because they were freaked out about safety, mainly avy related. But weren’t really giving specifics.
I took a break to put on crampons watched the first person to start across the hogsback (no one else had even tried). He went up to about 10 ft from the bergschrund and stood there…then he got out a second tool and traversed parallel to the bergschrund. I he stopped there, stabilized himself and started doing something, I couldn’t tell what.
Well, I met him as he was coming back. He dug a pit on the slope that you’d traverse to go from the Hogsback to the Old Chute and did an Extended Column test. He said with one tap a hard surface slab sloughed off. Revealing a crystalline powdery layer underneath. Said he was done after that and didn’t trust the slope. Told me I should go check it out for myself. He seemed like he really knew his stuff, and was more experienced than I.
So I did, I traversed the schrund until I could safely cross it. Took out my second tool, then I started going up towards the Old Chute, but it just didn’t feel right. Every once in a while I would punch through a surface layer and into powder that would crumble out. Then I noticed a large crack running along the rocks above me.
I down climbed to back below the schrund and then traversed back to the hogsback. On my way I check out his pit and made one of my own, crispy outer shell under unconsolidated powder. I decided not to go up, especially since I was alone at this point (Avy guy had left and wished me luck and safety)
I was suprised at the apparent avy danger on this slope, especially since I had heard reports of it being a slick slab of ice days ago.
Pictures: eventually, still running on empty