Trip: Chair Peak - NE Buttress Trip Date: 01/17/2021 Trip Report:
Climbed NE Buttress of Chair Peak on Sunday 01/17/21.
Snowshoe approach with headlamps was warm and wet, with a persistent drizzle. This led to the avalanche slopes along the Snow Lake approach shedding copious roller balls. Despite this, the slopes showed no sign of worrying instability in an impromptu pit test.
Roller ball trails clearly visible
The snow was well consolidated and rather deep from the recent storm cycle and freezes, so we were optimistic about route conditions. This held true, but the weather wasn't as good. Chair basin itself was in near whiteout conditions with relatively strong winds when we stashed our snowshoes at Thumbtack rock, but with an 11am storm break in the forecast we hoped the flurries would be gone for the higher pitches. The approach ridge to the climb itself was okay snow with some cornicing on the north side.
Base of NE Buttress route from ridge
The first pitch was fat with both ice and snow, but the ice was weak in many places and would not always take a screw reliably. The tree anchors for the p2 ridge and p3 belay were almost entirely buried, but the snow was solid enough 2 or 3 pieces of pro a pitch felt adequate. The p4 ice step was in and seemed to be in good condition both for climbing and placing screws.
P1 ice conditions
P4 Ice conditions
P5 went easy, and we decided to forgo the summit scramble in favor of making our way down early, not wanting to get benighted on such a low vis day. Needless to say, the 11am storm break predicted never came. We made our way to the correct rap gulley with the help of @DPS's beta, using a double rope rappel to get quickly to the mouth where the snow slope begins. This was a good call, the anchor cornice was rather large and using a single rope would have left us exposed to it in the gulley while pulling the rope. Either there were no anchors from that point, or they were buried. We drove a questionable piton underneath a rock overhang skiers left of the gulley mouth for a second rap to avoid some of the steep snow downclimbing at that point.
Partial view of descent gulley with cornice in foreground
Descent went as planned.
Summary: As of 01/17/21, the route is in good condition, with high snow levels and decent ice higher up on the mountain. Rock gear was used for reliable belays, while many usual rock protection spots were somewhat buried along pitches so ice screws were placed often, even if questionable ice quality was encountered.
Cams .3 to 1 taken, only .4 used. Small and medium nuts used. Ice screws of various lengths used. One snow picket placed, but snow conditions made for bomber pickets if one took the time. Double 60ms for the rappel. Approach Notes:
Approach on snowshoes unpleasant due to extensive avalanche debris fields at the time.