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Doug_Hutchinson posted a topic in Alpine LakesTrip: Snoqualmie Mountain - [FA] The Snostril and Post Nasal Drip Trip Date: 01/29/2021 Trip Report: Since it took three attempts to send this climb, this TR will take the insufferably long form, written in the “how-the-sausage-is-made” and “what-I ate-for-breakfast” style in homage to the golden days of cc.com. Had I more time, I would have written a more concise TR. The hipster TL/DR version goes: “Major Tom, Christian, and I ran a quick Snostril lap the other day, condis were all time.” 12/4/2020 – Background and first attempt. The seasonal stoke to bash metal into ice seemed much stronger than usual this fall, corresponding to the collective increase in strength of the local crew, many of whom I am only recently met. These guys had been spending months training in a dimly-lit, south Seattle pain cave, and outside at the new Exit 38 dry crags - Wayne’s World and the Road House, and they were burning to get on the real thing. When Tom Beirne and Christian Junkar called and asked me for ice climb ideas and if I wanted to join their early season Alpental Valley ice hunting exhibition; I knew it would be futile, way too early and way too warm still. But I had only taken the tools for a walk once this season, so I signed up for their second day. On their first day, they scratched their way up Chair’s NE Butt, so we decided to see how things were coming along on the NW face of Snoqualmie. I had never seen this face so early in the season and it was what I expected – some thin smears, towering walls of bone dry rock, and none of the usual mixed lines had enough ice to launch up. The best looking “ice” I spotted was a continuous smear between the Snot and Thunder Basin exit shoulder, just left of a cave, which we marched under heading to the bigger but unformed mixed lines on the middle of the face. I have skied below this western aspect of Snoqualmie’s backside too many times to count but no ice ever caught my eye in this area before, probably because it is usually covered by a heavy snow blanket. The ice that grabbed my attention, would not be called ice in most other places but we take what we can get around here. Much discussion and indecision ensued as the team pondered the best of a lot bad options to attack. Not being known for my patience, I dramatically kept looking at my watch and stomping my feet until Tom agreed to belay me on my route pick. The climbing wasn’t exactly cruiser, but was thin aerated ice, not much more than one inch thick, with front points searching for rock divots, not thick enough for stubbies but just enough pin and poor cam placements to bring it down to around PG13. After about 40M of tenuous climbing, I was ready to be done and pulled into an alcove on the left with a faded of piece of tat around a chockstone (buried now). Tom lead up another 20 M of thin ice with some rock gear to a four inch diameter tree (buried now) with old tat up and right of an icy couloir above. The next pitch looked even thinner with more rock and less ice, but we could see a huge chockstone roof with a steep smear barely visible on the right which set the hook for a return visit after the ice got a little chubbier. Christian’s video of our first attempt: 12/26/2020 Second attempt, one pitch higher. A desired high pressure system proved elusive but Christian and I went back for round two anyway based on my stupidly optimistic read of the forecast. I saw a potential 12-hr window between one low exiting and another, more vigorous low, arriving. We skinned up marveling at the magnificent ski conditions (deep and soft) and knowing a serious effort today may not be a good idea. When we left skis at the top of the exit chute's shoulder, it was obvious that even our descent into Thunder Basin would put us on a potentially loaded slope, so instead of booting down this slope I have skinned up so many before, I rapped off a tree for some insurance against the millennial snowpack (i.e., easily triggered). Pitch one got about 5M shorter compared to our first attempt due to growing snow fan at the route’s base. With a higher base and thicker, more mature ice, I was able to quickly combine our two previous pitches into one 55M lead to our highpoint on the small tree out right. Christian led the next pitch which went around WI4- and was a 60M rope stretcher into a huge cave formed by a gigantic roof chockstone. He had already endured a nearly continuous spindrift shower following P1 but that was just the warm up for his P2 lead as the snowfall intensified. The conditions turned pretty full on, and it was hood up, zip up, and don’t look up because there was no respite from the parade of sloughs from the chute above. After some more thin ice with marginal rock gear on the left wall, Christian topped a final bulge and cruised some steep snow into the huge cave - the Snostril’s nostril had been entered. I really wanted to lead us out right and up to what could only be an easier slope above, but the problem was a short, overhanging rock wall had to be breached to exit the cave. Up and down I went to try to find a way through or around this wall. Straight across on dry powder over rock, or on some ice smears up high just below the roof, or down and around perhaps? I kept getting stopped due to either the lack of gear, the lack of tool/’pon placements, the lack of ice to stick, or perhaps the lack of big enough balls. Way up at the top of the cave above the belay, there even was an invisible nasal cavity which was snorting out wind and snow that I considered trying to access and squeeze through, but the rock up there looked too overhanging to explore. The view of the crux from the belay: Meanwhile, if I could climb out from the cave, the reward would be swimming in the fire hose of snow pouring down now, so our yellow light was clearly turning red. Time to flee to fight again another day… I built an anchor by slinging a boulder with my cordelette (love love love the much maligned cordelette) and equalizing a knifeblade in the upper left side of the cave and we rapped. All the new snow made the ski back to the car as fun as skiing with a heavy pack gets. Just climbing these first two pitches, rapping, and skiing down would qualify as a pretty rewarding day. The Snostril cave may not be as high and wild as Supercave’s cave, but it is still a really cool piece of mountain architecture - a sheltered room with a great view, and even a Covid-friendly icicle shield if you end up sharing this belay cave with climbers from another pod. 1/29/2021 – Third attempt and send. If someone put a gun to my head and forced me to leave the PNW for one month every winter, I would pick January. The jet stream's snow machine typically shifts south or north, the ice is typically anemic, and I typically flee north to Canuckastan for one of my two favorite playgrounds: the Powder Highway and/or the Icefield’s Parkway. Due to the current northern border wall, I left WA in early January for American’s best substitutes – Cooke City and Cody. Upon my PNW return in mid January, temps were still on the warm side but the continued dirty ridge of weak high pressure with occasional rain events started to open alpine possibilities. @Michael Telstad and I enjoyed a splitter day climbing a new mixed climb on the Upper West Side and Mik Metzler and I climbed the NF of Index under cruiser conditions, which was quickly repeated by Michael and Sean @sfuji Not able to come up with another inspiring ice objective (this simply has not been a good ice season in the PNW), I signed on as wing nut/belayer to Michael’s idea of climbing Goat Wall’s next gen, multipitch, dry af route - Mazama Queen. We spent another half day on Mazama ice before beginning the long drive home. I was completely ice satiated and really looking forward to giving my tools a few weeks off and spending some quality time with my skis. As I was bludgeoning Michael with another loud listen to the new Avalanches' record, ring ring goes my phone as Tom calls in while driving back from competing in the Ouray Ice Comp with Christian. We trade stories from our recent adventures and I proudly proclaimed my ice retirement plans that I have repeated one too many times to Michael already. My ice rat was stuffed, fat, and happy. Well, after nine days straight of climbing, Tom and Christian’s rats were still surprisingly hungry, borderline ravenous even; so Tom starts grilling me for beta on the two new climbs next on my list; one being pushing our Snoqualmie line higher. I nonchalantly provided some vague details and didn't think much about it because they have a long drive and I am just settling into ice retirement, so I tried to steer Tom to the other FA that didn’t really speak to me by texting some photos. As the conversation was winding down, Tom causally mentions that they will probably drive through the night and try to finish the Snostril before the weather window slams shut the following evening. Well, I’m here to tell y'all that retirement is a myth, a fallacy, nothing to strive for. “Can you drive a little faster Michael? I’ve gotta get home and start drying gear.” The three of us left the Alpental lot at 6am, this time without skis. Arriving home the previous evening, Tom had just enough time to remove the camper from his truck but not enough time to sharpen his tired picks, so Christian graciously arrived late to afford Tom some parking lot maintenance time. The drier and warmer recent weather made it relatively easy to boot up what is usually the 5.11 Phantom skin track. Because of our prior knowledge of the route, the good conditions and weather, and our collective stoke and fitness levels; I felt zero anxiety, today was going to be straight up fun in the hills. Better yet, we divvied up the leads on the approach so that everyone would get a new pitch, and Tom would get the crux. The send was almost guaranteed. Christian led P1. The ice was fat and straight forward, great screws everywhere, fun WI3+. The stoke was high. The belay tree we used previously was buried, so Christian built a belay on horizonal dead branch and gear just right of the P2 couloir. I took P2, which was mostly good ice with a short crux of rotten egg shell which fooled me into swinging picks into rock way too many times until I got smart and used a few rock footholds on the left wall to gain some higher sticks into better ice out right. Pulling over the bulge put me high enough to see the crux cave exit wall I backed off a month ago and fuck yeah, yeah, oh yeah! Lots of new snow accumulation had made the rock step shorter and there was ice everywhere now. This was going to go down! Tom and Christian quickly followed up into the cave and Tom got busy doing what he does best. Tom is not only the strongest and best technical mixed climber of our crew (and our second best freestyle MC), he just placed third in the Ouray ice speed comp so this thing was probably going to go down fast. As I belayed, Christian scurried around the cave like a rabid snafflehound, shooting video. Tom placed a .75 cam up high and left, tried to force the direct rock traverse that previously stopped me, but then climbed down and right onto a snow step above a small moat. This enabled him to climb up a body length, scratch and sniff for some decent sticks, place a stubby and then a #3 cam, and turn the corner out of the cave and onto some thin ice up and right. Tom vs the crux: He exited on some more barely-stubby-thick ice to the bottom of the upper couloir, and built an anchor on the left rock wall to make this a 30M pitch. This was not straightforward climbing and not an easy crux to figure out, but Tom is one those climbers that you watch and can’t determine how hard or easy something really is because he climbs fast and makes everything look chill. I went next and tried to avoid committing to a thin icicle mono foot placement he used because it seemed unlikely it would hold body weight, but once I did, the crux went pretty quickly but was definitely not a gimme. There was just enough ice for decent feet but it was still balancely and insecure in places. I robotically removed all the gear without thinking so Christian got to follow with no directionals in place. We agreed on a grade WI4, M5 but pitches like this are difficult to grade because it was not the ice or the mixed that was the specific crux, it was moving from one to the other and back again, balancing on so-so feet, while taking any gear you could get. (To keep this under ten pages, I'll spare everyone my recent rant where I ponder out loud if we are beginning to sandbag the grades of our new mixed routes, and I would not recommend a leader that maxes out at WI4 or M5 try to lead this route.) We were now in the bottom of a 100M long, mostly snow couloir that is reminiscent of the Snot proper, below the steep entrance at the top. Christian was up next and the agreed plan was he would run out the rope and Tom and I would start simuling to the trees we could see at the top of the couloir. After 55M of snow up to about 50 degrees, Christian stopped and spent a decent amount of time playing around on the right vertical wall. We thought he was bootying an old anchor but then he yelled off belay. It seemed strange for him to decide not to simul to the top since the last part of the couloir looked so low angle. Looking past Tom to Christian at the P4 belay. Royal Robbins, in his masterpiece of snark and self-awareness, Tis-sa-ack, about his and Don Peterson’s ascent of the NW face of Half Dome described feeling his younger partner’s impatience “running up the rope like a continually goading electric current.” When I reached Christian, I could feel his overflowing stoke running down the rope to me like a positive electric current, he was almost jumping up and down for a reason I did not yet understand. (I encourage you to click that Tis-sa-ack link, for no other reason than to see the best Glen Denny best ever photo of Robbins and Peterson after they topped out. I'll never be able to write that good but I have a chance of maybe equaling Peterson's disdainful sideways glare). OK, OK already, back to the Snostril... Christian had stopped and built an anchor because he could not just walk by an aesthetic pitch of mixed ice steps leading left out of the couloir, which he knew was a better finish compared to the easy snow finish if he kept going straight. This should have been my lead but Christian wanted this lead so bad he was almost vibrating. I can be pretty selfish with taking the sharp end especially on a money ice pitch, but there was no way I was going to assert my lead rights and take this pitch from him. This season I have really enjoyed roping up with new partners who are so strong and stoked that sitting back and watching has been almost as rewarding as leading. Tom belayed and I shot video while Christian entered his happy place cleaning loose rock from behind a flake for gear placements and working out the opening mixed moves. Christian getting ready to plug gear: He fired a lower mixed crux and pulled over an ice budge leading to thicker and better ice – definitely the best water ice of the day. The pitch ended with a 10M vertical ice curtain leading to a big tree belay and an easy walk off. This was 30M of fun mixed awesomeness which makes for the preferred alternative finish to what would be the P5 final snow slog of the Snostril. Christian taking us to the top: It was such a cool pitch, we gave its own name, and Post Nasal Drip, and we graded it WI4/M5. (Note - copy and paste sand bag rant here.) An easy snow slope walk-off brought us down to our packs, and walking down Snoqualmie did not bother this skier one bit today. (My notes here say something about Tom going down the most on the descent and owing us many beers, but my hand writing is hard to read at this point). I have become used to getting back to the car hours after sunset lately (or, in the case of Index, a few hours before sunrise) and we still had over an hour of daylight to spare. The Snostril is a great introduction to the mixed playground that is Snoqualmie’s NW Face and is a nice addition to face's previously established routes, especially if you are not in the mood for a longer day. The day we climbed it, it probably had the most pure ice climbing of any route of the face. By leaving the anchor in the cave, one can retreat easily after the first two moderate ice pitches if not feeling the mixed crux above. As the snowpack deepens, this crux will become easier. If this route sat above Cham, it would have gotten a ski descent by now. I made you slog through this narrative so your reward is viewing Christian’s video of the Snostril’s second attempt and send: Excitement is building for the ClimbSkiRip Post Nasal Drip edit, soon to drop... Here is the route as seen from John Scurlock's plane, image used by permission (note - the original name of Post Nasal Drop was Temres and I aint gonna attempt editing this photo, I paid way too much to my 6 yo nephew to create the original): I am still waiting for some retired hardman to reset his cc.com password to let us know that he hiked this route back in the early 80s, but the wifi may not work that good in his assisted care facility. Gear Notes: Single rack to #4, knifeblades, short screws, Temres 282-02s Approach Notes: Up and over, walkoff
I am preemptively (and prematurely) starting this thread in an attempt to consolidate ice conditions beta here. As the seasonal stoke is building, I have been involved in many offline conversations about the best way to share condition info. My vote is to not reinvent the wheel, and do it here; solely or in addition to any of the numerous (and ephemeral) Facebook forums. Since I am aware that posting to an internet-based forum is way too time consuming for many, next best would be to strongly encourage that you tag your local social media ice posts with #WAice. Last we talked, Kyle M was redesigning the internet to create a better ice conditions mousetrap. Even if he dazzles and amazes again, this can be the repository for unpolished beta that he later shines and geocodes up. To not be a complete tease, here is all I got now: Mt Baker seracs and the lower flows on Heliotrope have received a decent amount of activity in late Oct/early Nov. I don't think Cosley Houston fully formed and was climbed before the snow switch flipped ON the second week of November and access become challenging, but the early season skiing has been the best in years. My #WAice season began on Nov 13. Tom and I were hoping for some semi-alpine ice in the WA Pass zone but the deep, unconsolidated snow pack (21" fell the day we were there) meant cross country travel, even with skis, was nearly impossible and the pass closed for the season (very early) a few hours after we left. The consolation was getting the rust off on the practice roadcut ice along the highway below the Liberty Bell group: This morning (Happy Thanksgiving), I skied around Alpental Valley (can you say concrete) and as expected there was nothing/nada, nary a drip or drab to be seen. The snow is deep but the temps have been consistently too warm to get anything more than a few icicles forming. Based on the long term forecasts, it will be several weeks before any pick dulling may be possible in the Alpental zone. Mazama is reportedly all dry now too. It is still very early. Happy ice hunting.