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Eric Carter

[TR] Washington North Cascades - West Ridge of Colfax Peak 10/06/2018

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Trip: Washington North Cascades - West Ridge of Colfax Peak

Trip Date: 10/06/2018

Trip Report:

With a minor storm dumping snow and quite a few days with sub-zero temperatures, Paul and I headed from Squamish down to Baker to try the Cosley-Houston Route on Colfax. We endured the Friday evening traffic to Sumas and then blasted on to the Heliotrope Ridge TH and bivvied in the back of the truck.

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Our alarm went off at 0500 and we were on the trail at 0545 by headlamp. We transitioned to boots at the toe of the glacier and immediately started dodging thinly bridged crevasses up to the football field and beyond. One major detour and a pitch of steep neve climbing and we found ourselves at the base of Colfax. The crux on the CH looked a bit too thin for our bravery levels and we weren’t sure how the snowfields above would be - we were a bit worried we'd find fresh pow over kitty litter. So, feeling a bit dejected, we decided to go have a look at the view towards Lincoln Peak from the col and get a photo of Ford’s Theatre.

Crevasses were well hidden and a hassle:

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We noticed the West Ridge looked pretty chill and that aside from a rock step, it might give a reasonably quick access to the snowfields above the CH crux. So we decided to go for it. One mixed snow/rock simul-pitch took us onto the ridge crest (amazing views of Lincoln Peak). A second pitch got us up the ridge to a rock step. It seemed unlikely but a 10m downclimb on the E side dropped us into a perfect SW facing snow couloir with super cool rimed up rock walls. One pitch to the top of this and back onto the ridge crest and we were at another difficult looking rock step. Instead of taking the step, we delicately traversed to a snow ramp and a 20m downclimb to the top of the ice of Ford’s Theatre. From here we followed the route and simuled up perfectly crunchy snow to the top of the CH.

Paul doing the downclimb into the convenient SW facing couloir:

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Descent was via the normal route with one rappel and a MAJOR detour around a full width crevasse on the Coleman at 2650m. More photos attached at the bottom.

It would be hard to believe the W Ridge hasn’t been climbed before but I have no idea. Seems pretty unlikely that no-one has wandered up like we did. It would be interesting to find out if anyone had finished the W Ridge directly without bumping left over to the CH snow slopes as the rock walls above us looked serious enough that we didn't give them a serious look. There's probably a way through though!

Route:

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Gear Notes:
We used one stubby screw in rime ice, a handful of cams and pins and, actually for the first time in my life, used a picket as pro (and was kinda glad to have it).

Approach Notes:
Standard Heliotrope Ridge/Coleman Glacier
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Nice work! headed up tomorrow to climb something up there and may keep this in the back pocket as you did since none of the ice routes on Colfax will likely be in..

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Sweet!  I bailed off the C-H many years ago and probably won't be back.  But I could see myself doing this!  Looks like a good fall route.  I would imagine that cornices might prove to be a problem in the spring?

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11 hours ago, JasonG said:

Sweet!  I bailed off the C-H many years ago and probably won't be back.  But I could see myself doing this!  Looks like a good fall route.  I would imagine that cornices might prove to be a problem in the spring?

Yeah - not a clue what it would be like in spring but definitely a fun alternative when we found the CH not to our liking! 

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Very cool!  Thanks for writing it up.  Looks like a fun adventure and great way to salvage a day if the north side routes look iffy.

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Hi Eric,  Bob Richards and I climbed the West Ridge of Colfax in early summer of 1986.  Unaware of the then unpublished CH route, we gained the ridge from the north, though patches of steep rock and snow.  Once on the crest we roped up and wandered along the ridge awhile until a step or cliff  routed us into the steep couloir that finishes off the CH route.  It was our plan all along to gain access into this couloir.  I always thought it would be a good winter outing, which you certainly proved. I think your route was a bit different..I don't remember any narrow couloirs like in your photos. We both really enjoyed our adventure on Colfax, but sadly two weeks later on our next outing Bob fell to his death on the Triad. We were climbing unroped, scoping out a new route on the north face.  I always thought a hand or foothold gave way.  Climb safe.  Aloha, Scott Schmidt

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