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Alisse

[TR] Buckner Mountain/Mount Buckner - North Face 05/14/2019

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Posted (edited)

Trip: Buckner Mountain/Mount Buckner - North Face

Trip Date: 05/14/2019

Trip Report:

 

Last week, Tyler and I skiied the Sahale Arm. This past Monday/Tuesday, though, we decided to ratchet it up a bit and go check out the north face of Buckner. Our plan: Boston Basin > Boston-Sahale Col > Boston Glacier > camp > Buckner > Horseshoe Basin > Sahale Arm. With skis/splitboard!

 

We had a beautiful, amazing adventure!

We discussed our hesitation with Tuesday's 2-4" snow and gusty winds forecast; I really appreciated Tyler's rational explanation of how it probably did not mean certain death, but that he was open to other objectives, too. "I just want to be in the mountains." We decided to take fuel and food for an extra day if we ended up needing to hunker down.We left the Boston Basin trailhead with a fine alpine start of a bit past 11 AM. Tyler decided to try carrying his splitboard as Star Wars thrusters. I decided not to ski strap my skis together, and we both thought our mods worked well!

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I think he's doing a shakedown, stability-test dance

We were able to get onto snow relatively quickly and start skinning. Conditions were great, fairly cool and mostly overcast. We were able to skin all the way to the col with no issues, then switched to crampons and made our way up and around the ridge toward Boston. There was a little section of steepish snow to go around to wrap onto the Boston Glacier side:

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About to get over onto the shoulder of Boston; Boston Glacier in background. Photo: Tyler

But then we were on the glacier, transitioning to skis/splitboard, and having a blast on the great snow!! The sun had come out for a bit, and it was amazing. These two photos are looking toward Sahale:

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We skiied/splitboarded around the huge crevasses and made our way toward the bottom of the north face.

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We had to skin a bit, but then soon we were making a sort of snow lean-to in the slope. Tyler made sure to put in a skylight/window. The sunset over Forbidden was fantastic, and the night was wind-less.

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Tuesday at 5 AM was when the weather was supposed to move in, but there was just light overcast and nothing ominous in sight, no wind. We packed up and started uphill... about 20 minutes or so after we began, I punched through some rock moat thing up to my chest (feet dangling in space until I realized I could kind of stem). Exciting! After I extricated myself, our headlamps revealed ~8' down to some big rocks.

I was super super slow on this section and Tyler was extremely patient! About halfway up the face, we saw the nasty black clouds coming in and the snow finally arrived. As we got toward the summit, the winds picked up. Finally we were on the summit (Tyler signed the register/log and noted that the last entry was last October, hmmm) and then quickly off, downclimbing steep icy-ish slopes to the southwest in very low visibility.

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Photo: Tyler
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Photo: Tyler

We found a shallow moat to shelter in as we refueled ourselves, and then we continued downclimbing for about 800ish feet to where the angle eased up a bit. We put on our skis/splitboard and carefully made our way across the icy-ish slopes of Horseshoe Basin and all of the avy debris. By this time it had changed to rain, and the snow was softening up. We got some good turns in!

Finally we were toward the bottom of the exit gully and put the skis/splitboard away, and booted up and up and up in very low visibility. Some phone GPS-checking confirmed our route in the (did I mention?) very low visibility:

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Finally, within sight of Sahale Glacier Camp, we put on our skis/splitboard and got some good turns in without succumbing to too much vertigo, using our Sahale Arm ski memories to get into the Soldja Boii Creek drainage and with only a few minor tree shenanigans, finally got to the end of the snow, and then popped onto the Cascade Pass trail, and then back to the car!

The pizza and beer were well-earned.

I'm really grateful that I was able to go on this adventure with Tyler. He's patient, kind, generous, and encouraging. Thank you, Tyler! :-)

 

Times:

Day 1: 8ish hours
Day 2: 9ish hours

Gear Notes:
1 60m half/twin rope --> not used
3 pickets + 2 long screws --> not used
One regular axe + one tool --> good
Skis/snowboard --> worth bringing!
Ski crampons --> yes
Bivy sacks + shovels --> dope
Goop --> yes (Tyler's calorific concoction of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and oats, in a ziplock bag)

Approach Notes:
Through, up, up, over, down, around

Edited by Alisse
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Well done @Alisse and Tyler that's a classic.

I hope I can keep up with Tyler next time I get out with him.

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Great pics, thanks for the TR. It sounds like you climbed the N face of Buckner and descended SW? How were the conditions for skiing on the N face while you were climbing?

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Awesome report and pictures! 

I am also curious about snow conditions. I'm tentatively looking at this route for Memorial day weekend. Was the snow pretty consolidated on the north face? The north face of Jack last weekend had a few inches of crust on top of unconsolidated powder. Also what do you think crossing the boston glacier would be like without any skis or snowshoes? 

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Posted (edited)

I think Alisse downplayed a bit the traverse onto Boston's north face from the Boston-Sahale Col (at least in my opinion). I thought that section was quite spicy, with huge exposure, and involved some pretty careful steps through shallow snow. Thankfully Alisse led that bit and I had nice steps to follow.

It seemed like the couple inches of new snow weren't bonding super well to the old stuff. I would be hesitant to get on anything steep if the snow keeps accumulating this week. Although maybe some rain will help if freezing level drops.

We were on the N face quite early in the morning (front-pointing), but if the snow softened like it did on the north aspect of Boston the evening before than it would have made for an excellent ski. No exposed rockbands to speak of yet, just a couple of (probably jumpable) 'schunds lower on the face.

The Boston glacier is nicely filled in. Easy route-finding with or without skis, although I'd personally rope up if not on skis.

Edited by tylerhs01
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Somehow I missed this. Nice job! Looks like a lovely adventure - except for falling into a crevasse/hole up to your chest - were you roped up? If not, yikes!

 

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On 5/18/2019 at 12:26 AM, Rad said:

Somehow I missed this. Nice job! Looks like a lovely adventure - except for falling into a crevasse/hole up to your chest - were you roped up? If not, yikes!

 

Thanks, @Rad! I hope you are doing well and you've been getting out some/enough this spring!

As far as rope:  No, we were not roped up. We based this decision on the conditions of the glacier that we saw/felt when we crossed on skis the evening before, the conditions of the snow in the morning when we set out, and the fact that we we only had a very short section of glacier to cross before getting around/above the bergshrunds. The risk of a crevasse fall, especially carrying big packs and skis, seemed really remote. My punch-through, in fact, wasn't into a crevasse as far as we could tell, since we could see boulders at the bottom and there was nothing that looked like glacier ice. Perhaps not the 100% absolute most conservative choice (not to rope up), but I think we would still do it as we did if we could go back. I will definitely read/consider whatever you or anyone wants to say on the topic. 

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6 hours ago, Alisse said:

Thanks, @Rad! I hope you are doing well and you've been getting out some/enough this spring!

As far as rope:  No, we were not roped up. We based this decision on the conditions of the glacier that we saw/felt when we crossed on skis the evening before, the conditions of the snow in the morning when we set out, and the fact that we we only had a very short section of glacier to cross before getting around/above the bergshrunds. The risk of a crevasse fall, especially carrying big packs and skis, seemed really remote. My punch-through, in fact, wasn't into a crevasse as far as we could tell, since we could see boulders at the bottom and there was nothing that looked like glacier ice. Perhaps not the 100% absolute most conservative choice (not to rope up), but I think we would still do it as we did if we could go back. I will definitely read/consider whatever you or anyone wants to say on the topic. 

Oh, I'm not second guessing your decisions. I'm just glad you're OK. Really.

Trying to get out. It's never enough.

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I think it's SOP for Buckner's North Face to climb unroped after exiting the Boston Glacier.  It's too steep to arrest a rope mate's fall and aren't any (many?) crevasses once across the bergschrund.  Sounds like Alisse just discovered a random thin spot where a moat was lurking.  

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On 5/16/2019 at 1:12 PM, tylerhs01 said:

I thought that section was quite spicy, with huge exposure, and involved some pretty careful steps through shallow snow. Thankfully Alisse led that bit and I had nice steps to follow.

I was wondering about that section with snow on it.  I've gone thru that a couple times when dry and it does get your attention.

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