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PorterM

[TR] Colfax Area - Unnamed Ice Line 10/29/2019

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Trip: Colfax Area - Unnamed Ice Line

Trip Date: 10/29/2019

Trip Report:

 

I couldn't bring my self to go to class on Tuesday so instead, I woke up at 2 and drove out to Heliotrope trailhead with dreams of epic long solo ice climbing on Colfax. This didn't happen but it was still a great day. I ended up leaving the trailhead around 4 or so and cruised up the trail to the Coleman (microspikes on running shoes were perfect for all the ice sheets in the trail). It got light around when I got to the football field above the toe of the Coleman. The snow was very firm and icy from freezing levels being high (~8-11k) for a few days before dropping to 1600ft the night before. It was downright frigid up there but blue skies and generally calm conditions made it enjoyable. I knew that people had run into impassable cracks approaching Colfax 3 days prior and I found their tracks and followed them (WHY???). Naturally, they led me to a section of impassable cracks where I had been able to walk across last fall. I poked around briefly but didn't see anything promising. I could have rapped into the crack and climbed the far wall but there were obvious holes in new snow leading to darkness in the bottom so, being solo, I decided that wasn't prudent. Besides, the upper slopes of the Cosley Houston looked thin and the ice pillar looked a little thinner and taller than I remembered.

 

IMG_5625.thumb.jpg.51ee91dc29df7707aad12a706359689d.jpg

(Photo: CH looks like it goes, maybe thin down low, and up high)

IMG_5613.thumb.jpg.ccf33e9707fdb275677e61052ac67037.jpg

(Photo: Colfax (left) upper half of CH and Polish routes. The closer face (right) has the ice lines I looked at. The line I climbed is hidden above the snow fan on the left. The dead straight smear near the right was climbed over the weekend.)

 I wasn't terribly stoked on soloing that, so I opted to turn and head down ~100 yards to a north face of a little peak that separates the Thunder Glacier and the Coleman. I saw about 4-5 obvious, steep long lines of ice leading to a steep upper slope. Basically a half-scale Colfax... I chose an obvious, fat, steep line that looked to be in the WI3 or 3+ range. 

IMG_5647.thumb.jpg.e4d351a8d12872af4c4d58f09cab3283.jpg

(Photo: I believe this feature is unnamed and the line I climbed is also unnamed (and maybe unclimbed?) regardless, it's worth getting it out there that this exists for people to have a bail option/out of time option/easy introduction option near Colfax. 

IMG_5622.thumb.jpg.5391a662069fe406fe92fb83c1896316.jpg

(Photo: looking up at the line I climbed).

 

Approaching the base, over some avy debris from last week, was fun and the steep snow to the base was great. A few hundred pounds of serac popped off and rumbled down a hundred feet to my left as I approached the ice, I knew I was out of the way, but it's still a little spooky to see/feel that so close.  The first 100-130ft of the route were water ice with a few neve shelves. The movement was great fun and I was set up to self-belay if I felt I needed it. I never did but was glad to have to option close at hand. There were two steps ~15 ft each that were dead vertical or very close and felt very exposed. It was just right, a few brief moments of fear but mostly just good fun. Above the ice was ~400ft of steep snow with a few sections of ice. Right before the summit, the slope kicked up to perhaps 65 degrees for ~30 ft. There was a small cornice that could be stepped over (read: heel hooked) onto the top but I imagine other times of year the cornice could be problematic. I descended to the northwest down a steep glacier. I just had a 30m rope and did 3 V thread raps. Looking back I may have been able to avoid rapping all together by down climbing a gully/crevasse in the glacier. I debated hitting another line on the face but felt I had had my fill and chose not to push my luck. I took a nice walk down the glacier to my shoes and jogged down to the car, getting there around 1:30 pm. I enjoy the long peaceful days, solo in the mountains. It's good to have no one to bounce ideas off and be forced to make decisions without input. For those who want to hit Colfax this coming weekend, I've included a photo of an approach I believe will work to get to the face. Maybe you can go way lower and come in the east but up the face, I climbed (or up the glacier I descended) and over should bypass the problem crack and get you where you need to be. 

Below are a few photos from the bases of the other obvious climbs on the face for those interested!

IMG_5643.thumb.jpg.0ccd7027bcf3284b8af27ba71393ab53.jpg

The straight-up thin line was climbed over the weekend and I saw their tracks and a bollard they rapped off on the descent.

IMG_5645.thumb.jpg.eab57055572b73f45f53b5f62f3039ec.jpg

Gear Notes:
30m rope, used to descend, a few screws and a picket I didn't use.

Approach Notes:
See above

Edited by PorterM
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One pair of tracks you followed belonged to us.  The other party was from Vancouver.  We all looked at the lines you mentioned and we climbed up to the line you climbed but we were not super inspired and called it a day.  The condition of the route in your photo looks like it is better formed than when we were there.   

FWIW, I've been calling this little peak Little Purple Nice Guy Peak, so named after the col between Colfax and the peaklet was named by Tvash in 2008. 

You have much bigger balls than me, I was very happy to be roped for the glacier.

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