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forrest_m

Ptarmigan Ridge Attempt

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Started from White River Saturday morning in a light drizzle. Whiteout conditions in Glacier Meadow, navigated by altimeter across the Carbon, full on blizzard by the time we got to the 10,200' bivy below the route. We would have stopped and pitched the tent earlier, but for the last hour and a half, there's really no place to do it. Didn't sleep much as we had to get up every 2 hours and shovel out the tent.

Forecast had called for showers sat. with better weather on sunday, which pretty much held, except that saturday was constant snow and wind, especially during the night. Around 6 am, the clouds suddenly evaporated. What an impressive place to be! I had no idea the traverse the evening before had been so exposed... We scoped the route, but decided that 12-18" of fresh wind-packed powder on top of solid ice was a little too hazardous for our taste. In addition, though the sky was clear, huge plumes up high indicated high winds on the summit.

We packed up and began retracing our route. The first hundred yards back along the ridge was gripping, a foot and a half of unstable powder snow over ice that was about 1/3 rock. The night before, it had seemed casual, but now you couldn't see where to swing and the soft snow made it hard to get your points into the ice. Every few steps, our footprints would collapse, sending a mini-avalanche tumbling 2000 feet down to the Carbon Glacier. If we needed any confirmation that we'd done the right thing in not getting on the route, this was it.

The rest of the descent was fairly casual, and it was nice to be in the sun for a change. We made it off the steeper slopes before the intense sun started setting off avalanches. We poked through a buch of crevasses hidden by the new snow, but never more than waist deep. We were back at the car by 3:30.

A day or two of decent weather should return the route to good shape. We gambled on the weather and didn't hit it - welcome to climbing in the Cascades, right?. It looks to be in great shape but *very* technical. After this latest snow sloughs off, it should be solid grey ice from the notch at 10,200 all the way to where the angle kicks back (around 13K, above the rock band).

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