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ryanl

[TR] Kyes Peak, Monte Cristo Range - SouthWest Face 2/20/2009

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Trip: Kyes Peak, Monte Cristo Range - SouthWest Face

 

Date: 2/20/2009

 

Trip Report:

Last week I rubbed a snowbunny the wrong way and became terribly ill. Symptoms included insomnia, loss of appetite, an inability to focus, and an overwhelmingly acute malaise. After hardly eating for 4 days, feeling fit from the unplanned weight loss, and thinking that exertion might speed the detox process, I hatched a plan to huff it into the Monte Cristo Range in the wee hours Friday morning to sneak a peek at those beautiful peaks.

 

I left Seattle a little after 2 am and drove to within a couple of miles of the trailhead. It was dark. Stars were out. My truck had been making weird non brake-related squealing noises for the 14 miles since I left highway 2. I wondered whether it would make it back to the highway, but managed to keep myself from descending the “what if” ladder. The night was beautiful. I packed a bowl and savored the uncertainty of the day ahead, thinking to myself that if Phelps could win 8 golds the least I could do was get lost in the woods for a few hours. Then I thought about the amusing way a friend described his final pretrip thoughts before solo skiing Glacier’s Frostbite ridge. I began skinning around 4:30.

 

A lost compass, a failed attempt at communicating with birds, and roughly three thousand feet of gain had me perched above Virgin lake for sunrise. A deep calm overcame me. I sat there awhile taking in the beauty. I’ve visited the spot where I was sitting often. I’ve seen it in spring, summer, autumn, and now winter. My history with it relaxed me.

 

I stripped the skins and skied excitedly down to Blanca Lake. One of the appeals for this trip was to see Blanca Lake in winter. It didn’t disappoint.

 

Taken on the way out with better lighting:

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Not a breath of wind. Sun capped snow covered peaks. Stable, untracked snow. Spectacular.I thought about what to ski. Columbia looked great, but there were no immediate weaknesses in the cliff bands that cascade into the lake. I looked at Kyes Peak.

 

About 7 years ago I tried to climb Kyes Peak via the town of Monte Cristo. The thought of visiting an abandoned mining town excited me enough to ignore the rain and peddle my bike in there anyway. Weather, inexperience, and an unfamiliarity with Becky-speak turned me around a little short of Monte Cristo’s North Col. I spent a fair amount of time exploring the town’s remains, though, finding it hard to believe that such a thing could exist in such a place. The strongest memory I have of that trip is seeing where the hotel used to stand and reading about the tree planted there by James Kyes. For those of you unfamiliar with his story, it’s worth hearing. Kyes was a kid living in the hotel in the early 1900’s. He used to love scrambling the nearby peaks. If I remember correctly, he brought down a young fir from up high somewhere and planted it near the hotel. The plaque attached to the tree in his honor tells the story of his life. Kyes commanded a ship in WWII that was attacked by German subs. As the ship sunk he noticed that a black messboy had no life jacket. Kyes gave the boy his own and eventually went down with the ship. The story made me want to climb Kyes peak someday, if for no other reason than to pay homage to a life well lived.

 

But I had other reasons to ski Kyes. It looked enjoyable. Plus, it offered the possibility of seeing the Cascades from an unusual vantage point in perfect weather during my favorite time of year. So without knowing exactly where to go I set off across Blanca lake looking for a way to get high on Kyes.

 

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Sure enough, at the head of the valley a northeast facing face seemed to access the slopes beneath Kyes’ South ridge. I skinned up beautiful boot deep consolidated powder. I began to get super excited about the skiing. At the top of the face I crossed over onto a sun exposed face still hard from the night freeze. Powder AND corn? I love Washington.

 

The rest of the climb was straight forward. Found a breach in the south ridge to boot up, and then followed the ridge along its east side to the final summit pyramid/block. Went as high as I could with skis then traversed to the summit. Mountains usually seen from a distance were now close at hand. I love Washington.

 

Looking at the summit block after gaining the south ridge:

IMG_4419.JPG

 

A small traverse from my skis to the summit

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East face of Three Fingers anyone?

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I sat on the summit for a good half hour, realizing that I've only ever been able to get past lonliness by embracing solitude.

 

The ski itself was great. From the notch where I gained the south ridge I skied down about 800’ of perfect corn,

 

IMG_4442.JPG

 

then climbed back up in order to retrace my steps and ski the powdered face that had enticed me.

 

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I didn’t care. It wasn't even 1:00 yet. I had time and energy.

 

Back on the Columbia glacier I melted snow and dozed in the sun. I had a hard time motivating myself to leave. Why move when you’re happy? The Columbia Glacier was actually one of the skiing highlights- 1200’ of softly undulating corn down to a lake is a nice way to unwind.

 

I could have done without the hike up to Virgin lake, and about a quarter of the 3000’ of tree’d descent, but after Gold Creek a few weeks ago everything is gravy.

 

Oh, and by the way. REI sucks. Don’t buy their bikes-they’re dangerous.

 

 

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Nice. Eric and I skied the Columbia in spring time a few years back. I think we were going to ski something else too but we ran out of time. Blanca Lake is rad.

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Oh, and by the way. REI sucks. Don’t buy their bikes-they’re dangerous.

 

hows that?

As a hard working emplyee (sometimes) I am always curious what the outsider thinks. Great tr by the way - love the pics!

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Good use of the window! There's very little like an exploratory solo outing when you need the world to make sense. Bunny-related ailments can be the very best and hardest kind. Good luck :).

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Very nice prose, Ryan. Now don't further emulate Phelps with a DUI or we won't be able to kick it in BC. 'K buddy?

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That phrase stuck out at me too. Nice TR. I've always wanted to ski in the Monte Cristo area. Did you happen to plot your route on a topo?

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Last week I rubbed a snowbunny the wrong way and became terribly ill.

A shot of penicillin should clear that up. Nice story, BTW.

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Putting the bowl into bouldering.

Uh, I mean, putting the bowl into trip reports....

It took me five trips to summit Kyes for some God Damn on the Goddammit reason.

Nice job.

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Oh, and by the way. REI sucks. Don’t buy their bikes-they’re dangerous.

 

hows that?

As a hard working emplyee (sometimes) I am always curious what the outsider thinks. Great tr by the way - love the pics!

 

I got a thing for a redhead who face planted on a sidewalk near pioneer square on account of her REI Navarro bike spontaneously disintegrating while she was riding. I saw a picture of the bike- the frame just sheared off from her fork. Mistakes happen, I guess, but REI hasn't exactly been helpful in covering red's medical expenses.

 

Sirwoofalot, I think the words are mine, but I can't be certain.

 

And no, rbw1966, I never plotted my route on a topo.

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Great TR and trip. I spent 2 days in that area early Spring one year on skis and it is an incredible place.

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Your trip sounded great Josh. I checked it out once I got back. The Pride looked pretty sweet. I wonder if we climbed the same route to the summit. Did you drop all the way down to the columbia and then head up and to the climber's right to gain the south ridge? Any way, nice trip.

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Your trip sounded great Josh. I checked it out once I got back. The Pride looked pretty sweet. I wonder if we climbed the same route to the summit. Did you drop all the way down to the columbia and then head up and to the climber's right to gain the south ridge? Any way, nice trip.

 

Ryan, I did drop down to the Columbia glacier after ascending to the saddle between Columbia and Monte Cristo peaks. I did not ski all the way to the lake but then ascended SW slopes on Kyes to the S ridge as you guessed. I bivied on a relatively "flat" bit of rock and snow shortly below Kyes summit so I could enjoy some afternoon sun and relaxation.

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