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Argonaut Peak (NE Couloir) + Colchuck 6/18/2011

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Trip: Argonaut Peak (NE Couloir) + Colchuck


Date: 6/18/2011


Trip Report:

Josh and I decided to take advantage of the awesome (not) weather on Saturday and climb the NE Couloir of Argonaut. We left the th at 3:30AM. At the bridge crossing, we were surprised to cross two climbers coming down from a 24 hour climb of the Girth Pillar on Stuart. When asked how it was, they said it was wet. They looked like zombies, and understandably so.


It was lightly raining on us now. At the 4 mile mark or so, we got the first view of the Stuart range and our route. The peaks were all in the clouds.




We crossed the creek, buchwacked, and tree-hopped to the base of Argonaut. Josh was a wiser man than I because he put his rain pants on. I, on the other hand, got quite wet because of all the wet brush. Once we got to the base of Argonaut, the entire face was in a whiteout and we couldn't even see our route. The "obvious" couloir was not so obvious.




My stomach was in a bit of turmoil, so this presented a good time for me to shed some weight behind a big rock while Josh took a powernap and the weather hopefully cleared enough to see our route. This shedding of weight made me feel notably better and faster. Finally we got a bit of weather clearing and went for it.



The couloir was in nice shape. We started without crampons but shortly into it, we put them on. Given the conditions, we were comfortable without a rope. Several steps later, we topped out.



It got windy and quite cold up there. We looked at the two options to exit the couloir. On the left/uphill is a mid fifth class openbook option of maybe 50 feet. On the right/downhill is a 80 foot mostly 4th class with a 5.6ish move up top. We started climbing this ropeless and got to a ledge 15 feet up and I wanted to rope up. My hands were cold so I did not want to climb without gloves, and this made the climbing more difficult. We roped up with Josh on lead.



Near the top, he slowed down at the crux. It was a wet, mossy 5.6 lieback. We were both glad we were roped up on this.




The upper snowfield was easy as we did a rising traverse to the notch (which we couldn't see). Summitpost describes this and it avoids an unnecessary rappel using Beckey's route. We eventually got to the notch, then did some easy class 3 scrambling to the summit.



We chilled out on the summit for a short bit, then started getting snowed on a bit. It is JUNE, right?



We scrambled down, across the snowfield, and rappeled the rock section via an established rap station. A 60 meter rope was just right to get us down and not need to use another rap station just above the start of the route.




We looked for the notch to traverse over the east ridge and it was easy to find, nearly at the top of the couloir and on the climbers left. We looked for a rap station but couldn't find one so we downclimbed about 30 feet of class 3 to a rap station. One rap got us down to a snow finger with some slabby rock underneath. There was another rap station which would be needed if there were any less snow.


Our plan was to deproach via the Colchuck-Dragontail col and avoid the reverse bushwack, and we were happy we did. It was nice. The snow was a bit wet and my boots were getting sloshy. Here is the traverse across the south side of Argonaut-Colchuck ridge.



Funny thing now. We were both tired so we stopped to snack at what we thought was the Colchuck-Dragontail Col. We decided to drop our packs and climb the slog route up Colchuck. We got about a minute of visibility as we were dropping our packs and realized we weren't even at the col yet - it was still 300 vert away! Ha, that would have added lots more time since we would have had to kick steps, then descend to the col, then have to retrieve our gear and re-climb to the col. So we slogged up to the col, and there were steps up to Colchuck making the going fast. We got up Colchuck in 45 min from the col. 30 min back down to the col with some postholing. We climbed up Colchuck with full puffies on to stay warm (again, it is June, right?). We looked down the Colchuck Glacier to a partially snow/ice covered Colchuck Lake.



Awesome plunge stepping and almost no postholing led to the lake. A couple more hours and back to the car 19 hours later at 10:30PM. Change of clothes and off to McDonalds for a chicken club sandwich, 2 double cheeseburgers, fries, and a coke for each of us.


Two cruxes of the climb: 1. The 5.6 crux led by Josh and 2. The drive home requiring a 20 min powernap at Stevens Pass led by me.


Great outing. Awesome later-winter conditions (it is June, right?). Thanks to Josh for being such a great partner, as always.


Gear Notes:

2 pickets: didn't use them

60 meter rope: used it for the lead and for the 2 raps

Small rock rack: used about 4 pieces. Smaller pieces are better (up to 1")

1 ice axe each


Gummy worms

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yup - it was great running into you. props for saying f*#$ the weather and getting after it.


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Nice work Rick and Josh! Glad to hear you got to climb Argonaut with such a marginal forecast.

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