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bgratias

[TR] Argonaut Peak - NE Couloir 11/6/2011

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Trip: Argonaut Peak - NE Couloir

 

Date: 11/6/2011

 

Trip Report:

Ryan and I climbed the NE Couloir on Argonaut Peak this Sunday. Unfortunately, we skipped the summit after exiting the couloir because it was getting dark. The climb is in great shape. I'm not a very experienced Cascades winter climber, but it seems like there is a lot of ice in the Stuart Range right now. As usual, we underestimated the approach and ended up thrashing through slide alder and snowy boulders for a couple hours trying to get to the climb. We then had trouble finding a way through the cliff bands under the peak until we found a fat ice line that led to the upper slopes. The approach was terrible, but going through the same thing in the dark on the way down was even worse.

 

Stuart Range Conditions:

 

Dragontail

PB050049.JPG

 

Stuart

DSC5142.JPG

 

Argonaut (NE Couloir is the obvious line on the left)

PB050050.JPG

 

Black and White

DSC5147.JPG

 

Ice Formed below Argonaut

PB050053.JPG

 

DSC5155.JPG

 

Approach Ice (2 rope lengths)

PB050056.JPG

 

DSC5159.JPG

 

Couloir Entrance

DSC5170.JPG

 

The couloir proper was mostly snow and neve with a few nice ice/mixed steps - all pretty easy. Really a terrific climb in awesome shape. The ice wasn't good/fat enough for screws, but we got by with a few rock pieces.

DSC5196.JPG

 

PB060063.JPG

 

PB060067.JPG

 

PB060070.JPG

 

DSC5243.JPG

 

DSC5221.JPG

 

DSC5212.JPG

 

 

Gear Notes:

A few small cams and some nuts. A few screws for the approach ice.

 

Approach Notes:

Slide Alder and route finding issues for us on the approach and descent. There must be a better way, but we didn't find it...

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Another fall classic in the Stuart Range! Great work guys...isn't that a fun romp?

 

When I was back there a week or two ago, we just walked around the approach ice in the trees...but that ice did look fun!

 

Also, I have had some PM's from potential soloists...the cooler is fun, easy, and secure. But realize the 5.6 mixed pitch out of the cooler (not done by the team who wrote this report) is by far the crux of the route and the only few moves of the whole line that are less than secure. Be careful there and realize most will need a rope to rap off Argo (I do), even when soloing!

 

Way to get after it guys and thanks for the pics!

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Oh yea, the 13th photo (lot's of good shots!) shows a stellar variation that shoots off right. I've done this variation in past years...its great and might be even easier than the standard finish, but has some fun ice runnels.

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Approach Notes:

Slide Alder and route finding issues for us on the approach and descent. There must be a better way, but we didn't find it...

 

Neither did we. We climbed the route on Saturday also elected to bail after finishing the 5.6 mixed pitch. Another possibly useful piece of info for current conditions is we didn't think the East Couloir descent seemed viable in it's current condition. We down climbed the couloir for a few hundred feet and escaped on some ledges climbers left. This led us to a short broad ridge that met up with the Argonaut-Colchuck col.

 

The deproach was like you described miserable. Ours was compounded by my altimeter watch crapping out and my buddy's GPS watch dying. We bushwacked in the dark by iphone compass...

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I think it's worth it to climb up to colchuck col and descend that way. At least thats what I did last spring and it seemed to work out well. But things change during the seasons so it could be a disaster this time of year for all i know.

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Jens, thanks for the info, and for the conditions report last week that got us thinking about this route.

 

Reid, it must have been your tracks that got us down through the cliffs Sunday night - a big help! We lost them once the bushwacking started though, and ended up relying on the iphone too.

 

Jordan, that is a really good idea, if I do the route again, I would definitely descend via the Colchuck Col. I might even be tempted to approach that way if I haven't figured out how to avoid the slide alder and cliff band by then.

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The approach is tricky for this one! Here is the beta: After crossing Mountaineers Creek, cross over a wooded rib or two and then head straight south through the woods. DO NOT enter the boulder field until you have literally walked out the end of the woods as far south as the trees extend. At this point you can hook back left on a talus finger that avoids all that nasty bush whacking...I know the beta because I've been in that pain cave before! Hope this helps any future parties...with the right beta this is the best approach.

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Conditions Update:

 

I went in to try and climb the NE couloir this last Sunday (the 13th) and I think it's safe to say that winter is officially here in the mountains. The trail is icy down lower and very quickly gets into snow (not much, maybe a few inches down low to a foot or so up higher). The way in via mountaineers creek went as expected, some bush whacking but nothing too extreme. I decided to turn around in the boulder field below the start of the route due to high winds, low visability, and a lot of spindrift/snowfall. Also, there is enough snow to cover the boulder field without filling it in so each step is like playing russian roulette. I'm guessing that this area will be closing soon but it's always possible that another window opens. The previous few weeks were the time to be out in the area.

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