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[TR] Cutthroat Peak - Cauthorn-Wilson Attempt 5/10/2014


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Trip: Cutthroat Peak - Cauthorn-Wilson Attempt


Date: 5/10/2014


Trip Report:

I've wanted to try this route for over a year now and was hopeful that a smash and grab attempt right after the highway opened on Thursday would see good conditions.


Kelsey and I made the drive from Seattle, starting at 5am on Saturday and started the approach around 9am. It was overcast and relatively warm, but not so warm that I was concerned about the route melting, especially given the lack of direct sun and cloud encapsulating Cutthroat. The snow was very firm near the car, so we decided to leave the skis and boot our way in. It was easy going up to tree line, but at that elevation, the crust was gone and we began post holing. At times it was knee-to-hip deep and we traded off turns in the front until reaching the couloir. Despite the slow conditions, we arrived at the base of the couloir in about 2 hours from the car, which felt strange since the book suggested a 2.5-4 hour approach.


Our first look up the couloir was a bit baffling. Two deep runnels were gouged into the snow. It looked like water had rushed down the couloir, eroding the snow and creating bobsled runs 4-5 feet deep. Guessing that this might have washed out much of the ice, but not knowing for sure, we scampered up to have a look.


The first 2-3 pitches of the route were all steep snow which became more consolidated as we got higher. At the short step below the real pitch of climbing, we stopped to assess. The ice in front of me was completely sun-baked and aerated. I couldn't find a place where an ice screw wouldn't just push straight in without needing to turn. Bummer. The ice pitch itself also looked anemic. I compared my picture later to the one in the guidebook and reaffirmed that these conditions just weren't going to go without serious, unnecessary risk.


So we bailed. And drowned our sorrows in Winthrop with a nap by the river, burgers, and beers. Not so bad.


My Sunday plan of the Early Winters Couloir was also dashed by exceptionally warm temperatures, so we lapped the Southwest Couloir on South Early Winters Spire a few times early in the morning, skinned up to the Birthday Tour col, and had some great turns back to the car by noon or so.


These classics will have to wait until next spring, I guess.



Cauthorn-Wilson Approach



Cauthorn-Wilson From Below - Bobsled Runs Apparent



A Thin, Aerated Cauthorn-Wilson Crux



Kelsey Preparing to Bail



Southwest Couloir on South Early Winters Spire



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Thanks for the trip report and conditions update! It looks like the highway might have opened a bit too late for that route this year?


If you haven't seen it, NOAA has continuous temperature data for sensors at Washington Pass where you can see the past seven day temperature graphs. Looks like Saturday was the best day out of the past seven, but the day time temps look like they've been too warm with highs near/at 50 at the pass all last week.


Linky: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=otx&sid=WAP55&num=168&raw=0&dbn=m

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Thanks for the weather link! I must admit that I knew things would be warm, but I couldn't resist the temptation to give it a try as soon as the highway opened. I did TC in pretty thin conditions earlier this spring, but the ice was solid despite being thin and the rock pro was pretty good. This was so baked and aerated that a hooked tool would likely have pulled right through. Next time.

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Smart decision making, and hanging by the river on the east side is always a good backup plan. Glad to hear you made the right call on the conditions and enjoyed a great alternative plan.


FWIW, I did this route years ago and if you make another attempt, I'd recommend a much earlier start. Unless you get an unusually early highway opening (or an unusually cold day), the sun is so powerful in mid-late spring and the route gets first sun as I recall. I think we left the car at 4am, climbed fast and I was still glad to get out of there as early as we did.

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