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Val Zephyr

[TR] Argonaut - NE Couloir + Colchuck 5/31/2014

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Trip: Argonaut - NE Couloir + Colchuck


Date: 5/31/2014


Trip Report:

This past Saturday Brendan, Jerry, Craig and I linked up the NE Couloir of Argonaut with Colchuck peak for long and awesome day in the mountains.


We got out of Seattle fairly late, so went straight to the Stuart Lake Trailhead with sleeping bags and mats ready to go. We probably managed a good 4 hrs of sleep before the alarm went off at 3:50am. Craig punctually met us at 4am, so we didn’t get a chance for coffee, but this early start would pay off big for the rest of the day (with cool morning temps and solid snow). We were on the trail at 4:30am, with Brendan setting a wickedly fast pace we made great time to the point where you break away from the Stuart Lake trail and start brush bashing up Mountaineers creek. Happily for us though, brush bashing was kept to a minimum as we managed to navigate the approach perfectly (Craig was a big help as he knew exactly what not to do given an attempt he made years ago, and another successful climb he made of the route after that). I doubt that I’ll ever hit it quite this good again.


We were staring at the brush-free slopes of Argonaut by 7am. Snow started fairly low down allowing for minimal rock-hopping and a very straight forward approach to the NE couloir. We were already on the route by 8:30am. Perfect firm snow, thanks to our early start, and convenient steps from a party a day or two ago allowed us to cruise up the couloir. We never felt the need to even break out the rope. We followed the couloir to its end. From here and short, low-angle, hand-crack in a dihedral gained the upper snow slope. This was easily managed in boots without the need for a rope (though we did bring the rope along for a rappel back down the rock section). The traverse across the upper snow slopes was the most mentally challenging part of the day. We could easily plunge our tools all the way to the head in slushy snow. It was before 11am, and I would not want to be crossing that slope much later in the day. Next was some fun scrambling that brought us underneath of the leaning summit pillar and to a final 10’ climb onto the summit. We summitted shortly after 11am and didn’t linger too long, eager to get the snow slopes over with. Once we finished crossing back over the upper snow slopes, we did a single rope rappel to the top of the couloir, a double 60m rappel down toward the east gulley brought us to a good anchor and a final 60m rappel brought us onto easy snow slopes below.


We regrouped on a rock outcrop at 1pm and got ready for our next summit, Colchuck peak. A scenic flat hike brought us past a really cool rock outcrop in an area of the Enchantments that I’ve never been before, which is always fun. Now began the most physically challenging part of the day. We could have just cruised up to the Colchuck col and been on our way down, but we had another summit to tag! The summit of Colchuck was another 1000’ gain up softer afternoon snow. We took turns kicking steps, as we were all pretty tired by now. “Huh, it feels like I’ve already done something like this today”. We arrived at the summit of Colchuck at 2:45pm. Down the Colchuck glacier side, the snow was continuous all the way to the lake. We had had such perfect conditions so far, that we could hardly believe it. I was able to step off the snow covered boulder field and onto a perfectly dry trail straight to the car. Sweet. We were back down at 6:15pm.



This was a fantastic linkup in the Enchantments that covers a lot of ground and goes through some more remote-feeling terrain, but is still very manageable in a day with light packs!



The trick to a happy approach is the snowfield on climber’s right. Whatever you do, don’t go into the slide alder on the left.



Snow slopes approaching Argonaut



Narrowest point in the couloir



Upper couloir



Short hand crack that gains the upper snowfield






Final summit scramble of Argonaut



Summit #1, Argonaut!



Traverse to Colchuck



Argonaut from Colchuck’s summit. You can see our tracks in the upper snowfield. Our ascent couloir is on the right, our descend was alongside the left side couloir.



Summit #2, Colchuck!





Gear Notes:

2 60m Ropes for rappels

We took a light alpine rack for the couloir, but didn't use it


Approach Notes:

Snow where we needed it, bare trail where we didn't.

Edited by Val Zephyr

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Hairball and I enjoyed the same primo conditions on the route on Sat. 6/7. Depending where you rap, two ropes are advised.


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yeah - like Kyle says - flawless firm shaded neve for effortless daggering, no need of a rope, (except rappel exit on south side) then by the time you get around to the Colchuck Glacier, nice soft creamy glissade from Banshee Pass all the way to the lake. doesn't get any better, but don't wait, won't last more than a week or two...

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Nice write up and outing, looks like the Enchantments are in for these peaks right now. Note the rap that may need two ropes on this route down.

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nice work! looks like a fun day with perfect conditions and excellent partners. what more could you ask for?

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