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HHinkkala

[TR] Mount Colfax - Cosley-Houston Route 11/16/2014

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Trip: Mount Colfax - Cosley-Houston Route

 

Date: 11/16/2014

 

Trip Report:

This weeks high pressure weather system was simply to good to pass up, coupled with the current minimal amounts of snow cover meant for quick access to higher elevations. The Cosley-Houston route on Colfax has been on my radar for a year or so. I had two previous failed attempts, one where I got completely stormed off the Heliotrope and another where my partner and I inadvertently sun burnt our faces in a snow squall on the approach... it turned out to be the worst sunburn of my life. Lessons learned I opted to simply day-trip this time around since the walk up seemed straight forward with the minimal snow base...and I also remembered to not neglect the sun screen this time either...

 

Hunter, Marcel and I slept at the trailhead and woke up early the following morning on Sun, Nov 16. We left the truck at 4:00am and got to the alpine shortly after crossing several frozen streams. There was a dusting of snow at the starting alpine meadows which increased slightly in depth as we made our way up. Once we got to the glacier we roped together. Overall the approach was reasonable however around the black buttes the snowpack became a foot thick layer of sugar snow that wouldn't compact when you stepped onto it, a sign of what we were to expect later that day. This slowed our progress some but nevertheless we got to the base of the route after around 5hrs, a little slower then we were hoping but not too big of a deal. It also appeared another party climbed this route a day or so prior since there were tracks leading up and off the route.

 

 

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Photo of the route in red, belays in yellow circles.

 

At 9:30am Hunter led the first pitch which took nothing but our shortest screws. Hunter built a belay just under 60m and to the right of the first main curtain. His belay consisted of a cam placed in crummy rock, pounded in picket, 13cm screw and I believe also his ice tools. This was going to be a no falling day for sure, not much different from other days in the alpine but certainly more emphasis on this day.

 

After the 1st pitch I went around the corner to investigate the first ice curtain which started with two steep columns, one being much more solid then the other.

 

449.JPG

Me heading out on the 2nd pitch

 

I gingerly climbed from behind the columns, through the opening between them and out onto the steep ice, I found a few spots to stem across the columns which was nice. Climbing this pitch was a blast but unfortunately the ice curtain ended into a snow gully which did not provide any decent protection. With the remaining rope beginning to dwindle I progressed up the gully which consisted of a 1 inch icy crust with sugary/unconsolidated snow beneath. I wasn't able to find any cracks in the rock either. I had some choice words that I vocalized for not carrying a picket with me on that pitch. In the end Marcel and Hunter had to break down the belay and simul-climb for a few meters so that I could find a patch of snow that felt a bit firmer where I then dug a foot ledge, buried my tools (t-slot and vertical), belayed off my harness and hoped like heck nobody took a fall.

 

Hunter and Marcel quickly came up and when Hunter reached my stance he pounded in a picket which provided a more security. In my opinion I felt that in order to be able to actually hold a fall the snow anchors probably required 1 or 2 pickets, plus your buried tools. Nevertheless we continued upward and Marcel made short work of the 2nd steep curtain and ran it out to around 70m.

 

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Marcel going toward the 2nd curtain

 

Hunter and I were getting royally bombarded by icy/crusty pieces raining down so we broke the anchor and simul-climbed to the side of the gully. This provided us with much needed reprieve while Marcel was excavating the next anchor platform which included buried tools and a single picket.

 

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Hunter on the 2nd curtain

 

Afterwards we came up to Marcel's belay and Hunter took both pickets, the rest of the gear and started up the final snowfield/gully.

 

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Hunter on the upper snowfield before the final snow gully to the top

 

Hunter made the best of what he found for gear and we all ended up simul-climbing just over x2 rope lengths to the summit finishing at 2:30pm. Topping out was simply fantastic, we came out from the shade of the North side straight into the hot sun and the views of Baker and the surrounding peaks could not have been any better.

 

930.JPG

Happy to be on the top

 

We took some photos and ate some food before descending, which was made easier by the tracks left from the previous party. The descent to our stashed poles/pack was mainly uneventful except for the massive whoomp we heard while walking over a large but fully covered snow bridge that scared the heck out of us. My guess was that a large piece of snow/ice fell off the underside of that snow bridge since we didn't feel or see any settlement. After our stash we strolled back down the glacier in fading light and got back to our vehicle at 7pm.

 

1322.JPG

Heading down from Colfax

 

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Evening sun on the Polish Route and the Cosley-Houston

 

I had read previous trip reports of the trip being done 12hrs car to car so our 15hrs seemed a little slower then the norm. We definitely burned significant time trying to find and build belay anchors, we also lost a bit of time (maybe an hr?) with a team of three but we mostly were able to climb in sync.

 

For this route I would recommended bringing 3 maybe even 4 pickets, we only brought 2 and for me (perhaps others might disagree) but it didn't quite seem enough to be able to build a snow anchor that would have held a fall. We also brought a mix of 10 screws (mostly short) but only needed 7-8, a few cams, 6 nuts and 3 pitons. We ended up only using x2 cams and one angle for the rock pro, but the rock on the route is more like frozen mud so I can't say was really worth bringing at all. I have also read of other parties on this route experiencing similar crust with sugary snow, but I suspect that with some freeze thaws cycles these sections may improve. Overall the route was enjoyable and it is a great way to get up Colfax.

 

Cheers,

Henrik

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Ha, we had similar anchor experiences and crusty icefall on the upper snow field as well. Only brought one picket, so we disassembled anchors to have it on the next pitch. Not sure where you found cam placements, but I wiggled on a LA and a KB for shits and giggles. Screws were garbage as well.

 

Bring a confident follower or a handful of pickets, it's in no fall conditions for the second as well. None the less, it's a fun route!

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Glad to hear i'm not the only one who enjoyed the snow conditions...lol. And pickets did seem for us to be the best gear for building belay anchors.

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My partner and I made it up yesterday. We brought no pickets and we were fine but having one or two would have been nice. The crux pitch was super fun. I took the left pillar which had very steep overhanging ice in places. I think I built a similar T-trench/meat anchor where yours was. We did it car to car in 13 hours and we felt like we were really cursing but could have cut an hour off if we took less rests though out the day and spent less time messing with snow anchors.

 

There was another party behind us when we were walking down we could see them on the upper ridge. We cheered them on as they were going to top out and descend in the dark.

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Nice! We were actually surprised to see traffic on this route since we weren't sure how often it got climbed. I saw the place where you made your second anchor and figured you probably buried your tools. And yes the first curtain was by far the best part of the route.

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Thanks for the update/TR. Kind of sad that polish route is still unrepeated after 14 years.

 

How do the photos of the route you have seen recently compare to the conditions during the FA?

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Thanks for the update/TR. Kind of sad that polish route is still unrepeated after 14 years.

 

Really!!! If I had know that I think I would have tried to convince my partner to do it. It looks hard right now but defiantly doable. Someone go get it!

 

Eric

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First pitch looked WI4. I'm pretty sure you could lead the rest of the ice with 70's at WI5-, the steepest sections looked short. I'm sure it's only fattening up since these pics were taken. Hopefully weather will permit another trip up there.

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BITD while climbing the CH route, it appeared to me that there was a hidden ledge system that connected the Polish route and the CH route together exactly at the base of the hanging ice dagger on the Polish route. Seemed like the combination would create a very long WI4 route.

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Hard to judge when viewing a small pic. When we did it, there was absolutely no snow, I mean all the snow was left from the previous winter/spring. It looked very similar. Climbing was more mental then pumpy. Bottom is reasonable and moderate. Crux is short, possible WI4-5, but it did not take pro very well (I did bring only 1 stubby). Finding anchors on top, after the last bit was a challenge, but over all a fun outing.

Also Chiwawa's Intravenous (Colin's route from way back days) most definitely should get an ascent (or a first repeat). Probably both routes (Rat's and my on Pyramid) are also good outings. I just have a feeling like most of climbers around here just keep climbing the same, moderate outings, and nobody wants to push things forward.

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not repeated because it's too hard

Edited by pms

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I just have a feeling like most of climbers around here just keep climbing the same, moderate outings, and nobody wants to push things forward.

 

Or because most climbers here are smart enough to be skiers in the winter time.

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Thanks for the update/TR. Kind of sad that polish route is still unrepeated after 14 years.

 

Bob, I recall when you and I went up there to try the Cosley-Houston (and ended up messing around on other nearby ice) that you said you and your partner had found gear (anchors? pins?) when you climbed that ice line on Colfax, and it just got dubbed "Polish route" in the WA ice book because you were the only guys that Martin and Krawarik could fund who had beta.

 

So didn't it see a likely repeat when YOU climbed it?

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Blake, there were several attempts on the line in the 90's. Yes, we found slings are stuff from previous attempts, but (according to several sources) nobody really went up to the top of the line. If there was someone, who climbed it, please come forward, I really don't care.

Interestingly there were also slings to the left and right of the line. Maybe folks climbed (like Darin suggested) first part, and then traversed to the right, maybe some of the smears at the base? I saw red slings way to the left, about 30-40ft, in a middle of nowhere.

If Roger Strong climbed it, it had to be this Fall, because when I talked to him a couple of seasons ago at Index it was not the case.

Jason did a bit of a research for his book, and he could not find any info about actual ascent prior to October of 2000.

Like I said, all of these routes should be trade routes for aspiring hardcores. East Face of Pyramid, Colfax, and Chiwawa. I mean the last one looks like a dream line, that people should be lining up for.

 

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Those look like some cool lines... What do they both go at, and what's the descent like off Colfax? Walk-offs?

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I thought I had heard that Roger Strong had repeated the Polish rte?

You have heard wrong. I just had msg exchange with him, and he has not done the route to the top. Sounds like we were lucky in 2000, as far as how the route formed. He stated he did the bottom already 4 times.

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Those look like some cool lines... What do they both go at, and what's the descent like off Colfax? Walk-offs?

 

Hi Maurop,

 

I understand that the Cosley Houston is rated as a grade 4 route and the Polish is grade 4-5 as mentioned in earlier comments...

 

The descent is a fairly mellow walk off with a few short sections of easy down climbing...

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We rapped the route. The glacier was so open, it was getting dark and with 70m ropes Polish route gets you down in 3 raps. I would imagine the top is a death trap after snow fall, and even a small slide would be pretty unforgiving in consequences. Top rap took some creativity, but he rest was easy V-threads.

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I heard a rumor about the Polish route...

 

Plus I had to bump this because I couldn't stand seeing a month old post about Rainier as the most recent TR in the NC section.

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the aai blog says the polish route was repeated a few weeks ago.

 

Braden Downey and Will Hinckley got it between rain storms.

 

I was hoping they would put up a trip report here, they posted it to FB first. I talked to Braden the other day about it and it sounds like he really enjoyed the route.

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