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MtnHigh

Nisqually Ice Fall Attempt

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The weather forecast for mid January was too good to be true. High pressure, mild temps, no wind and a full moon. Drew and I set out Saturday morning from Muir for the Nisqually Ice Fall. This was our second attempt of the route. In December of 2001, Drew and I attempted the Ice Fall, but were turned back by a secession of avalanches off the Nisqually Ice Cliff on the approach then later an avalanche came down the Ice Fall just in front of us. We high tailed it out of there before the next one caught us.

 

We visually picked out our line through the Ice Fall while hiking up to Muir on Friday afternoon, visualizing the route we would take through the jumble of seracs. Climbing the lower third of the Ice Fall went exactly as we had seen it from the Muir snowfield. A series of short ice steps interspersed by steep snow. Although very broken up, to this point it appeared that we might nail this route. We were making good time, simul-climbing and placing an occasional screw or picket.

 

About a third of the way up the Ice Fall at the base of large serac Drew attempted to gain a suspended snow bridge. The bridge collapsed and Drew fell into the slot below. The compact snow of the bridge he had broken through landed on top of him, pinning him down in a face up prone position. Drew was able to free himself and prussic out of the slot. The exhaustion of the rescue and the lost time ended the climb. Drew got a bit banged up, but he was able to get off the mountain under his own power. The route will have to wait for another day. I thank my lucky stars that we avoided a catastrophe.

 

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sucks to hear man...guess it keeps the objective in its proper perspective though. shame you couldn't stick it out and give it another shot today as the weather was once again quite sweet

 

which way were ya'll planning on descending, prior to the snowbridge gods saying fuck off (and don't forget to toast the aforementioned deities before your next bigdrink.gif)?

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Friend did similar on Robson last year. He wasn't roped though, and took a good bit of snow in with him. Luckily he was wearing a transceiver. Barely made it out, thanks to some hardcore digging by his friends.

 

Moral of the stories: always wear helmet, transceiver, rope, avalung, prussiks handy, and no jewellery!

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Good one, Mtn. High. That is a somewhat dangerous route and I'm sure it was not in "ideal" condition with our low snowfall totals thus far in the winter of 2002-2003, and although there was not much recent snowfall, it was slightly warm. To be relatively safe on a route like that one, you gotta pick prime conditions, be careful, and move fast, and if that is not happening it is time to retreat! Better to live for another attempt.

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happy to here you made it down with no seroius injurys .... she's not going anywhere ... I'm sure you'll be back

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The plan was to descent the DC.

 

We knew going into it that the route might no go because of the low snow pack, but we wanted to take a crack at it anyway. Drew and I have already discussed a return to the route under more prudent conditions.

 

The major avi danger is crossing below the Nisqually Ice Cliff on the approach from Muir. That thing calfs almost daily. Luckily the debris field only takes about 10 minutes to cross. Once in the Ice Fall avi danger is primarily toppling seracs.

 

If you are lucky the to avoid all the objective hazards the route will go even now. It just was not in the cards for us on that day.

 

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I did that route in mid May, 1990. I recall a suspended bridge, but it was pretty much ice, so held our body weight. I thought May was a good month. It sure was an amazing place to be amongst those huge seracs! It was my first time on the mountain and the clouds kept following us as we went up. It was scary descending in a whiteout. We ended up on the top of Gibralter rock, trying to decide if we should drop off to the left or right (chute from Gibralter Ledges). We went left and ended up coming down Cadaver Gap. A very direct descent route, albeit risk of rockfall from above. I've never been up the DC so wouldn't imagine trying to find my way down it very easy having never been up it.

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