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ilias

[TR] Colfax Peak - Cosley-Houston 4/30/2016

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Trip: Colfax Peak - Cosley-Houston

 

Date: 4/30/2016

 

Trip Report:

With the road to the Heliotrope ridge trailhead just opened, on Saturday, Jeff, Priti, Allie and I headed up to Colfax peak. Jeff and Priti were planning to climb Ford's Theatre (which turned out not to be in, and neither was the Polish route) and Allie and I were headed for the Cosley-Houston. There were a TON of cars parked at the end of the road, clearly everyone had heard the news about the road... at least 20 separate parties heading up there, most of them just skiing the Coleman-Deming route or portions thereof.

 

We started up from the car at 4:30 am. We used skis for the approach which were a pain to carry most of the way up the trail until the forest opens up onto the glacier. But the skinning was nice after that:

20160430_083506.jpg

 

We left our skis where the approach to Colfax splits off from the ski route on the Coleman:

20160430_101010.jpg

 

The Cosley-Houston route was in but other routes on Colfax did not look in:

20160430_185657.jpg

 

There were 2 parties ahead of us on the Cosley-Houston:

 

20160430_115906.jpg

 

At first, we were a bit frustrated because it seemed like they were going really slowly and we had to wait about an hour and a half before we could get on the route. But once we got on the crux pitch, we realized it wasn't because those parties were slow but because the pitch was freaking hard! We ended up being even slower than the parties ahead of us, fortunately no one else was waiting behind us! Here is the last person above us climbing the crux pillar:

 

20160430_115906a.jpg

 

From what I can tell looking at photos from reports from prior years, these are relatively thin conditions. The pillar doesn't look like such a big deal looking at it but once I got on lead I realized it was actually slightly overhanging for the first 6 meters or so. I have led probably like 20 pitches of ice in my life but never before had I led any overhanging ice. I definitely need to work on my overhanging ice technique! I ended up half-aiding off screws for the first 5 meters or so before I was able to start actually climbing. Definitely the hardest pitch of ice I've led so far in my climbing career.

 

From there, we continued up the gully to the corner just before the ice curtain, where I set up a belay out of the way of falling ice:

20160430_153237.jpg

 

You can't see it in that photo but just around the corner to the left was a beautiful ice curtain bent in a bit of an arc so you could stem up it. Unlike the crux pillar, this ice step was pure type 1 fun! So good! Too short!

 

Looking back from above all of the ice steps:

20160430_161928.jpg

 

Going up the snow bowl, I chose poorly where the bowl split into a left gully and a right gully. Spindrift had covered over the footsteps of the prior parties which had all gone left, but for whatever reason I thought right looked better. Oh boy! The right gully turned into ~60 degree sugar snow where feet and tools kept blowing out. After much struggling, I topped out only to find myself on the top of a razor sharp snow ridge about 100 feet away from flattish snow near the summit. With both sides of the ridge falling away at ~70 degrees or so, I chevaled along the top to get to the flatter snow. Sketchy! Sadly, with the stress of the situation, I did not get a photo of this area.

 

Finally on top at 5:30pm, I belayed Allie up. Beautiful views up there:

 

20160430_174003.jpg

 

From the summit, we quickly descended back to our skis as the clouds rolled in:

 

20160430_193035.jpg

 

Fortunately, with our skis on, dropping ~3000 ft of snow took about 15 minutes worth of relaxing fun, and we made it back to the car at 8:30 pm, for a 16 hour round trip.

 

Gear Notes:

We brought:

 

2 pickets - could have used 3

8 ice screws - used every one of em multiple times on the pillar!

3 pitons - tried to use these but whenever I did, the rock just crumbled apart on me

0.5, 0.75, #1 cams - used the 0.75 once as part of the anchor above the pillar

nuts - never used

 

Approach Notes:

Trail doesn't have much snow until you come out of the trees onto the open snow slopes below the glacier.

Edited by ilias

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that picture on top looking back at your partner and the clouds is fantastic. great work!

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