Monday, February 14, 2011

Bryant Peak - 02.11.11

[200th post!]

Adam and I headed for a short climb of Bryant Peak on Friday. The cloudy weather and recent lack of snow should have combined to give us good conditions for this type of climb without it being a snow slog. More importantly avalanche conditions were low, which is helpful for climbing some steep snow slopes.

We arrived in the parking lot before 8am and were on our way shortly. We packed snowshoes with us just in case the snow got deeper higher up. The cat track was freshly groomed and firm and we made good time on it. Once we left the track for the luge run the footing became increasingly less firm. But we still did not require snowshoes. Just before Source Lake we headed up into the woods toward the hanging valley. Since we were no longer following a track, the snow was a bit deeper, but the steepness made bare booting easier than snow shoe travel. I stopped for a "bathroom break" while Adam kept going. I eventually caught him and took over the step kicking duties until we got into the hanging valley to take a break.

After our break we climbed a bit higher and cached our snowshoes and poles behind a snow mound for retrieval later. We each pulled out an axe and started to ascend toward the gully. The gully was fairly skied out and we found some snowboarder boot tracks up that we followed for bit before they disappeared into the gully. Then we forged through some deep snow before we gained the more narrow section which had been compacted by skiers and boarders. We were now at the col and it was windy. We took a brief stop mostly to put on soft shells and then we started up the ridge.

At the steeper section we decided to go around as Adam had only one axe and was concerned about needing a second on the short steep pitch. Going around didn't prove significantly easier as we got out on firm snow that some times required a few kicks for a positive hold. The runout was longer and bit more dangerous too. And it didn't appear to be much less steep. We continued around a rock outcropping and then I took the lead again to head back up to the ridge. The snow was firm and shallow in places. I aimed for a group of trees. Adam and I were eager to get to a point where we could stand comfortably again. The small clump of trees was the spot.

It was around Noon and we decided to have lunch and contemplate continuing to the summit. The wind was pretty strong and both of us were feeling like we had had enough steep snow considering we would have to down climb anything we went up. We viewed the next step and decided against it as we were finishing lunch. We packed up and left the puffies on for the down climb. I pulled out a second ax for balance. It was slow going and after getting back to easier ground we plunge stepped back to the col. Adam started down while I removed my puffy and I followed. The going in the gully was easy, although we opted to climb it mostly face in. Even when the snow got softer it was a bit messy to face out. We eventually did face out and stomp our way back to our poles and snow shoes.

The snowshoes and axes went back on our packs as a light snow started to fall. We headed toward the mouth of the valley and down to Source Lake. Somewhere around 4000' the snow changed over to rain and we had a soggy hike back to the car.

This was a fun trip, and nice to get out. With the precip starting to fall once we got back to our cache, I feel good about turning around before reaching the summit. But after feeling pretty good on the down climb, I feel like we would have had no issues continuing to the summit if we had decided to do so. I'll save the summit for another time. It was a good day.

My pics are here.

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