June 5th, 2010: Red Mountain

My bud Dave Welles put me in contact with another climber, Tim Blaney, and after a few failed attempts at a climb due to weather and scheduling difficulties, we finally got off the sofa and out to the mountains.  The initial weather report for the weekend was cruddy so we had bailed on climbing for the weekend until a later forecast said Saturday should be nice.  And nice it was!  We quickly (in about three emails) decided to do a climb and ended up choosing Red Mountain mostly because I had it in my back pocket.  I had attempted the mountain a few months earlier this year, but when I broke the tree level and did a snow-pack analysis, I quickly ran back into the forest as quickly as possible.  Most crazy-unsafe avi danger I’ve ever seen.  Shit was nuts, yo.

So with about 10 total minutes of planning, I wake up Saturday morning, stuff whatever I can find into my pack, and head out to Tim’s house.  Tim’s a great guy.  Super cool.  We take off for the pass in his 10-day-old Subaru and are at the PCT trail head in no time.  The first part of the trail (on the PCT) is easy enough and fortunately not all of my conditioning had left me after the ankle injury on Hood and subsequent month-long hiatus.  We had a relatively late start and had a few close calls crossing the Commonwealth Creak when Snow bridges collapesed under us.

We made it to the tree base of the mountain dry enough and started the long slog through the forest towards the top of the tree line.  The snow was pretty soft at this point so it wasn’t super fast as we’d get caught in moats around tree trunks pretty regularly.  Above the tree line the climb was a straight shot to the summit.  We alternated kicking steps into the soft snow and made it to the summit without incident.  At one point we detoured from the snow to a rock cliff for some climbing as a change of pace from all that boring snow.  The summit was still heavily corniced so we got as close as we could and then took a rest on some rocks just below the true summit.

Taking our first steps on the decent we realized how warm the face we were on had gotten.  Every (and I do mean every) step we took started an avalanche.  We were hoping to glisade down, but that was out now.  We ended up taking spaced out diagonal routes down the face so slides from the top person wouldn’t sweep away the leader.   The take it slow approach got Tim and I to the tree line safely without any scares.  At one point we stopped to watch the slides drain into a chute as we had covered a lot of ground and there was now a TON of snow sliding.  Later on the decent we ended up deciding to try to forge our own way back to the trail head through the forest rather than following the slightly roundabout PCT.  It turned out to be a crappy decision as we ended up in some thick brush and had to slowly bush-whack our way out through the last mile or so.

All in all, a good day.  Check out the pictures below if you’re into that sorta thing.

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