March 8-9, 2013: Colchuck

I was taking a late start, but didn’t really care. It was early season and I had the climbing itch which meant no amount of excess suffering seems insurmountable. An avalanched out road adding six round trip miles to my summit? Whatever. Climbing! I turned off Icicle Creek Road to the immediate gate on __ at dusk, got dressed, and hit the long trail. Eventually I got to the actual trail head slightly regretting my decision to take on the extra miles, but clicked on my headlamp and followed a couple of skiers I caught up to whose names I promptly forgot several times as we headed up the well-developed boot track.

At one point during a snow-bridge crossing, I lost a pole into the river. Having just bought a replacement pole for the one I lost descending Mt Spikard, I checked on the opposite bank to indeed ensure that luck would of course make me lose the new, unbent one. After another hour, I decided I was tired and pitched my bivy on some snow about a mile before Colchuck Lake as my skier buddies headed onward toward the more regular camp sites.

I woke up early, quickly passed the skiers’ camp as they slept in and headed on a bee line across the very frozen lake to the base of the Colchuck Glacier. I ditched my remaining pole at the base, took out my axe and plunge-stepped my way up the glacier. It was really miserable work in powder making me very jealous of everyone on skis. Eventually I made the Colchuck-Dragontail saddle and made the obvious traverse to a large flat plain leading to the summit mound. I did a small scramble up to the ridge and took in the views.

On the way down, I ran into one of the skiers bounding quickly up my now established boot track. Apparently they had attempted a route up the face of Dragontail but the snow pack was too loose to climb it safely and he had decided on a consolation of running up Colchuck. By the time I was back down to where I left my pole I found it missing. I was trying to convince myself that people don’t steal stuff in the mountains, but my mind kept wandering to, “did I really lose two trekking poles on one trip at different times?” Eventually the shape of skier #2 appeared at the far end of the lake. He had found a log to wait on for his buddy to return from the summit. Apparently another group of skiers had come up and left and he thought they had left my pole and was bringing it back to the trail head. Faith in humanity restored. While collecting it from him on the log I almost plunged into the lake. Apparently a day of sunshine can soften the freeze and I should’ve still been wearing my snow shoes. Who knew?

The trail out was pretty icy and I had some fun and some not so fun boot slides down the trail. Eventually I made it all the way back down to my car, again by head-lamp. I decided I was too tired to start the drive home, so pulled out puffy and took a nap in the car before heading home and scaring the shit out of Ann who wasn’t expecting me at 3am. Mission accomplished.

Windows Phone pictures as I forgot my camera.

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