Zazzara and I set up to climb the left couloir on North Peak.
We hiked in from Saddlebag Lake trailhead Saturday afternoon and
camped by Cascade Lake.
morning was foggy but dry. We climbed the 1000 ft slope west of
the lake to the base of the couloir. There is an excellent view
of all 3 couloir from this point.
roped up at the base of the left couloir (the steepest of the
3) and John start leading. First half pitch was relatively easy
and required no protections. The ice was brittle in places and
require careful planting of the ice tools before proceeding with
the next step. Following this relatively easy pitch came 5 full
length pitches with ice angle 45 to 50 degree. Conditions vary
from solid water ice to partially consolidated snow. We used ice
screws, snow pickets and rock protections at different places.
The climb was enjoyable and protected, but also relentless and
technical. I was wearing relatively soft boots and having difficulty
front pointing. I used a technique of frontpointing with 1 foot
and sidepointing with
the other to let my feet rest from time to time. I am sure those
boots would not do on anything steeper then that couloir. John
lead the first 4 pitches, then I lead the 5 and last full pitch
which was mostly on softer and slippery snow. I carefully kicked
each step in the snow to get a good perch. I was also low on protections.
I used the only picket I had about half way up, and slings though
some rocks to setup a belay point at the top.
At one point one of John's ice tools flew out of his hand. It slid right next to me and down until it disappeared out of site at the bottom of the couloir. I had to resist the instinct of trying to reach for the tool with my hand, too many sharp edges on these tools. John was able to downclimb with one tool to me and then rappel all the way down to the bottom of the couloir to retrieve his tool. Next time we will use gloves with better grip. Also carrying a third tool may be a good idea.
descent took us on the loose scree slope on the other side of
the ridge. Then following the ridge proper to a relatively low
angel snow field that allowed us to get back to our camp. The
climb took 5-6 hours, not including the hike in and out.