Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday 5/11/08 Decalibron

Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross
~12 miles/~4,600 vertical
Jeff Valliere, Dave Hale, Forrest Thorniley, Scooby, Shep, Sierra and Lupine
Start: 7:07am
Finish: 3:31pm

Inspired by George Barnes recent TR of he and Nate’s snow climb on the S. side of Democrat, Dave proposed that we head up there and give it a shot. I sent out a few last minute invites on Saturday and I immediately got a call from Forrest. I had only met Forrest briefly in the past and had never hiked/climbed with him, but knew he would make a great addition to any trip so I was very glad he could join.
We arrived at the Kite Lake winter road closure about 2.5 miles shy of Kite Lake at 6:45am and noticed that it looked quite windy up high, déjà vu, when is it not? After exchanging pleasantries with a group of skiers/boarders we were on our way up the road. The trip to the summer TH went by quickly and the walking was easy. Despite the recent snow, snowshoes were not necessary and we did not even bother carrying them.
We took a short break near Kite Lake and then headed up the increasingly steep hillside to the base of the S. Face Couloirs. The snow here got progressively deeper and involved a bit of trail breaking, but nothing too taxing.We assessed several potential lines up the face and ultimately decided that the couloirs to the climbers left of the one George described looked a bit longer and more interesting, so we headed in that direction and geared up at the base.The deeper than expected snow in the couloirs caused me a bit of mild trepidation, but it was still early and cold and everything seemed pretty stable. This is where Forrest and his years of experience in this terrain really came in handy and he seemed quite confident in the conditions and started breaking trail up the increasingly steepening inset gulley.
The snow was quite deep and we could not always hit the hardened crust underneath the layer of fresh snow with our axe and crampons. Either way, I always felt quite well planted in the snow and the chance of falling seemed remote with careful movement. The high winds were creating a good bit of spindrift blowing down the couloir which added a bit to the thrill at times. Despite the work involved making our way upward through the deep snow, temperatures were cold enough that I had on all of my winter clothing and was not even sweating and I was glad that I opted to bring the warm gear. It felt more like Winter than Spring.
We all concluded that the gradient was somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 degrees. Although steep, the run out was pretty wide open for most of the climb and it all felt very safe, at least with my limited level of experience.
It was a bit of a slog from the top of the couloir to the summit of Democrat due to the wind and the fresh snow/ice on the rocks. The traverse from Democrat to Cameron seemed a bit longer than I remembered, but this was mainly compounded by the wind which was occasionally forcing me to the ground as to not get blown over.
Lincoln was a snap and we cruised over there and back real fast, then is was about 30 more minutes to get over to Bross. After a bit of a break hiding behind the wind shelter, we made quick work of the descent back to Kite Lake, taking advantage of great plunge stepping conditions.Back at the road, things really warmed up and it really felt like Spring, quite the contrast to the wind and cold up high.
As we glanced back up toward our ascent route on Democrat, we noticed that several of the gulleys (including ours), had slid/sloughed somewhat. This really emphasized the importance of an early start on that type of terrain.All in all a great day, it was quite fun getting out there and trying a new route on a familiar peak with great partners.Photos:
More photos from Forrest: