I woke up not knowing exactly WHAT mountain I wanted to climb, all I knew is I wanted to climb A mountain! This is typical for me (as most of you who read my trip reports already know) so I spent the morning just getting the gear together and let the chips fall where they may.
It so happens that the chips fell halfway, and before I knew it, I was out at Glen Alps riding my fatbike, hoping that there would be some sign of where I should go from there. My first inclination was to climb Homicide Peak, one of the charmingly named brethren of the Suicide peak family - a mountain usually accessed from the powerline saddle. It was an unclimbed peak for me, and as I rode on, it seemed likely to remain so as the path to the powerline saddle deteriorated after 3 miles. I was forced to stash the bike and explore other options. Ptarmigan!
|Ptarmigan in summer|
|Summer again, this time poking out behind my brothers and I.|
I knew very little about the north ridge other than it intersected the couloir near the summit. It looked doable, carefully doable, with a few trouble areas evident as I walked towards it. With some slight apprehension, I took my axe out, and started kicking steps upward.
|The Ptarmigan North ridge and couloir|
|Nope, don't wanna climb these cliffs...|
At first, I was stumped. I tried going up some cracks in its face, only to be repelled when I ran out of comfortably large holds. Slightly perturbed, I paused for a second, and remembered my long touted Chugach adage "there's always a better way if you go around." I went around, and this is where things got interesting...
|Discovering the "chute of doom"|
I had been gradually learning how snow behaves on different slopes, but now the snow was inconsistent AND the going got steep. Really steep. I didn't like the powderey, fragile feeling I was encountering. It disconcerted me and drove me to follow the rock as much as possible. This feeling led me to a narrow chute, almost a crack, with good rock for stemming and what looked like a solid bit of snow in the middle. Wrong!
|Climbing the chute of doom|
|I got to a ledge, but my prospects were no better. I wanted out.|
After climbing the chute for a while, I came to a place where it was too steep with too few holds for me to go on. All the while, I had been noticing that the snow in the middle wasn't trustworthy, and was prone to just falling away. So I stopped. And I thought for while. Then I tried again to go up, and then I tried to go to the side, and then I realized I couldn't do either of those. So I went down - carefully, painstakingly, planting my axe where I could, not trusting the snow to be of help. It took me a long time, but I got down from that crack. And I let out a huge sigh!
|The chute I'd been climbing is in the middle of this cliff. Shoulda known to keep going around!|
The powdery snow around me wasn't QUITE as scary as it had been, so I opted to keep looking for a way around. And I got around, finally!
|Windblown edge, top of north couloir, and summit!|
Pretty soon, I came to a point where I could see the top of the north couloir and the summit ahead. It looked like smooth sailing until I got closer and saw the cornice on the other side of the couloir. I knew then I couldn't walk right over the top, so instead I dropped down into the couloir slightly, and worked my way over from there. At long last, I was past all the hard stuff!
|Getting close to the summit!|
|Looking back up at the mighty north face|
|Returning to a pleasant afternoon at Glen Alps|