Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mt. Yukla Attempt with Cody 4/13/19 to 4/14/19

   We made great time to our campsite (maybe a little too great) so we had the whole afternoon to screw around on boulders and contemplate life in general.
Cody striking a pose in the morning sun.  Yukla standing tall in the background.

View from the perch.

Hot hot heat climbing up to our campsite on the east side of Yukla.

Beautiful spot to camp!  Polar Bear and Eagle peak in the background right.

Another view from camp.
   Early next morning, we set off upward toward Twincicle glacier. Everything was going great - we made it up the glacier less than an hour after leaving camp, and the ridge ahead looked clear of snow. And then, all of sudden...
   We were walking just above the glacier when I heard it, and I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. Then again.
   We both definitely heard it this time, and terrifyingly enough, it propagated all around us. There was no question about it. The only way to go was down. It was a hasty, scary retreat.
Looking back up Twincicle after our hasty retreat.  The couloir we tried next is on the left.
   Once we were off the glacier, we settled down a bit and noticed an interesting couloir on climbers left. As it turned out, this couloir opened up into a mixed snowfield that brought us very high up the peak. Once we reached 6500 feet, we had to concede defeat - even if this route kept working, we would be at the summit too late for comfort. We descended once again.

Our highpoint of the day - around 6500~.  We kept going around things and it kept working, so we didn't question it!

Cody descending the snow slopes

   It was hard to turn back that second time, but in retrospect, I feel we made smart choices all day. We'll be back for you, Yukla!

On the way out, we noticed this gigantic rock that recently fell across the trail and annihilated everything in its path.  :O   Photo by Cody

On the way out, we noticed this gigantic rock that recently fell across the trail and annihilated everything in its path.  :O   Photo by Cody

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Watchman North Ridge 4/7/2019

  It was summer conditions all the way to the Eklutna campground, where I ditched the bike and set off on foot across a very moderately flowing river.  I didn't even need to take my boots off - the water was less than ankle depth for most of the braids with a jump across one deeper section.

Riverbed in the foreground, Watchman north ridge in the background.
   Once on the far side, I found an overgrown orange flagged trail, followed it for a while then went straight up brushy fields to gain the ridgeline.

   It was easy travel on the ridge.  Most of the snow had melted on east facing aspects, making crampons unneeded if sticking to the melt line.   Eventually snow cover increased, so I donned gaiters for the inevitable deep snow encounters.

   About midway through the ascent, the ridge dips down to a flatter bench.  I didn't trust that traveling on this bench would turn out well, so I opted to regain the ridge.  In retrospect I could have avoided several exposed sections by staying lower for longer, and regaining the ridge later on.

   The ridgeline steadily became harder to negotiate, as the snow on the west side was deep and the rock on the east side was getting steeper.  I still managed to avoid snow for the most part, but was thankful for the gaiters and ice ax when I did encounter it.

   The summit block is essentially a narrowing of the ridge down to a very small point - a point that as I approached looked slightly threatening.  As it was, by sticking to the interface of snow and rock, I had good handholds the whole way while kicking into the snow and then standing on top of the melted out rock.  I'm not sure if the snow made it easier or harder, as summit photos of previous parties make the rock quality look quite poor.

North ridge with summit block ahead.  This was in fact looking back while on the way down - you can see my footprints if you look closely.  
   Looking at the summit register, I was surprised just how few people visit this peak - the last recorded ascent was in 2017!  With how fun the north ridge is, this was kind of surprising.  I spent a few minutes, snapped some photos, and began my descent.

Summit view.  Looking towards Benign peak.  Note the gendarme in the lower right.  This is where I was turned back last fall - trying to summit the Watchman from Serenity.

Summit view.  Looking toward Eklutna.  Bold and Bashful on the middle right.

Summit register.  Not the most happenin' place!
   Descending was fairly uneventful.  After surprising some sheep, I did some nice glissading down to the flat bench, and then opted to try and save further time by glissading down one of the northeast facing couloirs.  This worked out pretty well, using my ax as a brake, but the lower part of the couloir hardened up and definitely demanded full attention to maintain control.  I followed the remaining snow tongue down into the brush, crossed the river, and enjoyed a nice evening ride back around Eklutna.

About to buttslide the couloir!

Looking back at Baneful, the Mitre & the Watchman

Eklutna lake - still frozen, but not for long!

Route up

Buttslide route down!

Quick video from the summit/descent