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


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