The first couple steps of the booter went well but the snow conditions rapidly deteriorated. As rotten and wet as the right fork had been, the left fork was rotten and dry. The snow was so faceted and weak that I had to take massive steps uphill to avoid breaking down into the previous step.
I found a hold on a rock above me and started to pull myself up off the ledge when Jamie, who’d apparently taken the route I deemed unclimbable, shouted a warning that the rock was loose. I had tested the rock as a hold a couple times and didn’t notice any movement but I trusted her. So rather than pull down on the rock, I jammed my hands into the crack between the boulder and the bedrock to pull myself up and onto the summit!
I found one soft turn that transitioned to windboard before transitioning back to soft and nearly got bucked off my skis! After a couple of weird turns I was in the apron and skiing beautiful cold winter powder.
Most of the time on the east side I find myself constantly moving, either pushing desperately for a summit or descending eagerly back to safety, but in that moment I found peace and happiness and the ability to bask unconcerned.
As I rounded the lake, a striking peak near its outlet came into view and I knew immediately that the plan was kaput. I didn’t care if this peak would even count for a bonus on the Challenge, or if I’d have enough energy to continue on to the Challenge Peak; I had to climb this peak!
The views in all directions were spectacular and for the first time, I was able to identify all of the major summits (as well as a few minor summits in the Cathedral Crest)!
This was much more technical than I’d expected. Secor’s description indicated that there was a small amount of class 4 climbing but I found that nearly 90% of the 300 ft from the couloir was high consequence, fairly technical climbing!
At one point I followed a tight chimney 50 ft up before finding that the only way to continue would be to step out over 100 ft of air to connect with another chimney. I easily could have done the move, but I realized that this was getting into Class 5 territory and that there must be an easier route. I downclimbed the chimney, making quite a racket as my ice axe scraped on the rock, and tried a different route to the left which went well.
In one spot I placed my feet atop some partially buried trees, thinking that I was less likely to posthole there, and one of the trees lurched up as the snow restraining it broke. I panicked for an instance and the image of my body being cartoonishly flung up the mountain flashed through my mind before I realized the tree had only rose about an inch.
As I continued the traverse, each bowl was much like the first. About half of the slope would be covered with snow but if I was strategic in my route choice I could manage to take a path with only about a quarter snow coverage.