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.
Now that we were off the steepest snow and there were fewer consequences, we took a raucous descent of the snowfield. I was surprised by how much fun glissading was!
This was a minor creek which drained the only the west slope of Lee Vining Peak so I wouldn’t be surprised if it dries up before the end of summer. During the current peak snow melt it was sparkling with life and the surrounding meadows were lush and full of small flowers.
To the southwest, Mt Ritter and Banner Peak rose up above the north shoulder of Carson Peak. From this angle, the slightly taller but more distant Ritter appears to be the same height as Banner and their sloping summits mirrored each other with impossibly symmetry.
We had a short discussion of the hazards, mostly worried about potential wet loose slides and rockfall and I started down the slope first. The snow wasn’t ideal, but it was delightfully slushy and fun! We traded leads down the slope setting off several wet sluffs. We frequently found the sluffs to be better skiing than the adjacent consolidated slush!
The snow was soft and fun skiing. I arrived at the narrow section which I’d identified on the climb and had altogether too much fun making jump turns down the tight chute, both tips and tails landing on rocks with every turn.
Kevin eyed the gully for a second before deciding he didn’t want any of it and he too turned around to take a mellower route. I decided to take my chances but soon found my tails sliding out from under me and next thing I knew I was sliding downhill head first. Casey rounded the corner just in time to see me carom past a large pine at the outlet of the gully.
After talking a big game all season, Rafee finally found himself a ski touring setup and was looking to break in his new equipment.
I peered over the backside of the couloir and was stunned. From my earlier visit to Whorl Mountain I knew that despite the severity of Matterhorn’s north face, its south slope was gentle class 2 talus. The guidebook even mentioned that the East Couloir was the easiest way to gain the summit, so I’d assumed that the West Couloir would be similar. Instead I was presented with a shear granite face.