To my great delight (if not surprise), Morgan pulled out a couple of beers and we found some seats and had a drink. It was a splendid day to be on top of the world and we spent an hour enjoying the drink, the day, and the company.
We met up at our designated tree which had just enough shade for the four of us. We put our skins out in the sun to dry as much as possible and had a pleasant lunch, enjoying the fine spring weather. All across Lake Aloha, small teardrops of brilliant azure snowmelt accumulated in various low spots.
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.
First choice or second, the skiing was delightful. The slope was not as steep nor the snow as deep as I’d found the previous day in the Bloody Couloir, but perhaps it was all the more enjoyable!
The snow was soft and wintry and deep! I left my jacket open, but snow was flying up into my face and into my jacket — who would have guessed there were faceshots to be had in April!?
I had been leading the hike for the last two hours and when I crested this rise I jokingly shouted “oh no!” However, as I looked, I instantly regretted the joke. This was indeed a false summit, but the true summit was even further than I possibly could have guessed.
Every couple steps I stopped to check if I could see a way up, but the route still wasn’t visible and with every stop, the clouds grew denser and the visibility worsened. By the time I should have been able to see the route, visibility was less than 50 feet, so I decided to continue up the slope to my left, hoping that I wouldn’t arrive at a cornice.
There wasn’t the slightest hint of a breeze on the summit and the sun was warm, so I laid out my skins and glove liners to dry while I perused the register and had a luxurious lunch. This is what Sierra summits are all about!
After climbing one particular waterfall, the entire forest suddenly transitioned to zombie cedars and the sunlight filtered through the toothpicks providing a magical light. Rafee and I agreed that it felt as if we’d just stumbled into Rivendell!
I had second thoughts about deciding to bring my “fat, fun” skis rather than my narrower “mountaineering” skis for which I have ski crampons. With ski crampons, I would probably easily maintain my initial pace of 1,500 vertical feet per hour. Instead, it would take me two hours to climb the next 1,000 ft.