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Author Topic: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009  (Read 7492 times)
ryanl
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Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« on: 04/28/09, 08:49 PM »

Don't know if any of you felt the cosmic ripple last tuesday when Vagabond left for a better place. I sure did. By Saturday I was still feeling it, so I reached for some Monte Cristo Medicine that I uncovered during a trip up Kyes back in February (posted here:
http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/879330/1)



I left my house around midnight for a 1 am meeting in Monroe with Jason, Josh, and Christy. We skinned the 2 miles of road to the Blanca Lake trailhead under clear skies and stars. It was pleasant. From the trailhead we briefly tried to follow the trail but gave that up once we realized that we were no longer on it. We booted  800’ and skinned another couple thousand before we saw Glacier Peak and sunrise. 

On the ski down to Blanca lake I had the caffeinated  thought that I wouldn’t want to fall, given the hard snow, trees, and steepness. Christy’s only been skiing for 3 years so I heard some talk behind me along the same lines. I thought about offering advice. Then I remembered that she’d just skied the CJ couloir on Johannesburg a few days prior. So I thought instead about asking for some. But we were all thru the nastiest part before I had the chance.

At the lake there were some low lying clouds which kept us from seeing the line I wanted to ski, but I had the route memorized and wasn’t too concerned. I made a bee line for the ramp thru Columbia’s lower cliffs that I’d scoped out from Kyes.

This is what we would have seen had the sky been clear. Columbia's summit is the rock pyramid on the far right of the photo. We skied the obvious beauty just left of center:


By the time we started up the route the temps had risen enough to make snow stability a serious concern. The bottom third of the route traverses above a significant cliff band, the middle third is a couloir/face perched directly above a high point in that band, and the top third is a hanging snowfield with several thousand feet of exposure.

The time was later than I would have liked, but still reasonable. I begin kicking steps in several inches of softening corn atop a punchy under crust. We talked continually about conditions as the clouds began to clear and reveal our position.



For the most part I followed slide paths and small runnels where snow was firmest. Occasionally there weren’t any and we’d end up in a foot or two of what was becoming isothermal mush. That’s usually when we would talk. I was pretty close to turning around several times but kept managing to find snow that we all felt comfortable would remain stable long enough for us to ascend and descend.

At the top of the couloir I traversed over onto the hanging snowfield where the snow became thicker and more textured than below. Steeper too. After some discussion it was decided that Christy ought to down climb to a safe zone. Josh went with her. Jason went with me.

The climb up the face was exhilarating.





On the summit ridge Jason and I gawked at our surroundings. Then we both voiced what the other was thinking: I'm scared; let's go down. I was so scared, apparently, that I left my ski crampons up there. So a six-pack to anybody who fetches them....

We decided to ski from the high point on the ridge where the snow looked to be smoothest and most stable. It meant that we’d need to traverse underneath large cornices at some point, but we’d be on skis.  Few things get the heart pumping like steep turns with exposure. I made 4 or 5 turns and watched the wet slide I’d created pour over the cliffs below. I was hungry at the time and made the mental note that the sliding snow looked like pancake batter. I made a few more turns then got sketched and asked Jason to take over for a bit. Fatboynomore took charge and lead the traverse under the cornices.



After that we leap frogged down to Josh and Christy, taking care not to ski above one another, and then all skied the remaining 2500’+ back to the lake where we napped in the sun.





To top things off we decided to christen the spring season by losing the trail back to Jason's car, opting instead to bushwack a thousand or so feet of forest. Good times were had by all.

Thanks Jason, Josh,and Christy for the great day

And Vag......merci pour tout.
Soit bien
Tu me manques

« Last Edit: 04/28/09, 09:40 PM by ryanl » Logged
Amar Andalkar
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #1 on: 04/28/09, 10:00 PM »

Nice report, Ryan. Sorry for your loss.

Glad you guys stayed safe and skied a sick line!


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Jason_H.
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #2 on: 04/28/09, 10:14 PM »

An amazing trip Ryan. Thanks for letting me tag along. That descent was certainly a highlight for me.

Sorry for your friend, pal, compadre.  Embarrassed

ps that 5th pic makes my stomach curl. Wow.
« Last Edit: 04/28/09, 10:26 PM by Jason_H. » Logged

jd
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #3 on: 04/29/09, 08:39 AM »

Cool, thanks for the report. I've gotta get up there. I agree with Jason - that 5th picture is rad (they are all nice - just wish they were larger).
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Marcus
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #4 on: 04/29/09, 08:42 AM »

Click on them, JD -- unless they're not big enough at CC.com, where they're hosted.

That 5th one is a great shot.

Sorry about your bud -- very sad.  Looks like a wonderful companion.
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kath
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #5 on: 04/29/09, 09:17 AM »

a first descent right? sorry if that's a lame question ... me being a newbie lurker and all ...

great tr ... i enjoy them all ryan ... very nice writing and pix ... i esp liked this sentiment, "I sat on the summit for a good half hour, realizing that I've only ever been able to get past loneliness by embracing solitude." ... o and the skiing rocks!!!

anyhow ... keep em coming .. very sorry for your loss Cry
« Last Edit: 04/29/09, 09:23 AM by kath » Logged
Kyle Miller
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #6 on: 04/29/09, 09:50 AM »

Nice choice in terrain. That area has some sick mountains.

Sorry about your loss.
« Last Edit: 04/29/09, 11:37 AM by Kyle Miller » Logged

In a perfect world, everybody would act with the correct etiquette and follow the rules. Human nature as it is= NOT GOING TO HAPPEN....no matter how many discussion on ski blogs/websites. Face reality............
Gregg_C
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #7 on: 04/29/09, 10:43 AM »

Sorry to hear about your buddy Ryan.  You lost a good friend.

As to skiing, you continue to inspire me with the steep lines you find in the Cascades.  Sometime I will have to come along on something a bit more moderate.  I know my limits!  Again, great job and super vibe photos.

I love being an armchair steep skier when I read your posts!

Gregg
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Stugie
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #8 on: 04/29/09, 11:27 AM »

Sorry to hear of your loss.  You made a great memoir of a tr though - terrific pics and a great write up.  I especially like how you had skiers of diffierent abilities and yet accomadated the trip accordingly.  That shows skills.  Nice work you guys, and gal.
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"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev
danhelmstadter
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #9 on: 04/29/09, 12:43 PM »

glad you got it Ryan, great tr, very sad to hear about your friend, as i have heard somewhere before  -"it is one of the great injustices in this world that they do not live longer".
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David_Coleman
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #10 on: 04/29/09, 02:16 PM »

Hey Ryan - took me a second to pick up on your opening sentence of the TR....Very sorry to hear of your loss!  Sucks that as part of life, we have to deal with these experiences.  Way to go out & ski a line you've had on your list for awhile now.
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Garth_Ferber
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #11 on: 04/29/09, 02:20 PM »

Ryan - when I first saw the subject for this TR I thought Columbia Peak in the Rockies wow! And then it turned out to be even better.

I like the bumper sticker that says:

Dear Lord - help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.

And it looks like he thought a lot of you.
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ryanl
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #12 on: 04/29/09, 06:21 PM »

Thanks everybody. Y'all are nice Smiley
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daveb
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #13 on: 04/30/09, 12:29 PM »

That 5th picture blows my mind.  Beautiful team work. 

I hope your pup lived a long and happy life.
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hedonaut
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #14 on: 04/30/09, 05:46 PM »

right on ryan and crew, way to celebrate the dog's (dogs') life in a unique place.
great pics--make me want to get back there again!
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maryg
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #15 on: 04/30/09, 07:21 PM »

Great TR. My heart breaks for you, I too lost my very best friend a year ago. Thanks for sharing a story of sadness, fear, friendship, joy and adventure. I think all too often we omit the first three and tell only of the glory.
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mzchristy
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #16 on: 05/01/09, 08:34 AM »

It was a beautiful day spent with you, Ryan! The range of emotions I felt that day (awe, fear, sleep deprivation, exhiliration, and complete exhaustion) and companionship made the trip that much more significant.
There aren't words that help ease the loss of your beloved friend. Life is a better place with friends like Vagabond.
Hugs to you Smiley
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Monika
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Re: Columbia Peak, East Face, April 26 2009
« Reply #17 on: 05/04/09, 11:24 AM »

Again, great job and super vibe photos.



  ~ yeah super vibe pics !!
 and I'm sorry about Vags; he was very lucky to have lived a long life knowing you.
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