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| |-+  March 2015 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak
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Author Topic: 2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak  (Read 2355 times)
Rowan Stewart

Posts: 111

2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak
« on: 03/05/15, 11:30 PM »

This trip came about as a last minute decision after several other plans fell through. Long story short I wound up at 10pm on friday night with no plans, and a favorable weather forecast.

I have always wanted to visit the Monte Cristo Mountains, so I decided to camp out by myself at Blanca Lake to get some mountain medicine, and hopefully snowboard something. 

I left the trailhead just before 10, and started up the 2500 feet of steep switchbacking trail. It was hiking boots terrain all the way to the lake, no skinning required. Once at the lake, I was shocked at how thin the ice looked.

I skinned to the treed outcropping on the left hand side of the lake, and walked/skinning across it to minimize my time on the ice, but was forced to skin the lake again to reach the far side. After some rocky skinning I reached the terminus of the Columbia glacier, and made camp by a large boulder around 330.

I set off with a light pack to try and chase the fading light. The snow on the glacier was windhammered, but the west slopes of Kyes peak looked soft.
As I climbed up the apron at the bottom of the face, I observed some very reactive, but localized windslab formation. Most of the slopes though were unconsolidated powder between 6 and 10 inches deep, that were well bonded to the consolidated crust layers beneath. I avoided the obvious windloaded and convex features, and dug a lot of handpits on various similar aspects and elevations.

Being alone on this face in soft snow kept me very alert, and constantly re-evaluating the snowpack, but I felt confident in my decisions. I reached my high point around 6400ft where the slope wraps around the the south.

The was just setting behind Columbia Peak when I started my descent. I rode 1000 feet of soft preserved powder back to the glacier. As I cruised the glacier back to camp I reflected on the descent, and how novel it felt to be riding powder in the cascades.

I made dinner and watched the sun set, and the moon eventually take over the sky. Despite having no tent, I slept well, and got to watch the stars from my sleeping bag.

I had a very lazy morning sitting in my sleeping bag having coffee and granola, then finally got moving at 945.

toe of the columbia glacier

my tracks from the previous day, and the ridge above that I would climb.

As I climbed up the glacier I debated between an attractive but serious line on columbia, or following my skintrack back up Kyes and going for the summit. I suspected the snow was better on Kyes, and having already tested that aspect, I felt more comfortable there. At the previous days highpoint I switched to booting, and shortly after donned crampons for the steep climb up the sw ridge leading the subpeak. I gained the summit ridge and skinned north to the true summit pyramid, which I booted cramponless, adding some unnecessary excitement to the climb.

scary cornice on the summit

I carefully stripped my skins and assembled my splitboard on the small exposed summit. The snow off the summit and along the high ridge was all windhammered crap of various kinds. The steep ridge below the supbeak was a shallow breakable crust on firm snow, but rode well enough to make the exposed turns enjoyable. I repeated my powder run down to the glacier, and coasted back to camp, happy to be back down safely.
I made some tea with the last of my fuel canister, and descended to the lake. This time I skied right across it, with no incident. The hike back down the switchbacks was hard, and I was happy to see my car appear at the end of the trail.

With a true winter snowpack, access would be hard to this area, so I was very happy to have taken advantage of the clear road and trail, and found such fine conditions in these fine mountains.

Here is a video of the adventure.
« Last Edit: 03/06/15, 08:10 AM by Rowan Stewart » Logged

Walking makes the world much bigger, and thus more interesting.
-Edward Abbey

Posts: 238

Re: 2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak
« Reply #1 on: 03/06/15, 07:07 AM »

Thanks for the report - looks as good as yer gonna get bout now.
« Last Edit: 03/06/15, 09:43 AM by JimD » Logged

Posts: 45

Re: 2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak
« Reply #2 on: 03/06/15, 08:24 AM »

Nice work!

Road driveable to the trailhead?

Posts: 136

Re: 2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak
« Reply #3 on: 03/06/15, 09:33 AM »

nice video.

I like the shots you set up.....most people don't realize you have to do it twice!  they forget how the camera gets there...

Posts: 498

Re: 2/28-3/1/2015, Kyes Peak
« Reply #4 on: 03/07/15, 08:30 PM »

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