April 30, 2015

Mount Olympus Link-Up- West Slabs and Geurt's Ridge

I completed a link up I have been wanting to do for some time. Taking the afternoon off after all my meetings fell through, I decided today was my day.  I left my car at the West Slabs trail head. It would be a solo day so I had no one to talk to but good to relieve some stress. The snow in the couloir up to the Slabs was slushy, making travel a little slower than I would have liked. The crux move had a bit of water in the dihedral which added to the excitement. The rest of the slabs was was excellent with a hanging snowfield on the last shelf.  On top of the ridge I eyed Geurt's Ridge. That steep west facing ridgeline with two large towers. This ridge is the right ridge when looking at the west side of Olympus.  Mountain Project gives it a 5.5 rating with a couple rappels. 

I descended off the Slabs ridge, headed due southwest into Tolcat and had to negotiate cliffs, nasty bushwhacking and a super close call with a rattle snake that just about got me. It freaked me out. I'm not a rattlesnake fan. 

I worked my way to the base of the Geurt's Direct Route and then moved up excellent, stable, steep rock where I joined the ridge proper. It is a great climb, with some good exposure, mixture of 4th class and shots of 5th class climbing along the way. In keeping with the alpine spirit I donned my 7 mm cord and rappelled off the first 50' overhanging rappel.  The crux seemed to follow that rappel, going 5.5/5.6. The second rappel I down climbed. The entire ridge was really enjoyable and I think it had several great climbing sections making things interesting. All told, it was a great link up and a fun solo trip on excellent rock. I don't know that I would go back into Tolcat for fear of snakes. I then dropped down the standard trail and looped back via Bonneville to my car.

-Left car at 12:50 PM
-Top of West Slabs 1:45 PM
-Top of South Summit via Geurt's Ridge 3:25 PM

Geurt's ridge as seen from top of West Slabs- my line of ascent in red

Lower part of the ridge and Direct Line I took from Tolcat
The "cat walk" and looking at top of 1st major tower
Looking down Geurt's Ridge and my approximate line of descent off West Slabs

April 5, 2015

Tanners Gulch to Hell Gate-Making the most of a frail Winter

Yesterday morning Jared and I dropped a car a Hell Gate and then began a beautiful high alpine tour at Tanner's Gulch at 6 a.m. The moon waned with only its silhouette revealed by a sleeping sun. The stars were out and the temperatures had done as we hoped, freezing the snow into a solid snow cone.

Up Tanners we found granite boulders littering the first 500 vertical feet. In reaching the snow we welcomed icy texture upon which to travel. Unintentionally we hung far right up the couloir, driving us directly up to the east shoulder of Dromedary. We reached the top of the gulch around 7:30 a.m. Happily then we skied fresh powder (4") down to the east shoulder of Sundial. It was amazing to see Blanche already shedding her blanket of ice.

We moved from the West drainage of Mill B South over to the East drainage, finding a steep narrow notch that turned into a really neat couloir maybe 10 feet wide and 50 degree pitch. Jared entered using his whippet belay off a tree and then linked beautiful turns.  We then beheld the massive cirque, holding Monte Cristo and the beauty of the cottonwood ridge. Entering the cirque, there was a sense of reverence, silence and splendid loneliness.

Our aim was the "Heart of Darkness" couloir which would take us up to the short, exposed ridge-line that would get us onto the Cottonwood ridge. Like a junk show, I dropped my ski crampon right at the base of the Heart and got to run down on rock hard snow to retrieve it. Jared laughed, saying I should've had my BD Cyborg crampons on during my descent.  Up the couloir we went, and luckily there was enough ice to justify crampons, maybe not so burley like my Cyborgs, but nonetheless, patches of great moderate ice.  It was beautiful to top out in the sun.

We then worked up to the summit of Monte Cristo. It felt quite appropriate to stand atop "the mountain of Christ" as we gratefully celebrate his triumphant resurrection this Easter Season. The view back to Dromedary was as always brilliant.

We skied Monte Cristo's "edge of the world" on perfect corn.  Mount Superior was our last high point of the day. Descending south Superior we found a mixed bag of moguls, corn and ice. The day concluded at 10:15 a.m. with smiles. It was another amazing tour that will be forever filed in the cabinet of our minds.

Dromedary's East Face

Shoulder of Dromedary. Heaven.
Entering East Fork Mill B South
Jared, East Fork
A lonely skinner- Courtesy Jared Inouye
Jared eyeing the Heart of Darkness
Me up the Heart of Darkness- Courtesy Jared Inouye
Jared, Monte Cristo and the backbone of Cottonwood Ridge
Looking back