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 Post subject: Mt. Cowen Revisited 2/18-2/20
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:03 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 4:18 pm
Posts: 324
Location: NW/BC/Montana
Last Saturday, Kyle and I made our second slog of the season back to Mt. Cowen. Temps were forecasted to be cold, but it was our first three day weekend for a long time, so we wanted to make the best of it.

At the trailhead, the car thermometer was reading -22F, not exactly tropical. Even in the sun we encountered throughout the day, it was still quite chilly and the shade was downright cold. We arrived at camp around 3, set up then went out to do some avy reconnaissance. The snowpack was looking good.

That night, we must have been the only ones stupid enough to try and camp in those temperatures. The hole we created to access water in the creek froze over in 30 minutes with a half-inch thick ice layer. Full-on vestibule cooking and hot water bottles were in order, struggling to keep warm. Sleeping in my 0 degree bag in what I assume to be maybe -20F temperatures, I had down booties on, two thermal layers and a fleece layer on my legs, two fleeces and my down jacket on my torso, and two hats on my head. Kyle made do in his 10F bag, though with his heavy down jacket and pants he was probably similar to me in layering.

Surprisingly, we slept quite well (for camping), and were very minimally cold. The next morning it was difficult to get out of the bags, but the stars were some of the brightest I had ever seen, making the day's start more tolerable.

Foolish enough to take my skins out of my bag half an hour before putting them on, they would not even slightly stick to my boards, thus I had to lag behind heating water while Kyle pushed ahead. I later caught up to him above the first skinning section sunning his skins and his toes, so I hadn't slowed him down too much.

Initially, our intention was to ski peak 10,739 which I had photographed on our previous trip. However, the snow below the spines and cliffs was looking rather sun-baked, and clouds were moving in. If I'm going to ride that line, I want to charge it with full speed, not making feeble turns down the surface. Besides, I had forgotten my goggles back at camp – a necessity for fast descents.

peak 10,739
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I was also feeling very lethargic at the time, indifferent to Kyle's desire to go for the Razor (first and only ridden by Koch and maybe one other guy?). At first I thought the slowness and nausea was due to the altitude, but later in the climb I started to feel much better. I can only hypothesize that the sun sapped my energy, leaving Kyle to break trail up the entire mountain. Now I feel rather foolish for letting him do it, but at the time I was simply not up to the task.

We meandered up rolling terrain to a couloir which required booting. Scrambling over some thin faceted snow at the top, we were finally on top of the line I had eyed from Black earlier in the year. At first, we couldn't see any of it due to a sizeable cornice hanging over the couloir. However, upon belaying Kyle out to catch a glimpse, it was apparent that the line was quite doable. Not exactly the 60 degree 10 foot by 1000 foot line described by Turiano, but enigmatic nevertheless.

the way up to the couloir on the left
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skinning to the boot, summit in the upper right
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look at those curves! yet another couloir on cowen
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the couloir. I'm sure kyle has a better photo
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the couloir from black
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Unfortunately, one obstacle was clearly in our way – the cornice at the top. Getting down the couloir would be no problem but getting back up was the issue. We didn't have ice tools this time, so it would have been quite difficult to dry tool the rocks on the adjacent face. We tried to saw off the cornice with our rope for 45 minutes, getting several decent chunks to fall down. But, it wasn't enough. I belayed Kyle out for one last look, and he noticed that there might have been one more rappel in the couloir, sealing the deal. We headed back down the crusty and variable south bowls of the mountain in defeat.

the drytool section
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Upon arrival in camp, Kyle proposed the idea of waking up at 2 am to go do the couloir in darkness. There would be the chance that we could climb back up the Cow (another couloir), which would make this relatively painless. On the other hand, if there was an impassable cornice on the top of the Cow, we would have had to circumnavigate half the mountain, which contained a number of unknown faces. Despite the coolness factor of this crazy ski-ninja idea, I did not have the motivation to go do it in the middle of the night before our long skin out and a long day of work. Kyle still harbored ambitions of doing it perhaps solo, but luckily bailed on the idea when at 2am the skies were clouded over. It was probably for the better.

On our way out the next day, we tried once again to pass through the private ranch that blocks easy access to the trailhead. On the gate, we found a nasty note explaining that the sheriff would be called if we tried to pass through once more. Back at the car, we found another note detailing the situation (we're the only ones that have been out here this season).

The thing with this ranch is that the public trail takes an extra 45 minutes and much, much more effort to get to the same location. The ranch is very large, and skinning through it causes no disruption, especially compared to the construction work going on there anyways. We don't peer in anyone's windows (we're not even close), we're not going to steal anything with huge overnight packs on, and we are the only visitors that ever go out there in winter. If we were a nuisance, I would understand, but we're just two idiots trying to avoid extra work on top of the 11 mile slog. Perhaps it's this country's idea of the sacredness of private property above all, even at the expense of being ridiculous. Anyways, maybe some unnamed weekend ski patrollers at Bridger really aren't all that cool, and should try earning their turns for once.

PS – some time, I don't know when, we'll be back…..

Looking forward to Scrubfest!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:21 pm 
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Location: nEAST
Quote:
Anyways, maybe some unnamed weekend ski patrollers at Bridger really aren't all that cool, and should try earning their turns for once.


:lol: BAAHAHHAHAAAHAA....... *rolling* ....... bahHAHAHAA....... :lol:

oh yah. nice work on staying alive once again. i have to question your sanity for going out in those temps though. there is no question with kyle..... :roll: the thought of that solo 'splains it all. :wink:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 1:19 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 9:48 pm
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Location: Bozeman/Seattle
Image
The razor

Image
an action shot of Patrick riding without goggles in real flat light

I will be back for that line as many times as it takes.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 1:46 am 
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Location: Santa Cruz, CA
kyle christenson wrote:
Image
The razor

nomad wrote:
...it was apparent that the line was quite doable. Not exactly the 60 degree 10 foot by 1000 foot line described by Turiano, but enigmatic nevertheless...

So, maybe it's just me, but I see that picture, and the words "quite doable" aren't the first ones that come to mind. More like "oh shit" and "where's that extra pair of underwear?!" :!:

That thing looks like it's 5 feet wide in the photo, narrowing down to nothing. How wide is it really?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:20 am 
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Location: Montana
damn impressive - even if it didn't get done - yet -. Have you talked with the ranch owner directly?....we have one like that on the south side of the snowies but when we finally decided to call & see why- they were really cool with what we were doing....they just didn't want bilers & cat/coyote hunters in there so had posted it harsh. As long as we call 1st they always let us through now.

Wonder if you 2 would be interested in a 1st descent(at least I can't find anyone that's ever heard of anyone) on the front? Needs 2 days at least but preferably 3.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 9:17 am 
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Location: Mendham, NJ
Fucking sick!

The Razor looks nutty...How wide is it? I agrre w/ Jim that it looks about 5 ft at most.

Insane. Way to get it done!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 3:09 pm 
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Location: Bozeman/Seattle
lewmt wrote:
Wonder if you 2 would be interested in a 1st descent(at least I can't find anyone that's ever heard of anyone) on the front? Needs 2 days at least but preferably 3.


I'm in. We were looking at that possiblity when we were just there, and it doesn't look that bad. Less exposed then we thought. I would be down to do it in one, two or three days. I think it could be done in a 24 hr push if interested.

The razor is between 15 and 20 feet where the photo was taken. There is nothing to give scale so it looks worse. I think it gets down to 10 feet at the choke.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:08 pm 
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Location: bozeman
Damn guys you are getting after it this season. I am definitely a pussy because I woke up to -30's and sure as hell wasn't going skinning. Anways nice recon if nothing else.

BTW Kyle that lift whoring sure was nice today :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:09 pm 
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Location: NW/BC/Montana
Kyle was also perched on top of a cornice on belay making the couloir seem steeper than it actually was.

Kyle - I think you misunderstood lewmt - he was talking about some other peak on the rocky mtn front (unless I'm the one that doesn't understand). Oh, and I am interested! pm me please.

While I was still on my way back to the car, Kyle had a chat with the ranch manager who is the weekend ski patroller at Bridger. He wasn't too disagreable, though he still was being ridiculous. I understand that he's probably following the directives of the owners, but he still didn't seem to understand our logic. His suggestion to go ski the mellow 500 vf peak that wasn't behind the ranch was actually sort of funny.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2006 5:47 am 
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Location: Montana
Nomad's right. If you guys are interested I'm plugging in 10th-12th of March if it can all come together. 10 1/2 mi to base camp from TH. Nothing super technical in the ascent or descent that I have seen from what I can see of the peak. Just never done(that I can find from anyone). I'm hoping to fly it before if possible to recon - tried that once but too cloudy right over Caribou. Should be ~2400' vert descent if summitted. TH is west of Augusta.


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