This video (another hobby) pretty much sums up the trip, but the text below offers some extra details.
I should note: in the video I used a photo of Mt. Gabb’s N. couloir (different year) that I found from google images, but I think it originated from someone’s photo on this site. Thanks to whoever took it… I hope thats alright.
April 8th – 11th 2014
I parked at the gate/stables about a mile below the Rock Creek trailhead, skied around the east side of Bear Creek Spire, climbed over its southeastern ridge (wasn’t easy: involved a short section of 4th/easy 5th class climbing), and then up to the long east ridge of Mt. Julius Caesar where I camped at about 12,800 ft my first night.
Day 2 I organized my gear and left it on the ridge, descended a nice north facing couloir that I had spotted the day before. The snow was really good but a little variable (crust, chalk, and nice pow). Then I skinned back up to my gear on the track I had already set the day before, packed the gear into my packs (a 22L Mammut w/airbag, and a small camelbak I wore on my chest), and descended off the south side of the ridge (some talus negotiations and firm/frozen snow). Then I skinned to a spot below the ridge just north of Feather Peak and left gear again right below a nice looking wide north facing couloir on an unnamed peak aprx. 12,500′ (at least on my map). I skinned around it and over to the main north couloir on Feather Peak. There were tracks in the couloir far lookers left over between Feather and Royce peaks and also to the bottom of the main north couloir on Feather where I converted to crampons, but none up it… just tracks down the apron. I climbed and rode that main north couloir in excellent conditions (textured pow and little bits of thin crust). Next I skinned up the south side of that unnamed peak 12,500′ due north on snow all the way to the notch and down the wide north facing couloir I had spotted. It was also really good snow. Next I repacked my gear I had left and skinned up to Italy Pass and northwest over to the saddle just beyond it and above Lake Italy. I descended down to Lake Italy just before sunset on great snow and set up camp.
Day 3 I skinned up the south side of Mt. Gabb. The upper few hundred feet were not skinnable and required talus hiking. I rode down the North Couloir using an ice axe to protect myself through the upper pinch. The rest was all time, but I actually fell about half way down my run, which was disappointing (I cut it out of the vid), but all and all I was stoked. My camera battery was starting to die so I didn’t record much from this point on. Skinning up to the saddle between Mt. Gabb and Mt. Abbot was quick, and then I got a long fun corn run back to my tent. When I got back to camp I ate a small dose of psychedelic mushrooms because its something I had always wanted to try on a solo mission. Although it was kinda interesting I don’t think I’ll do it again. I skinned about 1,000 feet up the north side of Mt. Julius Caesar for one last pow/corn run before sunset. The mushrooms made me feel extra unsafe and paranoid of potential rock fall and/or wet slides…last time I need to do that.
Day 4 I ascended up the southwest side of Mt. Dade to its lowest notch. The upper few hundred feet were too firm to skin and had a couple of scree sections. The north facing couloir on the other side (draining back into Rock Creek) had super good pow. From the bottom I veered left staying high towards Ruby Lake and eventually back down to Rock Creek. This seems like the best choice for attaining maximum distance towards the road. I was stoked to remain strapped in, at least partially, (some one-footing across portions of several lakes) all the way to Heart Lake where I switched to ski mode for the last couple of miles back to my car.
All time!! :headbang: Did you say you did all this with just a 22L pack and a camelback?? If so then I’m doing something wrong. That’s impressive. How much food did you bring? And how have I not thought of a bringing a straw?!
Thanks, Yeah, I was super stoked on the straw. I read about that idea from an article a couple years ago about some climbers who pulled off a super impressive first ascent/traverse in really lightweight alpine style on the Fitz Roy Massif in Patagonia. I think they didn’t even bring a stove for their multi-day climb, just sucked water from the rock.
I wanted to include my gear list in the vid, but I thought its duration was getting too long. Here it is though:
The chest pack was an experiment, and I think I’m down to do it again. I kept my 800 mL water bottle, some food, map, straw, sunscreen, and other frequently used stuff in it. It made accessing that stuff convenient. On super steep slopes it could get in the way of your thighs if it sits too low. It sucked climbing that short rock chimney with it on, but overall I thought it was pretty comfortable.
The 22L spec on the Mammut pack (Ride RAS 22) seems a bit generous to me. I’m guessing it probably excludes the space occupied by the airbag and tank.
I forked up a lot of dough for a nice sleeping bag that packs super small (like $500+). It is a quilt design with no zipper with an open space on the bottom above the waist wear normal bags loose their insulation anyways from the feathers being smashed down. Its made by Katabatic Gear and is rated at 22 degrees. From the research I did, it sounds like Katabatic under-rates their bags. I went for the wide option they offer to fit boot liners inside if necessary, and it also allows me to close it all the way up under my body if its super cold or drafty. I’m definitely stoked on that purchase, but it does require a little bit of extra attention at night to avoid any drafts entering inside the bag.
My pad is the Thermarest NeoAir, their best/warmest and priciest pad, which also packs down super small. My tent was the Black Diamond 2-man treking pole shelter (bottomless) that also packs super small, and uses the ski poles. I also brought a two man tarp/ground cover which probably isn’t even essential but keeps things dryer of coarse.
Food: Chocolate covered espresso beans (no need to brew coffee) and 4-6 nutrigrain bars for breakfast each morning; salami, nuts, LOTS of gummy snacks, and a couple other random snacks for lunches; 2 ramens + 2 large hotdogs (in the soup) for dinner each night. Surprisingly I over estimated, or my apatite just never fully kicked in, and I came out with about an extra day’s worth of food (not the tastiest stuff though).
Clothes: 2 pairs of socks, 1 set thermals pants & long sleeve shirt, Ghostwhisperer down layer, down balaclava, gloves, burly pants, light upper shell, sun protection, goggles.
Stuff strapped on the outside: helmet, skins, crampons, Petzle Sum’tec iceaxe (the smallest/lightest one I’ve seen on the american market).
Misc. Stuff: leatherman, lighter, tape, spare batteries, bailing wire, a couple spare snowboard bolts, a few ibuprofen pills, spork, about 60 ft of 3mm chord for hauling or firstaid.
No beacon, shovel, and probe necessary on a solo mission 🙂 Smashed it all down pretty hard!
That was fun to watch. Thanks for posting. Not many people take the time to narrate their videos which gives it a little more personality. I have one of those quilts from golite. It’s amazing how warm they are and how small they get! I was able to carry 2 liters of beer on my last backpacking trip with the space savings from my last bag. Glad to see how good it can still be even with the light snow year this season. I’m itching again!