Monday, April 21, 2014

Grays Peak 4-19-2014

The weather looked really good for the weekend and I had been thinking about a climb in ether the Pioneers off the East Fork Road, or something in the Boulders from Hwy 75.  I had seen that Mark was wanting to do Gray's peak so I jumped on with him, Tory, Deb and Oleg.

We met up and left Boise at 5:00am arriving at the Federal Gulch camp ground at 8 and had our boots on the ground and moving by 8:30.  Cold temps and very light wind with no almost no clouds.   

We hop across the creek and are on our way up the west ridge.  I had informed the group of the creek crossing and jokingly said "water wings optional".  Note the creek crossing shoes on Debs pack...  

We get our first close views of the upper mountain.  We were prepared for a snow climb and had carried snow shoes as well.  I had climbed this before, but not on snow. 

This is one of two short scrambles along the ridge.

Not a whole lot of snow and we hopped it would be in good shape to climb.

As we walked on snow here, the slope to the left failed.  We heard a "whoomp" and jumped about 4 feet in the air to dry ground.  The fracture line was visible (shown below).

Oleg enjoying the views.

We continue up the ridge.

We stop for a short break, put on crampons and grab our ice axes.

We discuss route options, snow conditions and rapidly rising air temperature.  We know we need to get moving, and fast.  

Time to climb with Oleg in the lead.

Mark,Tory and Vuyo climbing up behind us.

We were concerned about the rising temps and cornices on the ridge and after studying the route we decided to attempt to find a way around it.  We proceeded with a conservative mindset because we had already seen signs of snow pack instability and dropped down to the right between the trees.

We had traversed this slope under the lower cornices and reevaluated.  Here is what we saw;  Rising temps meant an increasing risk of wet slides and cornice failures.  We also saw the south ridge was dry and had four other climbers on it and about to summit.  That route would have added significant time and distance as well as involving a tough scree slog.  It was after 1pm by this point and had set a turn around time of 2.  We figured there was little chance of making the summit and saw little reason to continue only to have to climb back though the already melting snow.

This is looking up the slope at the cornice.  Not a good place to be and we quickly reversed our tracks.  Oleg and I also quickly agreed with Debs desire to be on terra firma. 

Oleg enjoying the view from the days high point of just over 10,000ft.

We snap a picture and prepare to rejoin Mark and Tory for some much needed lunch and rest.

Looking up the last 500 feet of the west ridge and watching the other groups summit.

Lunch with a view.

We rubberneck and name all the peaks we can.

We headed down in the ever-softening snow and into some deep post-holing mixed with glissading and a few explicit words.  Going down was tough...   

Visible fracture line on the slope that failed early in the day.  That got our hearts going!  Reexamining the north aspects, we saw several old avalanches had let loose here.

Another short section of class 3 rock on the way down.  It was the first big peak any of us had been on this year.  We had done over 3,200ft of vertical and were quite happy with that.  Success does not always mean getting to the summit.  We made a great team, had a ton of fun and made good informed decisions that kept us safe to climb another day - that is success in my book.  In the end, it is the mountain that says if you can climb or not.     

Granola out

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