| Successful Failure: Lady Washington Summit
Peak: Mount Lady Washington, Front Range
Date Climbed: March 27th, 2008
Group: Ryan (scollard) and Ben (benners)
Route: Lady Washington's East Face
RT Distance/Elevation Gain: ~12.5 Miles, 4,400 Feet
Time: 14 Hours
I usually don't post TR's for failed attempts but this was still one heck of a day for my friend Ryan and I (and I havn't written a report in a while ). A week prior (March 20) Ryan and I had attempted Longs but had to turn back at treeline due to a nasty cold I was hiking with. We did get to practice digging some snow caves however!
Snow cave we dug at treeline on March 20
Anyway on this day we set off from the ranger station at 5:45am and gained treeline quickly. Despite our attempts to weather watch and plan accordingly, we feared early on that we may have picked a bad day. We were particularly skeptical about the cloud cover as well as the wind (although we tried to keep in mind that Longs is notoriously windy). Already snow had begun to fall and the higher we ventured, the harder the wind blew. We figured we would at least make it to the Keyhole no matter how bad the conditions, and we would then evaluate things and decide whether or not it would be prudent to continue.
Sunrise from treeline, this is the most sun we saw all day
As we continued on the snow and wind increased substantially. Every attempt we made to rest led to immediate chilling of our core temerature, we just tried to take it slow and steady. We forced our way up through Mills Moraine and Granite Pass, our pace was slowed even more by 2 to 3 feet of snow covering the trail.
Granite Pass at 10:30am
Ryan and I continued on and reached the Boulder Field around 11:00am, the winds had died off but we figured it may have only been a result of entering the three-sided protection of the "valley" the boulder field sits in. Visability had dropped to maybe 10 or 20 feet, we persisted on past the Boulder Field to the bottom of the slope at the base of the Keyhole. Here the snow was very deep, 4 feet in some places, due to the relentless wind loading of gusts scouring snow off of the north side of the mountain and blasting it through the Keyhole.
Ryan making his way through the Boulder Field
The Keyhole emerging from the gloom
We reached the Keyhole at noon to find the hut 3/4 full of snow (this was disappointing). Even more disappointing was the unbelievably strong winds being driven through the Keyhole; huge blasts of snow and ice were being forced through at an alarming rate, it sort of reminded me of a jet engine. Ryan and I poked our heads over the lip of the Keyhole and caught a glimse of the north side of the mountain; it looked like hell on Earth. There wasn't really any debate between us, we were going to have to admit defeat on this one, it would have just been too dangerous to try to negotiate the ledges with winds that high and visability that poor.
The Keyhole during a March blizzard, our turnaround point
Snow filled hut
Although we were upset about having to turn back due to weather after having gone so far, we decided that no matter how poor the conditions we could and should be able to summit Mt. Lady Washington, this was the last of Longs' surrounding thirteeners I had yet to summit. After a brief food break we just headed for the summit from the Boulder Field, I'm not even sure whether there's a defined route on this mountain or not. The winds picked up the higher we climbed and by the time we reached the top, they were as strong as we had experienced all day. The visability dropped to almost nothing again and we quickly descended back to the Boulder Field seeking some relief.
Our summit shot, I know its not pretty
Looking across at Lady Washington's sub-summit
Upon reaching the Boulderfield (around 2:30pm) we were greeted by the ever-worsening storm; winds were getting very extreme and the snow was falling heavily. We found up to 3 feet of newly wind loaded snow on the traverse from Granite Pass to Chasm Junction, our tracks in had been completely erased and buried under more snow. Because of this we had to break through fresh snow in both directions and our pace was painfully slow. Rounding the east side of Lady Washington took almost 2 hours, we reached treeline at 6:30pm and arrived at the car at 8pm for a RT of 14 hours.
Granite Pass at 3pm
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):