| Mt. Evans - Crystal Coulior
**I went ahead and modified the name of the report to reflect that it was Crystal we climbed**
We arrived at Summit Lake at about 645am, and looking up at the climb, some fleeting doubts ran through our heads. With the recent rain and snow we found ourselves really questioning the snow conditions. We were encouraged by the amount of ice on the road at Summit Lake, but that did not completely alleviate our concerns. We decided that we would go ahead and throw our packs on and hike up to the bowl, and see what it really looked like up close before we made a decision.
From the Eastern lip of the bowl we could see some old tracks that headed part of the way up. We had planned on Crystal Coulior, but when we looked at the climb, the route I thought of as Crystal looked like it had melted out a bit much, so we decided on a different line. Aside from that we were not 100% on which route was Crystal. I had forgotten to bring Roach's guide with me, I was not sure which climb we had done until we got home and I looked. I went ahead and took a photo from here. I have gone ahead and drawn in the line we ended up taking.
Heading up the lower section prior to entering the break in the cliff the snow was quite solid. We did quite a bit for side stepping since the snow was too solid to kick into.
We took a bit more circuitous route in the interest of staying with the best possible snow. I took measurements periodically as we ascended the Couloir and measured it consistently between 40-45 degrees. As we reached the top of the shoot, the snow became rotten quickly. There were several times that as I kicked in, I could feel it reverberate through my ice ax. Jason and I swapped lead often, and I took it as we exited the shoot, and found ourselves below a large bulge in the snow, that was now in the sun. As I directed my line to avoid placing our weight on it I caught a glimpse of a break in the snow were you could see the layer that was holding that mass of snow on. With the sun now shining brightly on it, this made me more than a bit uncomfortable. Once we had side stepped it enough to be out of its range if it were to slide we discussed options. One of which was to follow around to the top of the bulge and see if there was a way around it without putting our weight directly on it. If we could pull this off, it would be the best option, as it would get us to the exit that had been obvious from the bottom.
The only other exit would be to free climb one of the solid looking arętes to the summit. We decided to split the difference and with the temps rapidly rising in the sun, we headed towards the gully closest to the first option. Those 50 feet of climbing were the longest of the entire climb, as the likelihood of a wet slide skyrocketed with the snow disintegrating beneath us.
As we moved towards the point we had chosen to scout both options simultaneously it became obvious that exiting via a gully would not be possible as the approach to it had been in the sun too long. The snow would not hold our weight. As we realized how badly the snow around us had deteriorated, my heart sunk, and I had to center myself. At this point I had Jason take lead. We quickly analyzed our options that were remaining. Down climbing these snow conditions would have been unpleasant at best, and it would place us inside the shoot that the bulge would slide into if it were to release. Given the fact I had seen at least one weak point at the bottom of the bulge, I really didn't want to risk it if at all possible. With only one option left we headed to the wall above the bulge and found that at least one other person had exited here. When I saw this I felt that wonderful rush that comes when you know that your situation has turned upwards.
Once we were above that unstable bulge and off the snow, all we could say was "holy f*#k!" By the way, since Jason led the exit, I checked the slope angle at about 50 degrees. Had we attempted to go over the bulge it would have been about 5 degrees more. Had we started 30-40 mins earlier, we could have avoided all of the excitement, as the snow would have been much more stable at the top. We chilled here for a minuet, and took a couple of photos, and headed up to the summit and a tourist took a photo of us.
From the top we were able to find our tracks and took this photo of our route. I am including one with a line and one without. Unfortunately there is not enough shadow to show the bulge, but if you follow the tracks you can see our route around it. The black part of the line is where we had to downclimb a bit to get snow conditions stable enough to reach the exit. The blue star is where I saw the crack in the snow layers.