| South Face & The O.B.
Kit Carson was the last of the Crestones for me. Another group had recently used the Outward Bound Couloir and reported skiable conditions off the summit. A light storm had moved through during the week, but not enough to change the snowpack. As much as I wanted to climb Cole's Couloir, I decided it was time to forgo aesthetics, and give Willow Creek a try. Either approach was going to be a mess, but at least the later was more established. I packed light, (stove and sleeping bag) and burned up the rest of the day hiking up into more convoluted terrain. I heard a couple of hikers on the trail below. They caught up to me at the base of some slabs, looking for the best way through. They were headed for the north buttress, and trying to make it to Willow Lake tonight, but sans snowshoes. I followed them up a direct line through the ledges. An easier, route went far right here on snow.
The sun set, and the moon came out as we rambled up through the basin. Willow Lake did not disappoint. The frozen falls looked awesome in the moonlight. We rounded the north shore to a protected area on a relatively dry ledge to sleep.
My plan was to get up at about 4:30, but I was using my cel for an alarm, and for some reason it decided to wake me up an hour early. I started up the left side of the basin around the cliffs, and progressed to the base of the O.B. to find that the sun was not even trying to get up yet. The wind had really picked up again, and I spent the next hour trying to slow my progress without stopping for too long. I went from boulder to boulder trying to find shelter from the spindrift, then moved on to warm up again, usually finding the rocks were more two dimensional and not much help. At least a good freeze was a given.
There was more loose snow in the upper confines of the O.B., but I still felt a solid base. I stuck to the sides, often picking along the rock, and punching the snow for bergschrund.
I topped out the col, peering over into Cole's. The summit still looked like an hours' work away. Since the snow had a nasty rime shell and I was hoping it would soften up by then.
At the summit.
(click for slightly larger image)
The descent was still really crusty, and I was glad I was doing the O.B. rather than Cole's.
I hiked back to the col, and had a great run into the upper basin.
(click for view of tracks)
I got my poles out and made my way back to Willow Lake, where the other climbers were getting ready to head out.
The snow was still solid, and I was able to ride the left side of the valley most of the way back to the slabs. I used the snow to the left to dodge them, and prepped for a long hike out. The wind put on quite a show that afternoon.
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