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Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Post Date:  05/12/2009
Modified:  05/15/2009
Date Climbed:   05/12/2001
Posted By:  Easy Rider


 North Face   

Eric Parsons and I were introduced through Lou Dawson's Wildsnow.com following my post on Maroon Peak (2001). I was glad to make a plan with an experienced splitboarder on the world circuit: Volcanoes, India, and Athabasca. I met him at the South Park Saloon in Alma, as promised. He had climbed Democrat before from the west, but today we would be riding the northern face. I bivied on the floor mats by Montgomery Reservoir, and woke at midnight to Eric tinkering in his truck. I had a thick frost on my bag. By 1o we were walking past the mines, and skinning up frozen snow into Platte Gulch on the north side. The road through the willows climbed out of the creek bed to Wheeler Lake. I followed across to the south side, and cruising into the flats of the basin under the 'nordwand'. There was more snow than expected. We reached the base of the long gully straight ahead at 3o, with daylight still a long way off. I cracked my glow stick again and put crampons on, my poles stayed. Parsons led some nice kick steps in plastic boots. It was a luxury I was grateful for after the Maroon trip a couple days ago. We stopped to dig a superficial pit, finding the recent wind compacted snow stacking similar in consistency further down. There was no wetness. We set a casual pace, enjoying moonlit views of Traver and Wheeler. I felt fatigued and hungry, but made the summit for sunrise, and collected the view of Massive and Elbert standing over low clouds in the upper Arkansas Valley. No wind: a rare occurrence in the Ten Mile. We took our time, hoping for the sun to hit the face and soften it.

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I rode from the summit down the ridge a couple yards, catching the cue from Eric to drop in. The entrance rolled away steeper and steeper, on very firm snow. I was aware of the potential for a slide fall on this kind of snow. I pulled into the wind scoured rocks on the right, to spot. Eric was having a tough time keeping an edge using mountaineering boots in strap bindings. He took a slider near the top, and used his axe to stop. Yes, I was starting to learn that firm snow, while more stable, presented other dangers. My feet were killing me while I waited in broken softies.

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I took the next run nonstop to the bottom of the face, spotting from there. Eric rode the rest in good form. I noticed that he held his axe with arms prudently extended, while I have always been more of a spike dragger when heelside.

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With firm snow in Platte Gulch the cruise out went very well. We stayed out of the willows for the most part, and made it further than expected, almost to where we started skinning. So, we just hiked out from there rather than spend time splitting, and dealing with frequent dismounts. The jeep road was more obvious in the daylight, bringing us back to the reservoir.



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