| North Face, Stamberger Ledges 08
I packed it up and headed over Indepenence Pass, pulling the all nighter to the TH. The maroon road was open of course. I had heard that it was busy on the Bells lately, and a couple headlaps twinkled in the parking lot. On climber introduced himself and offered that he would be in the Bell Cord later this morning, and he headed up the dark trail alone. It must've been about half past one. I put my boots on, and followed the shore of Maroon Lake. It was balmy, a suspect freeze so far. I noticed a headlamp winking through the trees down by the bridge. I had to laugh a little, there are some old switchbacks in there that used to get me every time!
Well, my turn to bushwhack came soon enough. I missed the Junction for the Buckskin Pass, and ended up wandering through the campsites, and pushing a course up through steep talus and aspen brush on the east side of Minniaha. Close to being on route again in fact, but it made absolutely no sense to me in the dark. I felt pretty lost, and ended up using the last option, backtrack all the way to the junction at Crater Lake. This also turned out to be extremely difficult to follow, and after backtracking to the start to try once more, a pair of orbs drifted my way to ask me how it was going this morning. I told them I was having trouble. I put fresh batteries in my old halogen headlamp, and lit the way once more, this time finding the clues I needed. The orbs followed, then took the lead again where I walked myself into another piny hole. I followed until they did the same thing, and I panned the beam up slope to see another exposed berm. We descended a steep gully to the Creek, and put on the spikes. The first headwall to the hanging basin ramped up to a formidable pitch through a slot. I skinned again from there, and ascended the amphitheater to the base of the Gunsight to dress for the climb. Another group moved up to us, and the sunlight descended.
The North Face
I punched the boot trail up a nasty crust to the first bench, and gladly yielded the way for the fast threesome, but stayed close to minimize the hazards of whatever they might kick down. Still cool and powdery up in there. It was a great luxury to have it all spelled out for me. The traverse down and left of the top end of the central gully was one exposed crux that left me wondering about riding this. The traverse back right above that was another possible problem for keeping momentum, with one option being a steep sneak through to this tiny gully adjacent to the east of the central gully.
The threesome spent very little time on the summit, an descended immediately. The orbs, gave them some time, and descended as well. I was glad to not have to worry as much about debris from above, but realized the snow would be getting rotten further down the face.
riding off the summit.
I gave them about fifteen minutes, and followed. I'll confess I took the board off to downclimb the Punk Rock Band. It was a tough move for sure. I thought about it for a few minutes. He made it through the exposed ledge move, but was then swimming accross the traverse, trying his best to keep up with the skiers, who had followed the ascent route, too far right. A frenchman struggled from the clutches of a bergschrund, and waved me to pass. I swung halfway across, but rather than try to take my board off and take the relatively long climbing traverse over right, bypassed without cutting above them, via the sneak through I had remembered to the snowy little gully east of the central gully. Following the ski track immediately around a very very narrow ledge to the Central Gully. That part felt really exposed on my heel edge. From there it was easy, but not over. I rode out to Miner's ledge, no problem holding the traverse to the end of this ramp on a board.
There was yet another pair of climbers cued up on the bench, but the snow was rotting quickly at that point, and considering the size of the sluffs being sent down, they decided to call it.
Good job everyone who was out there that day. Though steep and complex, this was also the busiest route so far. There were up to nine climbers on the route at one point, but everything went smoothly and there were no close calls.
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