| Grays Peak: Lost Rat Couloir - Day 2
This is a continuation of another ascent… to read about our ascent of Dead Dog there is a trip report here:
Moving on to Lost Rat:
After Mike dropped me off at my car, I quickly changed and hit the road to take care of errands in Denver. As soon as I got home I emptied my car, and spread my gear out to dry in the sun before Jason arrived to head back up in his Jeep for Lost Rat on Sunday. While my gear dried, I spent time with my wife. Jason showed up at 8pm, which came way too fast and we were on our way back up to the trailhead.
Before I knew it we were back at the end of the Bakersville Road falling asleep in the Jeep. The alarm went off at 415am. As the alarm went off, we heard a truck drive by, attempting to make it further up the road. It didn't work out so well for them, but helped contribute to that snow bank clearing enough for another vehicle to get through later in the day. We were on the trail at 510am with clear skies. Where on Saturday we had been in fog the majority of the trip in, on Sunday we could see the entire valley for the whole approach. As first light spread across the valley, the face of Torrey's and Gray's lit up with the alpen glow we had missed the day before, forcing me to keep pulling out my camera.
The View as we hit the trail
As we approached the sign a little over a mile in that marks the point where we had cut across to Lost Rat in 2006, we split off from the trail, and were quickly able to see tracks heading to the bowl beneath the climb up ahead. These tracks took a different line then we had previously taken, and quickly decided to give them a shot in hopes that it would limit the loss and gain in altitude that hitting the bowl further south would. We were not only pleased by the fact that this was the case, but the line gave us a beautiful view of the ridge.
The approach line we took, as well as the climb
Jason heading toward the bowl below Lost Rat
Me on the approach
The view we had on the approach
Looking back at Kelso
As we traded our snowshoes for crampons, we reviewed the bottom of the route and while there was a set of old ski tracks, there was no boot track leading up the climb. Jason recently picked up a really lightweight iPod speaker for his pack, and excited to try it out we turned it on and started up.
The snow was perfect, and helped me snap into the perfect rhythm. Every once in a while its nice to have the reminder that not having a boot track forces you into a cadence that conserves energy. On this climb it took to kicks to make the step and I found myself repeating in my head; kick, kick, step on repeat. When Jason would take lead I used the opportunity to take photos with the little camera I kept in my pocket all weekend.
Looking back at Jason a little over half way up
Jason Kicking Steps while on lead beginning the upper portion
Once we could see the cornice at the top, we began discussing exit options. Before starting up we had decided on the far climbers right side of the couloir, and that still seemed like the best option. A small cornice still guarded the top of the climbers left, and it looked as though our original plan would provide for an exit that while still considerably steeper then the rest of the climb, would not entail messing with hacking our way through.
Jason with the last little bit above him happy to see the top
There was a section approximately 50 feet below the top where the snow thinned enough that our crampon we being placed directly on the loose scree that lines the upper section of Lost Rat. This area was only about 10 feet long, before it was possible to maneuver back onto thicker and more stable snow. Once I was above the loose rock, I turned to take a photo of Jason starting his was across the loose snow and scree before starting up. The exit was perfect, and revealed near continuous snow along the ridge to the summit. I turned around to take photos of Jason topping out before sitting down to take a quick break.
Me as I took lead for the last section
Jason working his way through the lean section over scree near the top
Our exit line
Jason climbing the last bit of the climb which was significantly steeper than the rest of the climb
Jason and I discussed continuing up to the summit, about 800ft above and agreed to go ahead and skip it. I had already gotten one and while I really wanted to take the perfect line of snow along the ridge to the summit, also wanted to get home to spend some real time with my wife and our two very furry, panting, barking children so I was easily persuaded…
What we saw on our way out
A Panorama of the mountains I spent my weekend on, I took this on the way in but really though it fit better at the end of the report =)
The trip back to the car was perfect, on snow just soft enough to plunge step, but not so soft that we repeatedly postholed. I had the opportunity to chat for a moment with a couple of climbers who had ascended Dead Dog, and was happy to hear that the boot tracks left from yesterday apparently froze quite nicely, providing a ladder for Sunday's parties, though from the description it sounded as though the deep boot tracks were probably the gift of the last group up on Sunday.
We arrived at the car by 1230pm, and I was home by 145pm. This was probably one of the best snow climbing trips I have ever had.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):