| Solo Winter Dayclimb: Mt Columbia - Part Two
Chasing Down the Voodoo:
Solo Winter Dayclimb on Mount Columbia
Peak: Mount Columbia
Route: West approach.
Date: January 9, 2010
Length: 18 miles RT
Vertical: 5300 feet
Travel time: 9:00 hours, RT
Ascent Party: Dancesatmoonrise
The Story, Continued…
Please see "Solo Winter Dayclimb: Mount Columbia Revisited - Part One":
At the end of the story in Part One, the summit ridge has just been crested....
. . . . . . . . .
On with the story....
Walking the Summit Ridge
At the top of the west slopes, the summit ridge presents vast sweeping arms embracing the Three Elk Creek drainage below to the east;
its origins coming out of the southeast toward the morning's start, its northerly termination reaching up to Mount Columbia's summit.
(Note Pikes Peak, in the distant background.)
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Glen warned me the ridge would be longer than it looked.
Playing in this glorious solar warmth, I knew I might be paying for the afternoon's high altitude pleasure later that night.
I was ready. This was worth it.
After thirty minutes of traversing the ridge in the pleasant afternoon sun, the summit finally decided to say hello,
under an expansive, high-pressure vapor-trail sky.
I looked at my watch. It was 2:10 pm.
The sky was incredible.
The solitude at the summit reflected the quiet, snow-blanketed beauty in the basin below.
Basking in the warm sun at this place where the earth meets the sky, where human powered ascent ends,
where the lack of atmosphere renders the sun's warmth a direct transfusion of solar energy,
I began once again to experience that alpine phenomenon known as "Rapture of the Steep"…
…All the while knowing that every minute of summit ecstasy would be paid later in nocturnal slogging agony.
That is, if all went well on the descent.
Summit celestial solar fireworks:
On the way back down the summit ridge, I thought about improvising a round-trip loop, coming back down the SE ridge,
till I realized that something was missing: the weight of my snowshoes. Which were parked in the snowpack
at the base of the west gulley, one-half vertical mile below. I couldn't descend a different route.
Making mental note of this potential round-trip route for future reference,
I dropped into the notch that leads back down the west/southwest rib.
Don't miss this drop-in point. Otherwise, you may end up descending the south ridge.
I'd considered this prominent south ridge in researching the maps, though the bottom near treeline looked too steep.
The correct point to leave the summit ridge is marked with a large cairn.
A little further down, Pt 11853 comes into view to guide you. At this point, you want to strike a bearing
about 20-25 degrees north, directly toward 11853, to stay out of the south gulley. This can be confusing if you are
unable to see the trail for any reason.
Arriving at the base of Pt 11853, it was around 3:15 pm. The hot afternoon sun baked the west slopes in the calm air.
I sat down to assess the current situation. Three liters of water were gone an hour ago. No stove. It was getting late.
The Horn Fork winter wonderland in receding shadows of late afternoon
Payback Time: At the Mercy of the Mountain Gods
Rearranging the pack, donning snowshoes, and taking some photos got the descent started by 3:45 or 4:00 pm.
The lack of wind preserved tracks nicely; the descent would be no great route-finding task. This was good.
. . . . . . . .
The snowshoes came off and the headlamp went on, somewhere near the bottom of the Horn Fork drainage.
By the time I made the Cottonwood bridge, it was after sundown. It got completely dark just before the summer TH.
The most sorely missed tool on the descent was the skis, of course, especially on those last three miles of road.
I thought about Glen and our trip last Tuesday, and how much fun it was to glide all the way out. Today was a slog.
And every once in a while…walking down that road in complete quiet and darkness…
you'd hear these sounds coming from the woods on either side of the road… : )
Finally, the car's reflectors winked back in the headlamp beam. It was 6:40 pm.
The Voodoo had been purged.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Don't pinch me, I may be still be dreaming.
I knew a good solo winter journey was just what the witchdoctor ordered to clear out some karmic congestion...
...and working on dreaming up the next bewitching ascent…
I want to thank Glen for our trip last Tuesday, and for the Great Spirit giving us the sense to turn back when high winds, incoming weather,
and the late hour threatened a safe and successful summit bid.
Glen, I missed you on this gorgeous day. Let's travel again soon.
Thanks also to Sarah T for giving us the idea for this route after her party's recent successful overnight attempts on Harvard and Columbia.
I would also like to thank Kiefer for his encouragement, his inspirational trip reports, and his steadfast commitment to mountaineering.
Kiefer, you are an inspiration to the rest of us mortals.
And a big thanks to Sgladbach…Many of us here, myself included, owe a great debt to Steve, for his inspirational work
and his wealth of experience in the winter backcountry, which he selflessly shares with those of us interested and willing to learn.
I'm not sure he hears it all that often, so where better to say thanks, than at the end of a successful solo winter journey.
A sincere thanks, Steve, for all you do, which I'm sure I express on behalf of all of us.
I sincerely hope reading this trip report has been a totally bewitching experience for all you fellow dreamers.
. . . . . --Jim
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):