There were four members in our party and we had traveled from Tennessee (500 ft) to where we would start our ascent in less than 24 hours. Our acclimatization was largely successful; we slept at nearly 8000 ft Thursday night and 11,300 ft friday night. We drank plenty of water and got approximately 8 hours of sleep Friday night. One of our party got acute mountain sickness (dizzy, irrational, mild nausea, and extremely slow at any task); but we kept a close eye on him. Baker's gulch road could be traveled about half way up in a 4X4 with good tread on the tires and maybe the whole way with chains. However, we did not have either of those conveniences. We decided to hike up to the parking area which is approximately 11,300 ft and stay the night there in order to lessen our elevation gain on Saturday. We woke at 6:00 am and started our ascent by 7:15 am. While we were breaking camp we heard an avalanche on a near by slope; we heard another later during the day. We were unable to check the avalanche forecast so we proceeded with caution. The conditions were poor, we were unable to see Torreys and Grays the entire day. It was a near white out a few times and the usual crusty snow was not present. Nearly 25 inches of fresh snow had fallen in the last day or so. The temperature ranged from single digits F to -10 F with a wind chill in the low -20's. Breaking way was difficult even in snow shoes. At 12,600 ft we switched to crampons; which increased post holing up to our shins but is also increased our traction, being that a flat trail was absent. From 12,600 ft on we had to route find about 75% of the time. As we got above 13,000 ft we encountered unstable snow fields ranging from 35-45 degree slopes with little to no rock exposure. Finally at 13,600 ft we hit an avalanche chute that was a 90 ft wide, approximately 2000 ft deep, 100% slope (45 degrees), with a pure white covering of snow.
The left region of this photo is looking down the avalanche chute; we were safely positioned on an outcropping of rocks. At 13,600 ft we had to turn around and begin our descent. After getting off the leeward side of the mountain we were able to breath a little more easily. Sunday we checked the avalanche forecast for Saturday and it was "high" specifically saying; "15 - 25" of new snow has fallen on a very weak snowpack. Expect to find very sensitive soft slabs below ridges or crossloaded areas near treeline. The avalanche danger will quickly increase to high if the wind is higher than forecast. Travel on upper elevation leeward slopes is not recommended." Even though we didn't get the summit we all felt good about our decision to abort and overall we had an excellent time and gained some excellent winter mountaineering experience. Our trip goes to show that conditions play a major role in mountaineering and good decision making is more important than making it to the top.