| North Face Variations, & The Big Cruise
I took a layover day at the lake after chasing Brennan up Little Bear. It was another calm clear day, and warmer. The ice hanging off the cliffs on the north side of the valley thawed and crashed, turned to waterfalls, and soaked the snow above the lake. I packed up, but decided not to leave.
I felt better, but the window of good weather moved on. It was a crisp freeze, and the wind gusts must've been 35 mph at the lake, the clouds showed up; and though I did not think I would get a run from anywhere near the summit, managed to motivate by thinking about the great cruiser runs though the long chain of basins. The clouds would keep the flats from turning into an impassable swamp. Things would be locked up all day, so just a matter of dealing with the wind, and watching for new slabs.
There were some impressive spindrift displays in the rocks below the ridge, but the wind was not much worse than when I woke up at camp. I found a mess of stacked rocks leading me just above the jct with Ormes Buttress, and followed the north ridge.
The clouds broke overhead for short chances at the top, and cued the storms brewing over La Garitas to start moving east across the San Luis Valley.
The snow off the peak's north face, shown here on the last few yards to the summit, allowed a few turns on diamond hard sastrugi before a traverse to the west ridge on the far side. I didn't quite make it there, and had to unclip in a tight spot to get on the ridge.
Just on the other side is the auxiliary couloirs to the south basin. The first one looked bad, but there was one below leading down just below the col. Not much in the way of good turns, but passable.
Hard to deny the aesthetic of continuing into Blanca Basin, but the route loses it's luster somewhere down in a patchy gauntlet of old man's beard.
At the col looking back at Costilla County.
The run on the north dropped away noticeably farther than the south. Ellingwood stands on the other side.
Passing along Crater Lake the snow was just starting to get soft on the surface, but supportable enough to make the cruise back to camp go really nicely.
I packed up, and rigged for gibing. Then headed down following Brennan's tracks. A lot of snow melted since then, and his tracks skipped mysteriously between patches of snow and over rocks. Tracks squirmed through deep trenches of slush, and I struggled in all the same places, laughing and cursing, eventually emerging at the end of the canyon on the outer mountain.
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