| Slate Creek Cirque & The Boxcar Couloir
The Wilsons are a bit isolated from the major chain of mountains that surround Telluride, and new snowfall amounts were modest, and settled on Monday. The post-storm wind was going to be my main concern.
I let Tuesday morning go, and spent the day on several side trips into Illium, Ophir, and Trout Lake. Admiring the tracks on Yellow and San Muquel. The last place I had cell reception was the Ames' lookout (see El Diente report). A Honda Pilot was parked at the TH Tuesday, and I was guessing they were after the Boxcar Couloir.
By afternoon white plumes rose from the peaks a hundred feet or more. It was supposed to be worse on Wednesday, when I would meet Tim Halbakken (see Mt. Massive & Quandary reports). It was possible t I let another opportunity go to waste, but I rationalized that I would rather go with an old friend in bad weather, than alone on the best day. From my introduction on Table Mountain to dabblings in the Black, he has been one of my main climbing mentors.
Did I sleep through all my alarms? No, 2:50. He was early. Brrrr! It was another stiff freeze, and barely a puff of wind. Excitement replaced apprehension, and we set out across the bridge to the Cross Mountain trail, catching the first meadow. The last group put a track in immediately. This seemed a little premature. We found my track at 11111 in about 40 minutes. It looks like a three way junction where a right turn meets a spur heading back down to the left. My trail was still there, barely. A pale stripe here and there, remembering a dead tree. It was a luxury. When the trail ended at my last waypoint, about 10,900 we compared GPS readings (my piece of showing a hundred feet lower every time). Gladstone was visible at this point, but going off the peaks for orientation was asking for trouble. It can be tricky distinguishing South Wilson from Cross Mountain since the view is never complete, even if you have the moon. Oh yeah, the moon. From this point on I put the moon on my axe point over my left shoulder to hold NW, and descending into the last coolie of Cross Creek. HA! I could have easily tried to follow it, but did one more up and over. Slate creek is more expansive. We stayed to the right side, holding the line through the last rows of trees, passing ruins of a snow shelter. Switching to the left side of the basin, and skinning up to Gladstone.
Sunrise on South Wilson
Sunhit at the Gladstone corner
Slate Creek Cirque
spotting the summit pyramid
We went right here since rocks were flying out of the chute on the left. This set us up for a tough finish on the catwalk. This twenty or thirty foot section is exposed on both sides. Fatal on the right, crippling on the left. Of course ski boots and crampons added another element of difficulty to these gentle moves. I had to take my pack full of bricks (full water bottles) off for a tall move in the middle of all this, Tim tied a sling to my pack and we hoisted it up together.
The Davenport / Konsella line was pretty much out of condition.
The Brennen / White line was in a little better, but I would have to separate from Tim since his skis were back on the northeast col.
Spotting from the ridge.
The summit was caked, but the chute dried up before the junction with the main couloir dropping from the south col. I kick down as much snow into it as I could into the end, and made it another few feet before unbuckling and traversing about fifteen feet across to the col.
Ripping out of the upper couloir.
We were both thinking that the Boxcar was probably getting a bit too soft, but after cruising over to check, we decided to give it a go. So glad we did!
We had a great run and a nice cruise out, nipping over to the west side of Slate Creek before heading back into the woods and catching our track.
Another great day, and I couldn't have had a more perfect finish to the San Juan 14ers. Big two left.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):