Peak(s):  Pacific Peak  -  13,950 feet
Date Posted:  06/20/2012
Modified:  08/13/2013
Date Climbed:   06/16/2012
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   moon stalker
 Climbing the high frozen seas of the Pacific   

Pacific Peak

Route: "Killer Couloir"
Mileage: 7.7
Elevation Gain: 2,804'
Snow Seekers: Darrin, Kelly and I

When Kelly suggested climbing Pacific via the Killer Couloir, both Darrin and I were excited with the choice. Climbing the north couloir has been on my list since I saw a trip report on it a few years ago. My interest spiked again, when I saw Pacific from Crystal earlier in the year.

We car camped at the 2WD trailhead, and then drove up the 4WD high clearance road to the upper trailhead. Some exciting road features, but nothing too tricky.

We got an early start (4am) since the forecast called for storms after 11am, and we didn't want to rush this beautiful basin or climb. In fact, we took our time on the approach. The trail up to the lakes is great, but there are lots of side trails and off-chutes, so beware, it can get tricky in the dark. There is a sign we missed that took us to another lake we didn't intend to see. Plenty of fisherman come up here for what appears to be excellent fishing, as well as those wanting to see the lakes and waterfall. This leads to plenty of social trails to confuse the hiker. What was obvious on the descent, was not so clear on the approach!

It looked to be a clear and gorgeous day, as the first light started to filter over the mountains to the east. A sickle moon could be seen over Silverheels as we ascended higher up in the valley. The lack of wind made for some fun reflections in the numerous lakes.

With the orientation of the easterly Killer Couloir, it took a while to see if it was in to the top. But as the suns first rays hit it, we could see that we would at least have snow/ice to the top. It is not likely to remain "in" to the top, for much longer.

Moon reflections

Pacific and Crystal in reflection

Kelly pointing the way

First light on Pacific

First good view of the Killer Couloir

Our snowy descent path on the left.

We took a quick food break at the first good viewing point of the route ahead. This is where the other 3 climbers of Pacific's frozen seas would pass us, intent on the more technical (or so we thought) North Couloir. We were instantly jealous! But we didn't bring any gear, so no steep ice for us. We transitioned to crampons at the base of the climb with the other group.

The snow started of pretty firm at the base, but with our slow, enjoyable pace up the couloir, the snow softened up. Expected, with the easterly exposure and strong sun hit. The climb itself was easy for the first section. So we took our time, and watched the progress of the other group, wondering if their beta of continuous snow was correct.

Refueling spot

Starting up the apron

Movin' on up!

Suncups, kinda like pre-made steps!

At the point where the two couloirs diverge, there was some thought of taking a left turn, but with the rock and ice fall that was and would continue, we decided to follow our original plan.

We stopped midway up, to view the progress of the other team, and to take some beta shots (in case anyone wants to get after this in the next week or so). The main crux appears to be at the very start. And based on the comments from the group, the route didn't appear to be all that well protect-able at present. Snow is continuous until the very top, which is melted out and is "junk on junk".

The point where the North splits off from the Killer Couloir

Getting steeper now

North Couloir

Technical ice section of the North Couloir

Good side view of steepness in middle section. Photo Credit: Darrin

Crystal Peak, peeks over the ridge

Break over, and snow softening nicely, it was time to get on our way up this frozen strip! As we got closer to the narrowing of the couloir, the more spicy it was starting to look! We could see some ice (~WI3) poking through the thin spots of the snow, as well as rocks gaping in the center. This won't be in for much longer!

The snow/ice gets thin in the upper constriction

Kick, Kick, Ice!

View down the couloir, from the upper constriction

On the ice, both Darrin and Kelly were singing the praises of their BD Venoms, as I came with only two regular mountain axes, leaving my heavy ice tools at home. They made some very nice pick holes, so I could follow easily enough. I guess I know one present that may be coming my way soon

The couloir was mostly 50-55 degrees, with the last 30' going to 60, and the cornice a bit more. What we thought was going to be a fairly mellow, non-technical climb, actually turned out to be quite exciting and very enjoyable!

BD Venoms to the rescue!

Approaching the cornice

Kelly and me coming up the icy section - Photo Credit: Darrin

Happy to be here - Photo Credit: Kelly

Kelly working ont he cornice

Kelly topping out - Photo Credit: Darrin

View of the final steepness - Photo Credit: Darrin
View from above - Photo Credit: Kelly

On the way to the summit, we saw the other group just getting to the top of the North Couloir. With rope and setting out pitches, it took longer than our leisurely pace to the top. And as the leader said, the last few feet to the ridge was "junk on junk", as the snow was gone.

We hung out for a little bit on the summit, noting how close Atlantic was, but not wanting to go. Why rush through the close by peaks? Besides, if I'm to repeat, it may as well be a ski Plus the clouds were developing right on schedule, so we went over to the snow slope we spied earlier for our glissade. Not the best glissade I've ever had, but certainly one with a lot of work to keep it at a slow pace. Sun didn't hit this snow with much force today!

Looking down the North Couloir

Pano to the south - Photo Credit: Kelly

Approaching the glissade

A happy glissader!

The hike down was a mix of lots of hikers, fisherman, and some snow flakes at one point. The skies looked grim, but once back at the trucks, the sun was back to beating down on us. A great climb in a beautiful basin, with great company. Those that chose poorly on this day, lost out - you know who you are!

More Beta Pics, and shots of the other group

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Ah ha!
06/20/2012 19:18
I didn't know where the Killer Couloir was when I saw Darrin post that picture of you and Kelly at the cornice, and forgot to Google it. It's good to see you guys salvaging what's left of snow climbing season. Makes me yearn a bit...

Condition Update
06/20/2012 19:24
Hey Otina, thanks for sharing, I guess, but don't you think this would be better suited as a condition update? Not exactly TR material...

Makes me wonder if I gave up on couloir season too early. Way to keep on finding nice lines!

06/20/2012 19:25
Personally, I believe if you're gonna rock the dualie axes, might as well take a mountaineering and a hybrid. Has worked great for me. Sweet climb, needed to see others goin after the cool snow lines.

Really like image 15

Name of Couloir
06/20/2012 19:31
Keith, none of us are sure what its actually called but Bill Referred to it as the Killer Couloir in this TR so we stuck with that!

06/20/2012 20:21
Couloir... I think I'm convinced to do one more this season.

Nice write-up Otina. And thanks for the Edwards loop report.

06/20/2012 22:24
Some of those suncups look huge.

Sounds like a great day out!

06/20/2012 23:18
That exit looks steep! Bummed I missed this one. Great pics. And Darrin actually took a photo?!

Looks like fun
06/20/2012 23:31
Nice photos, especially #1.

A fine way to climb Pacific
06/21/2012 00:19
Nice job finding this elusive couloir, looks short and sweet. Always a plus with sweet alpenglow in the morning.

moon stalker
Those that chose poorly on this day, lost out!
06/21/2012 03:54
Yeah, someone decided to stay home and sleep until 8:15 am and missed one of the best climbs of this season, at least for our group. This turned out to be a great climb. I'm glad we didn't hit North. We can do it next year. We got a great climb in Killer. Great TR as usual.
And yes, the Venom is awesome. I am really happy with mine. Darrin, you know what to get Otina!
Great day!

06/21/2012 08:40
Wowwww your pics!! Your trip reports are basically a big list of awesome-looking stuff I hope I can do someday :-D That looks steeeeep.

Most excellent
06/21/2012 15:54
Thanks for sharing. What a cool objective!

What an exit...
06/21/2012 19:10
Great report, great photos. Getting around the final cornice looked interesting! Nice job to the three of you! When I get back from baby mountain leave, we'll have to get out again.


Thanks everyone!
06/21/2012 19:46
FireOnTheMountain - I would love a hybrid, better than lugging the ice tool, which I have done before. So much gear to buy, still!

Monster5 - Better hurry, the snow's a melting!

Caroline - I think I convinced Darrin to get a camera out again, on occasion. He just doesn't think to do it on ”bump humping” trips

scramble - You've got time, just put it on the to-do list!

Derek - Just let me know when the baby mountain leave allows!

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