Peak(s):  South Arapaho Pk  -  13,397 feet
Date Posted:  05/22/2013
Date Climbed:   05/22/2013
Author:  atalarico
 Not Jedi Enough  

So, I attempted Skywalker today. The snow is still not ready, in many ways. The trail is still 99% snow. I'm not sure if I honestly was expecting anything less, but yeah. I was able to walk on top of it for most of the approach, but flotation was necessary as soon as the sun hit it. There was about 50/50 ratio of corn to soft snow on the approach.

I got less sleep than I wanted the night before and ended up getting a late start (hit the trail by 7). I've been up this trail a million times and somehow still managed to lose the trail completely. Normally this isn't a big deal, but I ended up wasting most of my energy by going directly uphill to get above treeline and then sidehilling all the way to a point above the mine. By the time I got near enough to the base of Skywalker, there was all sorts of debris coming down off the mountain, as the sun was roasting everything it touched. I got hit by a few decent sized chunks of ice, and watched a softball size rock go whizzing by my head. Above the climb loomed a couple decent sized cornices on the direct and left exits. The sun was absolutely baking me as well, and I layered entirely too warmly. My only other option was to strip down to a t-shirt, but that seemed like asking for trouble. My watch read 60-70F all day on the snow (away from my body heat of course).

I ended up traversing over in an attempt to gain the ridgeline, but it ended up being pretty treacherous terrain for a bail/consolation prize. I wasn't as worried about the short AI2 pitch I encountered so much as the ridiculously soft snow that lead to me postholing in prime avy terrain. The snow balled up my crampons (Sabertooths) really badly, and I had to tap them out every other step. When I attempted to go straight up the loose snow, I just ended up wallowing and going nowhere quickly. I traversed over to the icy edge of another mellower couloir and gained the ridgeline. The clouds were building quickly and darkly by 11, and I knew I just didn't have it in me to safely get the summit. I couldn't believe how completely worked I was feeling by only a few miles of distance and a few thousand feet of climbing.

I still really enjoyed spending time above treeline in technical terrain. It was a great exercise, and it called upon many skills, as well as a good amount of luck, to navigate the terrain safely. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be today. I think the couloir still needs at least a week before it is consolidated and corny enough for easier front-pointing. Getting to the base of the couloir by sunrise is advisable for this climb given the amount of rock and ice fall I encountered today.

Here are some photos from the day. I didn't end up taking close up shots of Skywalker because it was simply too dangerous to sit at the base of it and take photos. Some are from my phone and some are stills from helmet cam footage. The phone takes much better shots.

I also thought it might be worth mentioning that it seems the road is rougher than normal. It didn't bother me in my lifted 4runner, but I could definitely see some Subi's having issues. Maybe I'm just imaging it though.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Liquid Shadow

05/29/2013 23:42
Great report! Sorry you couldn't summit. I'm going to attempt Skywalker around June 10th, hopefully the snow will be better by then.

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