Peak(s):  Pacific Pk  -  13,950 feet
Atlantic Pk  -  13,841 feet
Date Posted:  06/22/2008
Date Climbed:   06/21/2008
Author:  Doug Shaw
 Pacific Peak North Couloir  

There is a large deposit of avalanche detritus across the road into the Mohawk Lakes basin, so you currently have to park about 1/2 mile from the end of the road. Given its size and the density of avalanche debris, I would not expect this to melt out for at least another month, if not longer.


From current parking it is about a 3 mile hike w ~1500' vertical gain to reach the upper basin at around 12,600'.

The basin is melting out quickly. The remaining snowfields seemed to be well consolidated - even in the afternoon, I was only postholing around their perimeter. Caveat: I only weigh in at ~175 with pack. I did not take snowshoes, and appreciated not needing to haul the extra weight.

The N couloir gets sunhit early this time of year - around sunup - so get an EARLY start.

On the way up the basin there are currently numerous alternate lines available to be climbed if you're running late or are just feeling adventurous. Some look pretty interesting. Most of these will exit along Pacific's E Ridge:


The lower N couloir itself is currently threatened by a large cornice I nicknamed "Terrifying Bastard". This guy hangs over the exit onto the north ridge, not the normal exit. Once you get to the bottom of the dogleg you are no longer in its path. The image is a bit deceiving as it appears to overhang the rock tower, but in reality it will sweep much of the entire lower couloir when/if it goes.


Conditions in the upper 300 feet or so are variable. In some places there is hard alpine ice and six inches to the side you can plunge the shaft of your axe and kick a foot placement without problem, and six inches to the side of that the snow is unconsolidated and useless.

The upper 100-200 feet before exiting at the notch have an existing shallow but icy bootpack. A second tool or a rigid boot, while not essential, will be appreciated for this section if you are not protecting the route (and maybe even if you are). It was spicy with one mountain axe and flexible leather hiking boots - frontpoint placements wanted to blow with the flex of the boot.


There is a fixed rope in this section if you feel so inclined, athough I personally think that if you need to use a fixed rope for this part you shouldn't be climbing the couloir...

Descent was via downclimb and glissade of a snow slope above the unnamed lake at 12,391 in the Mohawk Lakes basin. Cross the flats around Pacific Tarn below the start of the east ridge. The last few snowfields before the start of the rugged portions of the E ridge are gentle enough that they can be downclimbed/glissaded relatively safely (all other things being equal...).

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

Terrifying Bastard
06/22/2008 23:14
You know you‘ve been hiking alone awhile when you start naming the cornices. That is phuquing phunny :-) Nice report.

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