Peak(s):  Mt. Bross  -  14,172 feet
Mt. Cameron  -  14,238 feet
Date Posted:  04/22/2009
Date Climbed:   04/22/2009
Author:  realhillboarding
 spring corn? I think not...   

My alarm went off at 4:40am, and I was so sound asleep that I awoke completely baffled as to what the sound was or where it was coming from. I gathered my senses and realized that it was an alarm clock going off to wake me to go climbing and I immediately snapped awake and finished getting my gear together. Joe (JPJibskier) and I were on the road by 5:00 and drove down to Alma to meet Dan (DL alma) at the Al-Mart. We drove up to the quartzville trailhead and parked Dan's truck there and he joined us in our car as we drove over toward Kite Lake. We had to park about 2.6 miles below the trailhead due to a snowed in road, but we were hiking up the snowy road by 6:30. The alpenglow was stunning as it lit up one side of the valley.

Joe and Dan hitting the trail
(photo by realhillboarding)

We hoped that the past few days of warm weather and sun had been sufficient to bake the new snow and allow for a spring snow climb, and a forecast of 50 degrees and sunny was promising a great day of corn skiing. Our plan for the day was to climb the "S Gully" on Bross and then bag Cameron on our way over to Lincoln, followed by a ski/snowboard descent of the Georgia Chute. The mountains had slightly different plans, but it still made for a fun day.

The first 1.5 miles were a mixture of solid spring snow, which we easily walked on top of, and bare dirt road. As we went further, the road became fully snowed in and started to have sections of breakable crust, which slowed our progress slightly. The breakable crust became more and more prevalent as we got closer and closer to the summer trailhead, and our progress slowed considerably as we punched through the crusty snow. We were so intent on looking for solid snow that we nearly stumbled upon a group of 10 Ptarmigan before we even realized they were there. They seemed only mildly interested in our intrusion, so we snapped a few pictures and moved on.

(photo by JPJibskier)

We finally reached the entrance to the S Gully at 8:45 and took a break to grab some food and put on our spikes. This was the first time that Joe and I had used crampons, so we were excited to try out our new gear.

Image dan and I heading into the gully
(photo by JPJibskier)

The first couple dozen steps in our shiny new spikes plunged through the crust, and then we hit solid snow and breathed a sigh of relief and our legs thanked us as we started effortlessly walking up the sunbaked surface. Just as we commented on how nice it was to be on top of the snow, CRACK, my foot plunged through the crust again. We dug around in the snow and found that, despite the crust on the surface, it was very well bonded and appeared quite stable. Onward and upward with the post-holing. We took turns in the lead, the front of the line breaking trail for 50-60 feet of vertical gain before falling back to the back of the line to rest.

Image transition from crust to solid snow
(photo by realhillboarding)

Around 13,000' the hard surface crust disappeared entirely and we began post-holing up a section of hard-slab. As soon as the snow changed, we once again poked around and found that the snowpack was quite stable, so we pressed on. Post holing up the hard slab was far easier than the breakable crust, because at least it was predictable.


Around 13,500 the hard slab softened a bit as we reached a more wind-sheltered portion of the gully. We poked around again, and once again found a stable snow pack, so we continued plugging away. After 100' of soft snow, we began exiting the deep portion of the gully and reached heavily windblown snow that was finally consistently solid enough to walk on top of. FINALLY decent snow to walk on! The snow was continuous until about 13,850', at which point we had fully exited the gully and were on the windswept, rocky final pitch to the summit. We scrambled the last 300' and reached the summit at 11:30, a full hour and a half later than we had expected.
The wind was howling on the summit, so we grabbed some food, a few minutes of rest, and the obligatory summit picture, and then headed over to Cameron.

Image JPJibskier and I on the summit of Bross

The wind was funneled between the two peaks, and just kept getting stronger as we descended. We realized that the snow was going to be awful hardpack, so at this point we opted out of Mt Lincoln and the Georgia Chute and decided that we would descend Cameron Amphitheater after summiting Cameron.

Image getting blown over on the summit of Cameron
Image Dan and I resting before the descent

From the summit of Cameron the snowfield descending from the Cameron-Lincoln saddle appeared to be heavily wind loaded with a deep convex slab. We decided that, despite our observations of a stable snowpack, a large slab on an avy prone slope above rocks and cliffs simply wasn't worth the risk, so we descended the patchy snow on the skiers right of Cameron's summit. The snow in the bowl was mediocre at best, varying from sastrugi to smooth hard slab to breakable crust, with the occasional patch of packed powder thrown in just to keep us on our toes.

Image Dropping off the summit of Cameron
Image JPJibskier
Image DL alma ripping the tele‘s
Image some good turns

As we got down to the relatively flat runout, the snow transitioned to an extremely long patch of rock hard sastrugi. This was, to say the least, interesting to ski down.

Image Dan and Joe navigating the minefield of sastrugi

When we got down below 12,500' we finally reached the corn snow we had been hoping for, but we found it once we were almost back to the car. I looked back into the Amphitheater and scoped the line i want down Georgia Chute from the summit of Lincoln...I‘ll be back in a week or two when the corn is ready for me

We enjoyed a few good spring turns on the intimidating 10 degree slope, traversed around the private property, and hiked down the road to Dan's truck. It definitely wasn't the best day I've had in the mountains, but it sure beats just about every day I'm not out there!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

04/25/2009 09:24
For the beta, glad you skied these peaks so recently good work!

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