I know I know it has been forever since I've made a post! You'd think I fell of the earth or gave up hiking - NOPE. Just couldn't keep up with the trip reports last year. I did over 220,000ft of vertical last season and hiked every weekend. Most of the epics were recorded on my refugee rescue site (saved three https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=461298
. Trying to keep up this year with the reports so here we go for Helm and Weart!
Wedgemount is becoming almost synonymous with bad weather for me. Every time I commit to the sweat-fest ascent, I get white out conditions. Two years ago I made an attempt on Weart and was turned back after turning up one ridge line too soon and winds so strong they knocked me over. On that trip I concluded that this area was best done with SNOW coverage and lots of it. So I showed up again at 6am with a small weather window - it was supposed to start raining at noon, ugh. IF snow conditions were good and the weather was holding, I'd attempt Weart, if not, I'd fall back to Mount Cook.
It was fast moving to the lake 2.5hrs and the snow line appeared at 1500m. The snow conditions were so good in the morning that I walked up to the glacier in just trail runners. The heat of the day however caught up with us by 8:30am and we got the inevitable crunch crunch sink so it was time to down the mountaineering boots.
Going up was great, far far far easier than the lose horrid quicksand like conditions I experienced before. The Wedgemount glacier is nicely covered with snow thus far.
Breaking trail in sinking snow was hard. It felt like I was moving at the pace of a slug. By 10am the snow started to soften and I was sinking in. I broke trail for hours, slowly, methodically, stepping, kicking, sinking, over and over again. In the second bowl we noticed a small avalanche had dropped and pinwheels abounded. I chose a route up that seemed reasonable and not too dangerous.
The snow started to pick up moisture in the uppermost bowl. The wet snow was slippery on the ridge boulders and I whipped out badly, stopping only because another boulder and my pole broke my fall - 3 hikes into the season and my pole is bent.
On the final approach ridge the views were vast and expansive - the Weart glacier one of the most enormous I've ever seen. It's the first time I've really seen the area and sure enough I could see the impending clouds roll in. They loomed above Wedge, I knew we had about 30 min before we were in a whiteout.
Now you see me....
Now you don't
I didn't know what to expect, it was snowing around us, I assumed severe winds, rain, hail were coming. The wind swept snow below our feet crunched with a starch like consistency, completely different from the snow below. The sun was shining above us but the clouds were like a pressure cooker keeping in the heat. It was snowing but there wasn't even a breeze and it felt like 25 degrees.
I stared at the Owls - I love those guys
We stomped up relying on the GPS for guidance - I was exhausted. There was no more "up" left in my legs. I concluded marathons have nothing on mountaineering. It took 4 hrs to get up. It was white soup up there - again but at least I got some views on the way up.
At least on the down I'd get to use different muscles, I'd get to run down the snow. And as we did, a rare sighting. It looked like a white bear butt. Then I realized it was a momma mountain goat with 3 babies, dad was trailing behind
We watched them pass below us and excitedly followed their tracks back to the basin.
It was the highlight of the day! In total we were moving for 11.5 hrs. It seemed like the last couple of kilometers would never end. Everything was guaranteed to be sore the next day with that kinda vertical - 2120m/6,955ft vertical gain and 18km.