Sunday, May 15, 2016

Alaska bound

Three years ago, in 2013, Ian Welsted and I enjoyed a successful trip to Pakistan. We did a bunch of good climbing and even managed to summit what was, by Karakoram standards, a moderately big peak. Two years ago I went north to Denali with Alpine Mentors, presumably to impart some alpine experience to four talented climbers half my age. But all that June the weather in the Alaska Range was atrocious, and during the entire four-week trip we didn't swing a tool once. Then last year I got ambitious. Daniel Bartsch, David Gottler and I figured that if we were going to climb Everest, we might as well do it in alpine style by a new route. When the earthquake struck we hadn't even put our crampons on.

Ian Welsted curses the hot afternoon sun as he swings and kicks his way up a moderate ice pitch on the northwest face of K6 West.

Steven Van Sickle hikes up to the north summit of Denali. No swinging required.

Yours truly on a nameless bump in Tibet, with Everest in the distance. Even though the bump in question was taller than Denali, sturdy hiking shoes was all it took to get up it. Photo: David Gottler.

Tomorrow Juan Henriquez and I are leaving behind the warm rock and fresh greenery of spring in the Bow Valley and heading north, bound for the icy giants of the Alaska Range. There's something about the place that keeps drawing me back. I don't know if it's the endless ice runnels framed by walls of perfect granite, or the endless days of subarctic mountains as summer solstice approaches. But this time I figure the bar is set low: after my last couple of trips, I'll consider this one a success if I get to swing a tool.

If you know Juan and me, it won't come as a surprise when I tell you than we're not social media fiends. There'll be no real-time Facebook updates from the north buttress of Hunter or south face of Denali. But if you're curious if we're festering or sending, you can always check the Alaska trip links on this blog: the tracks from our inReach and the Kahiltna base camp webcams (the blue dot north of Anchorage).

See you back in the Rockies in June.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

May Day on the A-Strain

Tiles of black and yellow limestone shimmered in the late-afternoon sun as we pounded down the faint trail below the Athabasca-Andromeda glacier. A dashed line on the dirty surface of a snow patch showed where our boots had barely dented its frozen surface less than twelve hours earlier. Now we waded through isothermal slush, plunging down to scree with every step. It was only the first day of May, but the warm air had the soft, wistful touch of summer.

I felt both old and young. How many times have I walked down these moraines since an August day a quarter of a century ago, after my father had led my brother and me to the top of Athabasca? There've been so many afternoons like the one today, running down the trail worn into limestone rubble, feeling a familiar mixture of fatigue and happiness. I tried to see Andromeda, Snow Dome, Kitchener, all the big peaks clustered around the grey tongue of the Columbia Icefield below, as a wide-eyed twenty-something might've seen them. I tried and failed. The chimneys and gullies slicing through the layered cakes of the mountains were old friends now, not the strangers they'd once been. The twenty-something wasn't the same person as the sunburnt, grizzled man who'd replaced him. What hadn't changed was the need that'd driven the younger me, and that seemed to drive me still. 

The northeast face of Mt. Andromeda on a crisp May morning, with the obvious shadowed gash of the Andromeda Strain.

Juan Henriquez kicks steps up neve blasted hard by spindrift in the lower couloir of the route.

Alik Berg shuffles across a steep ledge of snow-covered choss halfway up the route.

The oldest member of the party starts up the rock pitch above the ledge. Photo: Juan Henriquez.

Alik Berg makes the last few moves up the rock before it backs off into the upper couloir.

Unfortunately these days you need to tiptoe up another half a ropelength of low-angled mixed ground before you reach thick ice.

The upper couloir resembles nothing so much as a giant luge run.Photo: Juan Henriquez.

Alik Berg strikes a classic pose on the traverse to the exit ice pitch.

Leaving an ankle-wrenching belay on sixty-degree ice, Juan Henriquez steps onto the legendary traverse.

Alik Berg contemplates where the cornice guarding the summit might be the smallest.

From the summit, the entire Columbia Icefield lies spread out in the afternoon sun.

The same route, a different millenium: a wide-eyed twenty-something experiences the Andromeda Strain for the first time. Photo: Pete Takeda.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Romancing the Ghost

When I returned from Scotland at the beginning of February, I hadn’t swung my tools in a while. The climbing in Scotland was all about rimed up rock (and atrocious weather, but that’s another story). And even before I left Canada, in order to prepare myself for the fabled Scottish mixed climbing I’d eschewed fat ice in favour of rock, the more snowed up and traditional in flavour the better. By the time I got back from the land of tenuous hooking and three-hour leads, I craved fast, smooth movement. With iffy avalanche conditions deeper in the mountains, Juan and I headed into the Ghost. His expert driving and a newly bulldozed track got us to within a half-hour walk of the blue pillars of Fang and Fist. We squeezed every bit of ice out of the climb, even the rolling steps higher up. After rappelling off, we backtracked to the main drainage and boulder hopped up it for another half hour, hoping to spot some ice on the impressive rock walls looming on all sides.

“A waste of rock,” was how Juan summed up our fruitless search.

Back at the truck, we had a bite of lunch then drove a couple of kilometres back to the mouth of another drainage. We figured the free-standing pillar at the start of Going to the Sun Highway would nicely round out a day of swinging tools. It did that, but the hike up the frozen streambed, so much more pleasant than the cobbles of Malamute Valley, was memorable for another reason. As we rounded a corner, the wall at the head of the creek we were crunching up in our crampons came into view.

The cirque at the back of the valley, with the Blind Date wall low down, Bad Romance up and right and unclimbed (?) left of Bad Romance.

“Whoa! What’s that?” I stopped to get a better look. A black rock wall adorned by crazy ice blobs looked like a mixed climber’s dream. Higher in the alpine cirque discontinuous ice lines beckoned. Over the next few weeks a few friends and I explored the valley’s potential: soaking our feet after breaking through creek ice, tiptoeing gingerly across drum-tight snow slopes, having our eyes welded shut by blistering spindrift, falling out of control when a tool placement ripped. But all the while, we couldn’t think of too many other places we’d rather be. Below are our finds, with potential for more. I hope you’ll get up there to check them out, before spring arrives all too soon.


Bad Romance with the belays marked.

Bad Romance, 130 m, M7 WI4

FA: Juan Henriquez and Raphael Slawinski (with guest appearances by Seb Taborszky and Paul Taylor), February 21, 2016

Approach: Start hiking as for Going to the Sun Highway, but instead of turning into the side drainage on the right that holds that route, continue up the main drainage. Hike up the frozen creek, bypassing open pools through trees on the right. At the head of the creek, head up and right on windblown scree slopes to a rock band directly below the route (the right one of two major ice lines). Either scramble directly through the rock band (recommended) or make a long end run on snow ledges going right, then back left. The snow ledges are steep and unsupported and, unusually for the Ghost, avy hazard is a real concern. 2 hours.

Pitch 1 (30 m, WI3R): Climb a thin flow of low-angled ice to a snow ledge. Belay at a short curtain. Other than a wire placement at the start and a screw and/or thread 20 metres up, there isn’t much gear to be had but the climbing isn’t hard.

Pitch 2 (40 m, WI3): Climb the curtain to a fun narrow runnel. Where the runnel widens into a broad shield, climb up and right to where the ice runs out below a roof. A couple of dry moves gain a 2-bolt anchor. This pitch protects well with screws but there are also some wire and cam placements on the left wall.

Pitch 3 (60 m, M7 WI4): Climb bolt-protected rock with the occasional small ice blob to a hanging curtain. The first few moves from the belay are the crux, with small and slippery hooks, but the climbing quickly eases. Once on the ice, climb moderate ice to where it ends in a rock overlap.

Descent: Rappel the route. Rather than swinging into the 2-bolt station, it may be easier to make a v-thread above the hanging curtain.

Gear: Screws (including some stubbies), a few small-to-medium Stoppers, Camalots #0.4 and 0.5.

Juan approaches Bad Romance on our first attempt, soaked feet and all, as spindrift pours down the wall.

Alpine ambience from a rats' cave.

Windloaded slopes above cliffs. Spooky!

Juan taps his way up the first pitch...

... and I try to keep snow out of my hood on the second. Photo: Juan Henriquez.


Blind Date (in red) and Orgasmotron (in yellow) with the belays marked.

Blind Date, 90 m, M7+ WI5

FA: Jeff Mercier and Raphael Slawinski, February 16, 2016

Approach: Start hiking as for Bad Romance, but at the head of the creek head up windblown scree slopes directly to the route. 1.5 hours.

Pitch 1 (20 m, M7+ WI3): Climb steep, nicely featured rock past 6 bolts to where a step right gains the ice flow above the roof. Climb 5 metres of thin, low-angled ice to a ledge and a 2-bolt anchor on the left.

Pitch 2 (40 m, WI3): An aesthetic pitch gains a large, comfortable ledge below the upper mixed wall. Belay at a bolt-and-pin anchor. The station at the top of pitch 1 is a bit exposed to falling ice so take care while leading.

Pitch 3 (30 m, M6+ WI5): A classic pitch of mixed climbing that moves from rock to ice to rock back to ice. The climbing is mostly bolt protected, but a few screws are needed for the upper ice. Belay at a 2-bolt anchor. With another couple of bolts, this pitch could be extended another 10 metres up the last hanging dagger.

Descent: Rappel the route. With 60-m ropes, you can bypass the station at the top of pitch 1.

Gear: Screws (including some stubbies).

Jeff Mercier and I tromp up the frozen creek on our way to Blind Date. After all, we did meet for the first time just earlier that morning. Photo: Julien Ferrandez.

Jeff bolts the first pitch. It's work but the fun kind. Photo: Julien Ferrandez.

All the same, it's a lot more fun to just climb. Photo: Julien Ferrandez.

Above the crux on the first pitch. Photo: Julien Ferrandez.

A bit later, on the third pitch, it's my turn to climb with a whole load of hardware hanging off my harness. Photo: Julien Ferrandez.

Jeff styles the third pitch. Photo: Julien Ferrandez.


Orgasmotron, 100 m, M7+ WI5

FA: Juan Henriquez and Raphael Slawinski, February 28, 2016

This is a one-pitch variation to Blind Date. The last pitch is a must-do, a fantastic piece of mixed climbing.

Pitches 1 and 2 (60 m, M7+ WI3): Climb the first 2 pitches of Blind Date to the large, comfortable ledge. Move 10 metres right and belay at a blob of solid ice at knee height.

Pitch 3 (40 m, M7 WI5): Drytool past a bolt to a short ice flow. From its top, move up and left past more bolts into a corner and follow it to a rotten alcove. From the right side of the alcove, drytool over a roof and up smooth rock on small, well-spaced hooks. From an ice blob continue more easily to a hanging curtain. Another 10 metres of ice leads to a 2-bolt belay on the right. With another bolt or so, this pitch could be extended another 5 metres to a more comfortable ledge.

Descent: Rappel the route.

Gear: Screws (including some stubbies), up to 14 draws (including some double-length ones), a few small-to-medium Stoppers (optional).

Yours truly prepares to murder the impossible on Orgasmotron. Photo: Juan Henriquez.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Beware expectations

I’ve been bashing ice in the Rockies for longer than I care to admit (but coming up on a quarter of a century). When you’ve slogged up a particular valley or bowl more than once (or twice or thrice), it’s hard to keep your mind free of preconceptions. The resulting experience ends up being as much about the baggage of expectations you carry up as it is about the snow, ice and rock beneath your crampons and tools. The beginner’s mind proves as elusive as it is clich├ęd.


N’Ice Baby, WI5

“… an excellent route offering a good compromise of excellent ice with difficult, but not unrelenting steepness.”
      Joe Josephson, Waterfall Ice Climbs in the Canadian Rockies

Rather than type yet another text, I decided to shortcut the exchange. I dialled Jon’s number just as he was about to dial mine.
“The forecast is for high winds, not ideal for that smear on S.”
“I was thinking the same thing. I guess we could just go ice climbing. The bowl above Le Tabernac looks good.”
“I could be into that. What time do you want to leave?”
Hanging up, I felt myself relaxing. The uncertainty of many pitches of virgin rock leading to an unclimbed dagger had been replaced by the prospect of plastic ice in spectacular yet familiar surroundings. Sleep came easily.

In the flat light of a December afternoon, all the waterfalls at the back of the bowl looked equally inviting. Mind you, Les Mis wasn’t quite formed and we’d both done Whoa Whoa before. The wide strip of N’Ice Baby was the obvious choice. My picks bouncing off the black limestone just underneath the sugary ice were the first hint we might be in for a fight. Suddenly I was glad of the rope above me, glad we hadn’t soloed the initial shield as I’d almost suggested.

Leaving Jon tethered to a couple of shortish screws in ice blobs, I traversed back to the centre of the waterfall, where the ice looked to be the most solid. More screws into blobs – not ideal but the thickest ice around – and I arrived at the bottom of the opaque streak I’d envisioned climbing. Picks rattled disconcertingly in the desiccated ice. Instead of the blue plastic I'd been expecting, I looked up at vertical curtains thinly draped over rock. “I can climb this but any screws will be crap,” I thought. I considered retreating but I pride, stubbornness, call it what you will, wouldn’t let me.

A few metres to the left a slight corner promised ice that'd be less detached. Unfortunately it was directly above the belay. “Jon, any chance you could move a bit left?” Given that the belay was hanging it wasn’t a very reasonable request, but Jon managed to find some shelter. Taking a deep breath, I started upward: hitting rock, knowing there’s nothing better so keeping the tool steady, locking off and reaching for the next shallow hook. So much for the “excellent ice” we’d been promised – or rather, expected. The climb fell down a few days later.

Slogging up into the bowl above Oh Le Tabernac, with the confluence of the Saskatchewan, Howse and Mistaya Rivers in the distance. Photo: Jon Walsh.

From left to right: N'Ice Baby, Whoa Whoa Capitaine and Les Miserables. Photo: Jon Walsh.

Yours truly starting up the second pitch of N'Ice Baby. Photo: Jon Walsh.

Striving for beginner's mind on N'Ice Baby. Photo: Jon Walsh.


Dead Eye Dick, WI5+ R/X

“… ice of variable thickness ranging from thin to very thin.”
      Sean Isaac, Mixed Climbs in the Canadian Rockies

“We were belayed to a thin pillar.” Chris’ eyes got wider as he got to this point in his story. “If it’d broken as I climbed it, both of us would’ve gone all the way to the ground.” Chris loved danger: runout pitches, manky belays, dancing along the fine line separating control from chaos. I, on the other hand, was bold only reluctantly, when ambition and conditions forced my hand. I didn’t do Dead Eye Dick that season.

“I had three stubbies but I wish I’d head more,” Jon texted. “The first pitch is R-rated for sure, but you get decent gear where you really need it.” Walking up to the base I had definitely more than three 10-cm screws in my pack. And even though Jon said rock gear wasn’t especially useful, I also packed a full rack of cams.

Craning my head, I climbed the first pitch in my mind. Ten metres of thin but lower-angled ice led to a small pillar. The ice turned vertical for a few metres then backed off again. Seen from the parking lot, the thin strip had looked dead vertical. Now, from the deep snow at its foot, the angle of the wall revealed itself to be much more reasonable.

I didn’t bother with screws until I got to the small pillar. Once there, I threw a long sling around it. Bomber. I could afford to fall off now – not that I was planning to. I expected to have to run it out on the vertical curtain above, but the ice looked solid just below where the angle eased. I stopped, got in a good stubby and relaxed. I came expecting to teeter on points sunk only a centimetre or two into the ice, while facing an unthinkable fall. But my tools struck rock only rarely, and protection was sparse but solid.

Almost out of rope, I pulled up beside a slender pillar. A horizontal fracture bisected its base. No matter. I spun in a couple of solid screws below it and added a sling around a tree-root-like icicle for good measure. “Secure!” I yelled down to Juan. I looked up at where the pillar connected with the rock roof. It was probably thicker than when Chris had climbed the route all those years ago. But what really mattered was that the pillar was much, much thicker than the fragile stalk my imagination had conjured up.

The Weeping Wall complex, with Dead Eye Dick on the left.

The rarely formed Dead Eye Dick.

Yours truly bouldering out the start of Dead Eye Dick above a comfortingly deep crash pad of snow. Photo: Juan Henriquez.

A long sling around a thin pillar. Bomber. Photo: Juan Henriquez.


I suppose one way to recapture beginner’s mind is to climb somewhere we’ve never climbed before. Maybe that’s why I’m writing this from a train station in Edinburgh, on my way to discover the pleasures and miseries of Scottish winter climbing. I’ve heard stories and seen photos of rimed walls and corners, deep snow and driving rain. But truth be told, I really don’t know what to expect. And it’s probably for the best.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tainted Love

November 2014. Ian and I were gunning for The Hole, a natural arch in the middle of the north face of Mt. Lawrence Grassi, a prominent yet obscure wall above Canmore. But we missed the break leading up to it and instead found ourselves below The Gash. The thin ice dribbling out of the giant chimney looked innocent enough. It was only when I was halfway up the twenty-metre flow, picks wobbling in shallow placements, that I began to think I might have strayed over the line separating scrambling from soloing. Pulling onto a steep snow ledge, I spied faded cord connecting two bolts: relics of previous attempts on The Gash. But we hadn’t come for The Gash. Tying into the rope, we took off on a rising traverse in search of The Hole.

December 2014. The Hole route ended up being fun in an alpine kind of way, but the sport climber in me was drawn to the project on the wall. A couple of weeks later Ian and I, joined by young Sam, slogged back up to The Gash. This time, instead of traversing away from the plumb line, we continued straight up. Water-worn rock, frozen moss, unconsolidated snow – and more old bolts. After a couple of pitches they ran out. A slabby rock step, a short snowfield, and we entered the guts of The Gash. With Ian and Sam bundled up at the belay, I started up the overhanging back wall. Hooking frozen choss, hanging from tools, drilling bolts: an altogether too familiar anything-goes dance to get up the pitch.

In the grey light of dawn the wind washed over the bare scree on the ridge like a river. “Reminds me of the north side of Everest,” Steve shouted into my ear. “Not so cold maybe but feels cold with the wind.” Ian, always more of an alpinist than a sport climber, declared himself uninterested in my newest construction project. Instead, I convinced Steve and Juan that shivering for hours at a belay for while I aided and bolted would be a fun way to spend a dark December day. I forgot to mention the belay would be barely sheltered from all the rocks I’d be trundling. After all, who would’ve expected the shattered, overhanging fault line that’d become the crux pitch to have any loose rock?

Ian might’ve lost interest in The Gash but he stoked my obsession with it. “Pete’s from the UK, working at a climbing shop in town. He couldn’t believe when I told him The Gash was unclimbed and he’s thinking of heading up to check it out.” Once I got over feeling possessive about my project, Pete and I made plans for Friday. The day was forecast to be cold, but I was leaving for Hawaii on Sunday, and figured I would’ve plenty of time to warm up there. Racing fading daylight, I pulled on bolts to my previous highpoint. Then, with the terrain ahead merely vertical, I headed up armed only with cams and pins. Standing below a rock outcrop in the snow gully above, I pulled up the drill and made an anchor. On the way down I cleaned my rattly pins and drilled bolts. Next time I wanted gear that’d hold a fall.

January 2015. I fully intended to finish the job when I got back from Hawaii but weather and conditions conspired against me. Either it was too cold or too warm or too windy or avalanche hazard was too high. And when stars finally lined up, I’d lost my motivation for drytooling choss, preferring to carry it uphill instead to train for an upcoming Himalayan trip. Spring, then summer, came and went. Once again mornings dawned frosty and fresh snow powdered Mt. Lawrence Grassi.

October 2015. It was becoming clear that redpoints of my latest Echo Canyon projects would have to await the following year and hopefully stronger fingers. Shivering for a purpose is one thing, but shivering just to squeeze in another day of rock climbing didn’t appeal. My thoughts turned to unfinished business in The Gash. I considered finishing the job honestly, I really did: climbing from the bottom, hauling up an optimistic rack of gear and a realistic drill, and getting up what appeared to be the last steep pitch. But the prospect of dragging all that junk up the route only to run out of daylight, or to find the necessary ice wasn’t there yet, was too depressing. Thus it was I came over to the dark side. One sunny fall day, Wiktor and I scrambled to within a stone’s throw of the summit of Lawrence Grassi, and then dropped in to bolt the last overhanging pitch on rappel. On the bright side, the trundling, with no one below, was tremendous.

November 2015. “The route’s rigged, it just needs to be sent.” I thought it more likely Juan would be interested if he knew it wasn’t another aiding, bolting and standing-around mission. Young Colin was also in the Rockies from Colorado and we’d talked about going climbing. “How about this project I need to finish? Sport mixed in the alpine, should be good fun.” They were both game. For once it was a mild, windless day. The snowpack in Miner’s Gully and in the couloir below the route was also reassuringly solid. Perhaps I’d earned a treat after all the blustery, snowy days spent working on the route. Now all that was left was to climb it.

A few hours later all three of us stood tethered to the station below the crux corner. I eyed the largely decorative icicles dripping from the dihedral. “I haven’t really tried the moves before, so first I’ll just go up a few bolts to check out the holds,” I said as Juan put me on belay. “I’ll buy you a beer if you send the pitch first try,” he replied. Good point, I thought; might as well try. To my surprise, a few minutes later I was searching for a seam, an edge, anything to take a tool over the overlap where the wall kicked back to vertical. Blindly finding a hold, I released the bottom tool. If I fell off here, they’d hear about it down in Canmore. But the hold was good. Slowly, carefully, I hooked and torqued my way up the last few metres. While I belayed my friends up, I strapped the headlamp to my helmet. We’d be finishing the route properly: in the dark.

The north face of Mt. Lawrence Grassi from near the top of Miner's Gully. To quote Monty Python: "Forbidding, aloof, terrifying. The mountain with the biggest tits in the world." Well, maybe not.

Colin and Simon approach the route on a rare windless day.

Juan gets into the drytooling section on the first pitch...

... and cleans some snow on the second.

Juan comes up the snow slope on the third pitch, with the meanders of the Bow River far below.

Yours truly starts up the fourth pitch. Photo: Colin Simon.

"I'll buy you a beer if you send it first try." Yours truly starts up the crux fifth pitch. Photo: Colin Simon.

Sunset, always a melancholy sight from high on a climb.

Colin comes up the seventh pitch by headlamp (not his own).

On top! From left to right: Raphael, Juan and Colin.

The north face of Mt. Lawrence Grassi from Canmore, with the final part of the approach marked in yellow and the route in red.

Tainted Love, 320 m, WI3 M9
FA: Juan Henriquez, Colin Simon and Raphael Slawinski, November 28, 2015 (with help from Sam Eastman, Peter Holder, Wiktor Skupinski, Steve Swenson and Ian Welsted).

Gear: 15 or so draws including some double-length ones, Camalots #0.3-1, a couple of stubbies.

Approach: Park in the Goat Creek parking lot and hike up the backside of Ha Ling to the top of Miner’s Gully. You can leave gear here for the descent. Drop down the gully to where it opens up, then traverse to skier’s right (east) to below the big gash in the north face of Mt. Lawrence Grassi. Slog up the gully past a small ice step (buried later in the season) to the start of the route. 2-3 hours. This is big terrain so take care with snow conditions.

1) 40 m, WI3 M4. Climb low-angled ice to a snow ledge. If the ice is thin, some stubbies and cams may be reassuring. Pass a 2-bolt rappel station on your left and drytool up a bolt-protected corner on the right. 2-bolt belay on the left wall.
2) 40 m, M5. Climb the left-facing corner above the belay (ignore a single bolt out left from an earlier attempt). A couple of steeper moves lead to an insecure exit. Slog up snow to a 2-bolt station at the top of the gully above. This pitch is all bolt protected.
3) 40 m, M3R. Step down and right from the belay (#1 Camalot placement) and climb a short groove. Clip a fixed pin in the back of the groove and commit to easy but runout moves left and up. Slog up a small snowfield to a deep cave. 2-bolt belay on the right wall.
4) 50 m, M7. Drytool a chossy corner on the left to a steep exit. From the small ledge above, continue up a short right-facing corner. Scramble past a 2-bolt rappel station on your left and climb some thin ice on the left wall to a lower-angled ramp. 2-bolt belay. Some cam placements complement the bolt protection on this pitch.
5) 30 m, M9. Step right from the belay and enter an overhanging corner. Sustained drytooling with bad feet leads to easier terrain. Continue to a snow gully and a 2-bolt station on the right. This pitch is all bolt protected.
6) 70 m. Scramble up snow and easy ice to a 2-bolt station at the base of an overhanging corner.
7) 20 m, M6. Drytool up and right below the big roof. From the groove above, step right to a 2-bolt belay on a small ledge. This pitch is all bolt protected.
8) 30 m. Scramble to the top. A 2-bolt station is on the right just below the lip but will probably be buried in snow.

Descent: Since all stations are bolted, it’s possible to rappel the route. However, it’s probably faster (though not completely straightforward) to descend the backside with some rappelling and downclimbing. To do so, follow the ridge west to the top of a short step. Downclimb or rappel the step on the north side from a rock thread. Scramble down to the top of a chimney and rappel it from a bolt-and-pin station on skier’s left (south). Continue scrambling down paralleling the ridgeline, then drop down a broad gully to skier’s left (south). There are a couple of rappel stations on the skier’s left wall of the gully (fixed wires and rock threads). It’s possible to scramble down this terrain, but  it would be unpleasant if it’s snow-covered and/or dark. From the scree slope below the last rappel, contour back up to the top of Miner’s Gully, with one last bit of downclimbing just before the col.