Sahale Peak and Mt Buckner, North Couloir

April 22, 2004

Josh Kaplan and I attempted to ski the North Couloir of Mt Buckner in a day. Despite the early start, we made a few bad decisions along the way that put us behind schedule. The sun was shining on a lot of recently fallen snow and sloughs were happening everywhere. I let my ambition get the best of me and I learned a lot about spring avalanches. I took a ride, including a nice toss over the bergschrund of the Quien Sabe Glacier. Better lucky than dead.

Boston Peak
Boston Peak is the high point. We lost a lot of time trying to go around this ridge, but we were scared of steep, unconsolidated snow over rock, with exposure to big cliffs.

Sahale Summit
Josh prepares to ski toward Boston from the summit of Sahale Peak.

Buckner sluffs
Josh skins across the Boston Glacier toward Mt Buckner's North Couloir.

Buckner at sunset. You can see all the debris that came off the mountain during the afternoon.

Alpenglow to the south, with Spider Mountain's North Face lookin' KICKIN'.

skin Sahale
Josh skins up Sahale with Johannesburg in the background.

Boston gully
Josh climbs the gully to the notch on Boston.

North Couloir The North Couloir of Mt Buckner, up close and personal

So what lessons did I learn from this? The mountains don't care about my aspirations. The intensity of the sun at the earth's orbital radius is 1600 Watts per square meter. Alpine starts aren't just about getting home at a reasonable hour. I need to always assess the snow conditions, not just periodically. Conservation of energy is a universal law as far as we know, the sun's energy is going into the snow, and it is never good to assume that energy is negligible. If there's more fresh snow than I expect and it starts to get sun, I should bail. So next week, look for me at the summit, early in the day, taking a nap until the sun hits my route.

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