I started writing this back in May and then sort of spaced on it. I still have tons of pictures I haven't gone through from this trip... it's only September. I'm not really sure this an appropriate day to be posting this, but I came to the Ski Sickness for obvious reasons today and don't really feel motivated to do any more work. But ya, sad today. Liz seemed to be able to be bad ass in the mountains without taking herself too seriously and without letting ego get in the way.
Anyway, after that intro, here's a little trip from the spring that wasn't very bad ass, but it was in some pretty spectacular terrain.
Part 1 - Dais Glacier
In May we spent 2 weeks in the Waddington Range. The plan was to get dropped off on the Dais Glacier with Sam's food drop (they were doing a longer traverse) and to ski around there a bit and then slowly head out and ski stuff along the way.
We hired an air donkey to drop us off on the Dais.
Then we skinned up to the Jester - Cavalier col and skied nice south facing corn at the top that quickly turned to knee deep slurpee lower down.
We lounged in the heat on the Corridor Glacier and after nice siesta we cruised up towards the Spearman - Arabesque col to get high and get a view to the north.
It's pretty crazy how a 1000m climb can look so diminutive in this environment. It was full on wintery snow above 2800m, even on southerly aspects. We gazed over at the impressive granite spires across the Tiedeman and then skied back down south and then up to Jester Pass as the clouds began to amass for a short storm.
That night it snowed a bit and we lazed in our tents the next morning until the sun poked out mid-day and we went for a short ski back up to Jester Pass and down some west facing corn. Maddy went back to camp and Nic, Nick, Lena and I headed up to Cavalier to ski off the summit.
2 turns in some nice wind slab snow turned into a firm crust on moderately steep slopes. We skied back to camp through breakable crust.
The weather already seemed to be more dynamic than we hoped it was going to be, so we sent an InReach to Greg and asked for a forecast for a Wadd summit (NW summit) attempt. He said, 'go tomorrow. Weather coming in later in the day, next day not so good & high winds, day after = shitty'
With that information in hand we went to bed and got 2 hours of sleep for our 2 am departure. We made quick time on the frozen Dais Glacier until things steepened enough for ski crampons. Things quickly got even steeper and we had to transition to boot crampons. Travel was quick enough at first, but as we got above 2800m the crust became very breakable under foot. The last 200m of vertical up to the bottom of the Dais couloir was painfully slow. My route across the schrund was crumbly, but Lena found a better route.
The trail beaking up the Dais couloir was awful. Nick did pretty much all of it, but it was thigh deep breakable crust. About halfway up the Dais couloir Lena started feeling ill. I didn't realize she was so sensitive to altitude, but apparently with the lack of sleep and not much time punching above 3000m before that day, she was ready to turn around. Nick, being the dutiful husband, turned around with her and Maddy, Nic, and I continued on. We went up and over a couple bumps along the ridge and then got our first view of the Angel Glacier.
Our progress up the Dais had been slow and we were way behind our hopeful timing. There was a large bergschrund / ice cliff blocking our entrance to the Angel Glacier and Nic traversed over to what seemed like the way through, but he looked back and saw a nice easy ramp to ski down. The snowpack from there on in was all full on winter pow. Our progress was slow. Tired from the effort going up the Dais Couloir and feeling the lack of sleep and altitude it took us 4 hours to ascend the last 800m. At 3600m Maddy was done and built herself a little shelter to wait for Nic and I. The snow above 3700m became a mix of windslab and sastrugi and we had to a few precarious looking snow bridges. By this time, with our slow ass pace, the weather was starting to turn and gray clouds were quickly dropping and began to envelope the NW summit and the winds were picking up. We figured we'd gain the col between the NW summit and the false NW summit and then ascend the steep slopes up the NW summit, but at the col we found a 4' wide crevasse that seemed black and bottomless. The NW summit was all blue ice from this angle and with our one 30m rope would have been 2 pitches of steep blue ice. The winds were high enough that it was already difficult to stand and we didn't want to get stuck at 4000m in a storm, so we made the shitty decision to settle for the false NW summit. We crawled across the only thin snowbridge on belay and walked up to the top of our high point. We had some pretty amazing views of the main summit, but cloud obscured anything in the distance, so our views were limited.
We retreated back to the shelter of the north facing slopes and clicked into our skis out of the brunt of the wind. We attempted to follow our tracks in the fading visibility and got back to the pow. Maddy had abandoned her shelter in the deteriorating weather and had retreated to the bottom of the Angel Glacier since she did not want to get stuck up there in a storm. We skied pow in terrible light to join Maddy at the bottom and we skinned up and over the bridge across the ice cliff and enjoyed pie and beer with a view of Combatant. The clouds were still boiling over Waddington, but the north side seemed to keep the clouds moderately light on this side. This left doubt in my mind. Maybe we should have pushed and taken the time to climb the NW summit.
We were still concerned about the approaching storm and so after our quick snack we skinned back over to the top of the Dais and skied somewhat enjoyable breakable crust.
As we descended the clouds got thicker and at the bergschrund at the bottom of the Dais Couloir, the light had gone completely flat. We tried skiing down a bit but the cloud cover had cooled the snow and we had terrible breakable crust. Nic caught an edge and fell sideways onto a snowbridge. We continued in skis a little bit, proceeding cautiously and slowly. At one point we couldn't even do that and decided to switch to the post-hole method. This was terrible for multiple reason, but we had to keep moving.
We made our way through the majority of the crevasses and put our skis back on and decided to do a high traverse over to an wet slide path we had seen in the morning. Traversing a world of white we eventually found the avi path and skied down that till it cliffed out. We traversed back north and found a pin-wheel track that seemed to go all the way down and followed that under the cliffs. We finally broke under the cloud cover and were able to quickly ski along the lower portion of the Dais Glacier back to camp.
18 hours, 2000m+, and a somewhat disappointing outcome (As an aside: the next weather window wouldn't happen for a full week). At some point during the day Sam and his crew showed up and joined us at camp. It was cool to run into them and chat about their trip and share whiskey and good times.
The next day we slept in. The weather was so so and pretty windy. Nick and Lena took off on their own adventure and Nic, Maddy, and I decided on a mellow slog over to The Tit. The risk did not seem worth the reward and we let Gobin goof around as we hid from the wind.
He bagged the rather scary summit of The Tit and agreed that the reward was not really worth how scary the climb was.
We went back to camp and the next day was a full on storm. There was a short break though and we managed to get out for a quick little ski on the slopes above camp.
Stay tuned for Part II - the Circumski via Fury Gap and Munday East Ridge of the Don
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