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With our calves and feet sore from our long cramponing ascent, and with a very bright and warm spring sun shining down on us, we found a safe spot to congregate and have a break - both for food and to put on some sun protection. The high-angle sunlight with bright white snow would mean sunburns for all of us if we did not.
courtesy RHanel
courtesy RHanel
Beautiful Algonquin View
Delicate filigree of Ice
courtesy RHanel
Top Exit point
The upper exit
From our lunch spot, we had a good view of the start of the next phase of our climb. We weren't done yet - no, no - we still had a stiff climb ahead of us: up a steep and open slide face directly up to the summit. With the snow stubbornly staying frozen solid, it looked like it was going to be a tiring crampon-slog to the top.

Since we had climbed to the very top of the open part of the Trap Dike, the slide we were going to ascend was the new 2011 slide caused by Hurricane Irene. If we had chosen to take the "original" slide route, we would have exited about 100 or so yards lower down. Doing the new route seemed like the proper thing to do; at least, it had seemed so when we had planned our route back at the trailhead. Secretly, I was hoping that this slide wasn't any steeper than the original slide route.
Starting the slide ascent
Roland offered me the lead up the first part of the slide, but with sore calfs and and stubbed toes, I wasn't in the mood for it, and I deferred to him.

Moving onto the slide meant a sudden increase in the steepness of the surface, and we gave Roland a solid fixed belay off of a tree. He carefully protected an especially steep and icy section before angling over to the edge of the slide, where a row of trees offered an easy and secure place to fix a sling. When the length of rope had fully payed out, Stephanie and I carefully and slowly followed up.
courtesy RHanel
Preparing to continue climb
The next hour or two was an exercise in both persistance and pain. The slope was much steeper out here on the slide than it had been in the dike. Not that it was anything like a real ice climb, mind you: this was still a moderate snow slope. However, with an angle hovering around 45 degrees and with a still rock-hard snowpack, we had to be careful. We knew that an uncontrolled slide on a surface this hard was very difficult to arrest - even with an ice ax. That knowledge, that awareness - although useful to keep oneself mindful and focused, also created a bit of a strain - one that merges with the physical to create a distinct sense of unease.

If we had had a soft surface that allowed full step-kicking, this would have been a quite enjoyable, beautiful ascent. After all, the views around us were simply magnificient - crystal clear vistas of brilliantly-white peaks, both near and far.
courtesy RHanel
Staying next to trees
Our comfort (and by that I mean, our lack of comfort) with the conditions pushed those views to the far corners of our minds, however: we were focused on carefully placing each axe-point and cramponed foot securely into the slope. Sore calves and bashed toes also became a primary focus. How to prevent, how to prevent. I experimented with every possible variant of flat-foot cramponing that I could think of. This was clearly something I needed to practice.

We knew that our extra cautious approach - extra-careful foot and ice ax placements, placing lots of protection - meant we were being slow and inefficient. At this rate, we knew it was going to take quite a long time to get to the summit crest, even though it was probably only 400 or so yards away and 500 feet up. As if to highlight our poor progress, we soon caught sight of a climber below us - a solo climber - climbing completely without ropes and with a big splitboard strapped to his back. He quickly and efficiently caught up to us, breezily said hi (and told us that yeah, this was probably too hard to snowboard down today), then continued on, soon disappearing from sight. Ugh. Humbling.
courtesy RHanel
Soloist makes it look easy
Meanwhile, we cowered at an awkward and steep belay station in a thin strip of trees between the edge of our slide and an adjacent one. A steeper bulge in the slope prevented us from seeing up very far, so we still didn't have a good line of sight to the top of the slide and the end of our climb. Tired, sore, and in an awkward position, this was probably the low point of our day.
Afternoon on a steep slope
It was now 4:30pm. We were badly blowing our time budget, and we were on track to complete our climb later than our 2008 climb - a climb that we had started nearly three hours later than we had today.

Once again I offered to lead the way, but Roland was in some sort of groove, enjoying the practice of putting in various protection placements. I didn't push the matter. I did suggest, however, that we use our little patch of scraggly trees as a bypass around a particularly icy and steep bit of the slide, and this he did. Worming his way through a little hole in the brush, he began our continuing climb to the top.
Bypassing a step
We were only in the bush for a few short yards. Once past the steeper bulge in the slope, we found a distinct improvement in the situation. For one, we got a respite from the steeper angles; we could walk upright more easily, rather than being on toes and bent-over into the slope; secondly, the snow surface was finally starting to soften up. There was still an icy crust, but now and again it was penetrable by a good boot kick. The comfort afforded by a good, solid step is not to be underestimated. Pure bliss. Thirdly, we could now look up and see the top of the slide, and by extension, the summit crest. The end of our agonizingly slow climb was approaching.
courtesy RHanel
Upper slide
Pretty bushed at this point
Last belay point
Moods brightened and the pace improved as we neared the crest. The surface of the slope, even though it was again quite steep, continued to soften. Now, most of our foot-kicks penetrated satisfyingly into the slope; we now ascended a veritable staircase!

With beautiful, deeply-angled light shining from an early evening sun, we topped out on Mt Colden's summit crest. The weather conditions were nearly perfect: calm, still, and crystal clear, with only a hint of a breeze. It was still surprisingly cool for a day in spring, and the scene had a feel more reminiscent of late January than early April.
courtesy RHanel
Steep aspect
Final Belay
Summit Crest
Still, we were here - in one piece - and that was cause for celebration. It had taken a grossly excessive eight hours to climb from lake to summit, but it was now done.
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