We had caught up to another climbing party, consisting of three people, at the base of the second step. One of the climbers was high up on the rock to the right, trying to find a way around the most straightforward climbing line up the step. His other two companions looked on.
As we got closer, it became apparent that the higher climber - the apparent leader of the group - was a bit stuck, and Peter and I coached him back down to easier ground. We recommended that he stick with the regular climbing line, which went up more or less adjacent to the thin waterfall at the far left of the dike.
Ascending Second Step
We decided to wait and let the three climbers make their way up the second step. The leader of the group made it up with little difficulty, but his companions had a bit of a tough time. Clearly they were fairly new at this sort of thing, and were unsure of their abilities and of how best to negotiate the rock of the second step, which is distinctly more difficult to climb than the first step (I estimate it to be about 4th-class). Certainly there is a bit of exposure here, and some people do prefer to have a rope (in fact, I had brought a rope and a few pieces of gear along just in case it was needed).
Jenn, second step
For a short while, it seemed like it might actually be necessary to climb up and send the rope down to help out members of the other party, but eventually they did struggle their way up (with a bit of encouragement and guidance from us). We followed shortly afterwards, and soon we were standing on the scenic ledge at the top of the second step. Avalanche Lake was now far below, and we began to get panoramic views of the nearby MacIntyre range, directly across the lake from us.
Reaching Upper Dike
We soon continued on, leaving the party of three climbers to a rest break they clearly needed. Above the second step, the Trap Dike's angle lessens, and although there are brief scrambles to complete every so often, hands are mostly not required. The scouring effects of the 2011 event were even more apparent up here - before the landslide, most of the floor of the dike was treed in. Now, it was almost completely bare slab, with a few jumbles of twisted branches and other debris here and there.
Twenty minutes of walking and minor scrambling up the dike brought us to the base of the new 2011 slide. Wide, smooth, clean, and white, it stretched away upwards from us, across the northwest face of Mt Colden. Having been spared the monumental forces of the landslide, the terrain of the Trap Dike above this point was still vegetated.
During my last ascent, snow and ice had covered everything, and using crampons, we had simply started climbing up the slide. Today, however, we needed to choose our line more carefully. The slope of the bedrock on the slide immediately above the dike was quite steep - perhaps forty-five or more degrees in places. Now, forty-five may not sound like much, but in real life on an open slope, that is actually quite steep and can be more than a bit unnerving. Fortunately, there were some variations, cracks and undulations that looked like they might allow passage to an easier grade not far above.
I ended up choosing to follow the line of a massive flake at the left (upper) side of the slide, while Peter chose a slightly less-steep ramp of solid rock in the center of the slide. I liked the flake, because it allowed for a very reassuring lieback-type hold if I ever felt like the rock was getting too steep for friction climbing alone.
One by one, we climbed up the steep initial bit of the slide to a point where the grade lessened to about 30 degrees or so. From here, we could look up the white highway of bedrock that was the slide, all the way to the summit ridge.
Starting up the new slide
Climbing the slide from here was an exercise in grip and trust. The bare, clean bedrock was already quite grippy, but additionally it was also riddled with tiny undulations and dents (helping with grip even further). We became more confident as we climbed, and soon we were making very good progress towards the summit. Although it is a thigh-burner, there's almost no faster way to gain foot-powered elevation than a 30-degree slab!
Summit in sight
Progress was rapid for myself, Jenn, Peter and Caroline. Brian, however, was lagging a bit. When I turned around to watch, I could see him below, climbing a few steps, taking a long pause, then climbing a few more steps before pausing once again. The length of the pauses soon far eclipsed that of the climbing, and eventually, he stopped entirely. With no wind, I could easily call down to him, and he replied back saying that he felt unwell and nauseous.
Hm. Unwell and nauseous. Not a good thing to be on a steep exposed slab, most of the way up a mountain. He remained stationary for several minutes, and eventually decided to turn around and sit down - probably a good thing for someone who is feeling woozy in a spot such as this. I waited a while longer, hoping that his discomfort would pass and that we could continue to the top, which was now tantalizingly close.
The minutes continued to tick by, and still Brian couldn't muster the will to continue up. He would sit up, then lie down on his side, then sit up. We began to get increasingly worried about his state. Peter was the first to decide to scramble back down to him, and after a few minutes, I followed. We simply couldn't stay permanently on the slide. We needed to either get moving or someone would have to go for help.
With no clear apparent cause for Brian's sudden sickness, we tried to encourage him to eat, but the thought of eating made him feel worse. Peter took Brian's backpack, and we both encouraged him to try to move upward, with both of us close by for support and assistance.
After some prodding, Brian did get up, and after a few steps, he stated that the waves of discomfort and nausea had abruptly gone away. He was initially a little unsure on his feet, but within a minute he was actually moving uphill with some alacrity. In fact, we had to hustle in a few places to keep up with him.
Pausing every so often for a minute or so, we quickly made our way up to the top of the slide. The final 50 to 100 feet of the slide returned to a steeper grade, possibly close to 40 degrees, and required a bit more care. Soon, however, we reached the thin soil and scrubby trees marking the top edge of the slide. I was happy to have Brian on safer terrain.
Minutes later we intersected the main Mt Colden summit trail. We walked past several groups of other hikers to the semi-treed summit, where limited views to the Great Range could be had. I didn't quite want to stop for a long food and rest break yet, and suggest we walk partway down the trail to Colden's north sub-summit - a much more scenic and open spot than the summit itself.
Fifteen minutes down the ridgeline brought us to the beautiful windswept north summit. On nice clean bedrock surrounded by alpine grasses, we aired ourselves out, had a nice stretch, and observed the dramatic profile of the new 2011 slide - the way we had just come up. There was a clear side-on view of it from here.
Brian seemed fully recovered from his strange affliction. He had managed a good hiking pace from the summit to this point, and he'd now managed to eat a bit of food.