Mt. Wilson

April 27, 2005April 29, 2005| (Ski Mountaineering; 3 days) |
participants: mike warren / robin harnett / ren / shaun fluker /

After a lot of different plans coming and going, we finally settled on Mt. Wilson as our backup plan if the weather didn't look "perfect" [1] for a Columbia attempt.

[1] -- Both Shaun and Robin had tried last year in predicted "partial cloud" and faced two days of white-out and a big crevasse fall and were not eager to repeat this.

The night beforehand, René decided to also join us and we finalized on Mt. Wilson. Robin volunteered to both drive and bring post-trip beers and chips. As he would undoubtably say, ``one point''.

We started in good weather with our skiis on our packs a little ways past the Rampart Creek hostel (where the former Rampart Creek campground was) and headed up into the bush. We found the promised trail which was very nice while it lasted (about 1km) and then it was back to heinous uphill tree and bush bashing. After about 4 hours, this brought us to snow-line and the creek draining most of the Mt. Wilson basin.

Crossing this, we were able to put our skis on (finally) and started up the creek. Ignoring the route description, we decided it looked promising to cut climbers right up from the creek through a wide gully to gain the glacier. By our topo, we figured it might be possible to traverse the ridge that the normal route skirts to the east and hit the summit slopes; if not, we had an extra day of food anyway.

After gaining the glacier, we found a relatively flat spot and called it a day. Robin was looking pretty tired, and the tree bashing had even taken some of the fight out of René. As the sun went down, we finished our extensive snow wall, cooked dinner and went to bed. (René was playing with lighter food-packing and allegedly enjoyed his potatoe flakes and soup with pepperoni.)

Day Two

After a quick breakfast (René had brought a single teabag, so his was simple ;) we decided to take all our stuff with us in case it was possible to head down the "Mt. Wilson Direct" route and avoid some of the tree-bashing descent.

As it was, we discovered yet again why the new metric topo maps suck ass: the ridge was much less flat than we were led to believe by the map and so, merely 300 vertical meters from the summit, we had to ski back down past our camp, over the ridge and down to the lake that Chic Scott's book recommends camping at (although that's probably poetic justice or something). We grabbed some water here and headed up the glacier, still in fantastic weather (although pretty chilly; during the entire trip, it never got warm enough to make the snow corn up at all, despite hours of direct sun).

Gaining the final summit ridge, the weather was starting to close in, so René and I left some of our stuff, donned crampons and walked the last little way in case visibility got too bad before Shaun and Robin arrived. Although it turned out that the snow was fine for kicking steps along the summit ridge, I would still recommend taking crampons on this trip.

Shaun and Robin caught up quickly (they had left a cache of stuff further down) and tagged the summit themselves. We then ruled out camping high and trying the "direct" exit the next day in case the bad weather got worse overnight. We were slightly low on fuel, too, so the lure of easy water made the decision to head back down the normal route easier.

Getting back down to near snowline, we set up the tents by the creek and settled in for some great dreams of walking and tree-bashing.

Day Three

A leisurely morning, a bit of skiing and a creek-crossing put us back into the woods with our skis on our backs for the four-or-so hour tree-bash back to the car, chips and beers.

If you're planning on attempting this route, either follow Chic's route or, if you take the way we took, drop back down to the lake Chic mentions before ascending the glacier. Two days should be plenty of time. If the skiing starts close to the car, a (long) day ascent via this route would probably be feasible.

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