Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sickle Couloir

After Smiley Mountain a couple of weeks ago, I suggested to Dylan that we do the Sickle Couloir.  He responded with three words - "Let's do it."

Saturday morning saw us on the trail at 6AM in sunny, 30 degree weather.  As it was a bit chilly, Dylan ran up the trail while I did my best to stay within shouting distance.  In a bit over 30 minutes we were at the edge of the wilderness area at Fishhook Creek meadow.

From here we followed the unmaintained trail until it too petered out.  From reading other trip reports, we knew we needed to stay north to minimize the swampy bushwacking.  We tried to do our best, but it was still painfully slow in some areas.  Occasionally we caught a glimpse of our objective through the trees.

Other than the vast amounts of dead fall, our other concern was crossing Fishhook Creek, which was roaring.  Every once in a while we'd come across a tree that had fallen across the creek, but for one reason or another we'd declined to risk our lives at that particular moment.  So, we just continued up the valley dodging all the fallen trees.

Luckily, at the base of the cirque, below the couloir, there was a nice tree laying across the creek providing an easy, safe crossing.

But, once safely across, Dylan had his first thigh deep post hole!

After the creek crossing, it was time to don crampons and start up to the cirque.  During the previous two hours of trail walking and bushwacking we had traveled 4.5 miles, but had only gained a little over 1000 feet. We didn't have much more horizontal distance left to go, but we still had a couple of thousand more vertical feet remaining.  While moving up this cirque, the area really opened up to show its beauty.

In no time we were at the base of the couloir admiring the route with slight apprehension.

Earlier in the week, after reading my friend, John Platt's June 2007 trip report, we had a couple of concerns.  The first was lack of a second ice axe.  John recommended two rather than the usual one, so Dylan contacted another friend, Ralph, and obtained a couple of ice tools from him - one concern down.  The other concern was snow quality.  As we moved up from the creek, the snow became very supportive with a styrofoam quality.  So at this point concern number two was alleviated.  Time to go!

Dylan asked if I'd like to lead, but I graciously gave him the honors.  Unfortunately, due to the steepness of the couloir (I've read somewhere between 45 and 55 degrees) only a few pictures were taken.  The snow was good and solid, providing good grip for the ice tools.

We stopped on a small rocky outcropping about halfway up to catch our breath and admire the views. Following the break, I led for a hundred feet or so, until Dylan got tired of me being a bit slow.

Dylan did an excellent job of leading by kicking steps for his old man.  With an ice axe and ice tool, we both felt very secure as we moved up through the last hundred yards of the coulioir - the steepest section.
As Dylan popped up into the sunshine, he shouted a few, "Holy $hits!" before scrambling out of the snow and onto the rocks.  He took a couple of pictures of me exiting the chute, but declined to down climb a bit, so I could get a hero shot of him too.  It had taken us a little over 1.5 hours to climb this 1000 foot couloir. No speed record, but what a blast!

After some shouting and high fives, we dropped our packs and took off our boots to defrost our feet.  Like always at this time of year, the views were spectacular.  We gawked at the scenery for the next half hour as we lounged in the sun, warmed up and had lunch.

With that huge feat under our belt, we looked up at our next objective, Horstmann Peak.  At 10,470 feet, Horstmann was a mere 400 feet, of 4th/5th class scrambling, above us.
We moved up the mountain on loose, crumbly rock, downclimbing a bit to get around one section with tremendous exposure.
The summit of Horstmann
It's a long, long way down

We eventually came to a pretty steep section where down climbing would have been difficult.  Not knowing if we would be able to continue up this particular route, and with it being warm and our heads not quite in the game, we called it a day.  After all, our main objective was the couloir, with Horstmann to the the icing on the cake.

From this point, it was just a few sloppy, wet glissades and a tremendous amount of bushwacking before we were back on the main trail and heading home.
Great views of Mt. Heyburn on the way out
Typical bushwacking
A parting view

Time: 10.5 hours
Distance: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3400 feet

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen