We left the comfort of our makeshift camp at 5 AM and tramped down the trail around Saddlebag Lake to catch the first light of the day on it's North Side. Continuing through Cascades Lake and up on the right hand side ledges we made a good time to the base of the North Peak Glacier.
I have never seen the glacier so worn down. It's size shrunk significantly from years past and several small crevasses were visible. Looking down the mouth of the bergschrund revealed an enormous cavity, maybe 50 ft. deep. There is a lot of ice left in that glacier even in its current reduced size. The snow bridge that is commonly used for crossing the bergschrund had dropped down revealing about 15 feet of the edge of the neve. The angle here was about 70 degree, but previous parties had kindly cut large footsteps into the neve, which reduced the difficulty of the climb for us. The neve was solid enough to take screws, and blue ice had popped through here and there to offer some trustworthy placements. Once over the lip, the climbing became easier, but the neve was still hard. I found a flat spot of ice where the snow had melted near the rocks on the right side for our 1st belay. The left side of the couloir had a wide band of water ice near the rocks, and it had melted down significantly causing the surface of the couloir to tilt steeply to the left. The right side had separated from the rocks and the lip that was formed offer easier climbing. We continued along this line using screws in the neve and rock pros on the wall for protection and for the next belay station. Finally, the angle eased off for the 3rd pitch to allow us to simulclimb the rest of the couloir. It took us a little over 3 hours from the base of the glacier to the top of the couloir.
After a leisurely rest and gear sorting, we headed up the chute leading directly to the summit. This chute is mostly class-3 with only the last 15 feet or so deserving a class-4 rating, and we toped off directly at the summit. Having enough technical climbing for 1 day, we took the class-2 descent route back to the lake and the taxi boat across.
Participants: Scott Kreider, Arun Mahajan, Maxym Runov, and scribe Ron Karpel
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