By 5am the next morning I'd made my way back up to Tioga Lake and headed up the canyon, bumbling around in the dark towards the tarns and lakes below the Dana glacier. Lots of wonderful boulder-hopping, which I remembered fondly from last September. The last lake was mostly melted but was so enlarged by this year's high snowfall that the flat areas where we had camped appeared to have been submerged.
I made my way along the north side of the lake and scrambled up the moraine towards the Dana glacier. I'd brought an alpine harness, a few ice screws, gear for making abalakov anchors (v-threads), and various runners, in addition to climbing crampons and a pair of ice tools. The glacier appeared to have a lot of bare ice on it, but it looked like one could skirt that on the left.
However, skirting the ice was not my plan. I racked up and flatfooted to the middle of the exposed ice, setting crampon points very firmly, mostly using a single tool in cane position. With two screws I built an anchor, then got a long screw out and drilled a hole for a v-thread. Removed that screw and inserted a shorter one for sighting. Measured across with the long one, and drilled the other hole of the V. Finally I threaded some 6mm perlon in, twisted my coathanger wire abalakov tool in the other end to retrieve the perlon, and tied the loop with a double fisherman's knot.
By now, the sun had risen over the Dana plateau and things were starting to warm up. Meltwater was starting to flow over the ice. I tugged on my new v-thread to test it, then disassembled the whole rig and headed up to the bergschrund.
The 'schrund was certainly opening up, but wasn't really that deep yet. Good snowbridges existed on the left and right. Several feet of snow could be seen atop the lip, softening in the warmth of the rising sun. I got out my other tool and did a little swinging on the part under the snow, but soon the meltwater felt like a steady rain, and I decided not to dally further. I traversed around right and headed up. It was around 9am.
I wasn't really sure how much ice would be in the couloir itself before getting here - I'd read that it was still completely snow. But the hot weather and heavy rains of the last few weeks may have had something to do with the thin strip of ice that was exposed, a bit left of center. I guessed it was less than 100' worth, about midway.
The snow was soft where the sun was hitting it. In the shade it was still pretty firm. I climbed on the right side for a while, then traversed left towards the ice, such as it was. Pretty much a low-angle thing, not unlike ice bouldering in Lee Vining Canyon the previous winter. I climbed on this strip of ice for as long as it lasted, then continued on up the hard snow, and finally on up into the sunlight to the couloir exit. It was about 10.
At some point above the 'schrund I'd picked up a loop of tied cord, similar to the one I had just made. I surmised that it was left over from last season.
Heading up the soft snow interspersed with class 2 rock to the summit seemed to take forever, but the views were worth it. Only one other person had signed in before me today - I'd seen him heading down towards one of the other peaks nearby. The register needed a new notebook. Some clouds were drifting across the sky, and there was a cool breeze.
Coming down the trail to Tioga Pass it seemed like a steady stream of folks was heading up. Gotta love Mt. Dana.
Original pics are at : http://rhysw.com/dana_couloir200508