We met up with the rest of our party at the intersection of 97 and Pilgrim Creek Road that was to take us to the Brewer Creek trailhead. They were Kelly Maas, Rick Woodin, and Jonathan Penn. In our car were Kai Wiedman, leader, Dave Erskine, and myself. After hearing how little sleep they'd gotten by the railroad tracks, we were glad we couldn't find that spot the night before.
Our guide to the Brewer Creek trailhead was the new Fifth Season map which accurately guided us to where we wanted to go. This was much unlike our trip of several years ago when we diligently followed the directions on the old map but ended up on a road that changed from bad to worse and got out and walked. Now we know those directions were wrong.
After leaving the cars, we hiked up the trail a bit, then cut cross country towards the easily visible Hotlam Bolam ridge. We looked back as we walked so we could retrace our steps. There are horror stories of people se arching for their cars on the way out.
Once on the snow, we strapped on our crampons and headed up to the Hotlam Glacier, our intended route. When we hit the glacier, we roped up into two teams. There were plenty of crevasses, large and small, to be found, but the snow bridges were solid and provided safe crossings. We hoped to make it to 11,700 that night which would put us in good position to do the summit, descend, and drive home the next day. When we reached that spot, we were happy to find it to be very accommodating. There was little remodeling to do for those of us who had tents, and there were good bivy sites for the others. A bonus was a trickle of running water close by which saved us from melting snow.
From our vantage point, we could look up at the ice formations and crevasses towards the summit and down at a storm that was threatening close by. Fortunately, it didn't come our way.
In the morning we headed up for the summit. Kai wanted to go up to the steeper upper end of the glacier and cross the bergshrund. There was some concern (Kai called it trepidation) as we could see a snow bridge but didn't know if it would take us where we wanted to go. The other rope team chose to go a lower route.
We had to remind ourselves that we were in California. Kai called it a glaciated paradise! He said it was like going window shopping but not having to buy (i.e. fall into a 50-70 foot crevasse).
After the bergshrund, we belayed a tricky traverse which put us in the right spot to ascend our couloir. There we were, unroping, and looking up at 800 feet of 45 degree imposing ice in front of us. On the way up the couloir, Kelly suddenly appeared from the side and said that the other two parties on his rope team weren't feeling well and wanted to return. Kelly, coleader, graciously volunteered to go back with them.
It seemed that the couloir would go on forever. When we looked up it seemed that we were making very little progress, but finally the steepness relented. The payoff was that the summit was only 300 feet above us.
Several parties were already on top and had come up by various routes. The weather was unbeatable but we stayed only a little while, remembering that we had a long day ahead of us.
Descending by almost the same route, we easily found the car and after a quick dinner in McLeod, headed back to the Bay Area for one of those well known PCS 2:00 a.m. returns.