Diamond Peak : Northeast Couloir

28-29 May 2006 - by Rob Yang

The weather for Memorial Day weekend was not looking good for the Shasta / Casaval Ridge outing a bunch of us had planned, so we looked south. On my personal hit list was the northeast couloir of Diamond Peak. I'd been up this peak before, but by a different route (Thanks Bob and Arun !)

I headed up the Baxter Pass trailhead at 8am. The last couple of days had been frigid in the Sierra, and there was a bit of ice near the creek crossings, which made the log balancing act a little dicey, but doable. The trail was just as I remembered it two years ago - a little brushy and a little confusing here and there, but nothing really different, though from the look of the cairns and brush cuts it had been maintained by careful hands.

As I made my way up to the 'campground' noted on USGS maps at around 9900' I encountered a few snow patches, but largely I think the snow level was about 10000'. I found a nice spot and headed down to the creek for some running water. Then I took a nice afternoon siesta, ate dinner and went to sleep. The day was a bit chilly, but mostly clear, with some cloud cover towards evening, which later dissipated.

I awoke the next morning, ate quickly, and hit the trail at 5:45. The snow was firm, and I made rapid progress to about 11000', roughly to where the Baxter Pass trail is at that elevation. From there I made my way to the base of Diamond Peak, at around 11400'.

From there, about 400-500' of scree and talus was mostly covered by snow on the climber's left. I started up around 7:15 and traversed into the couloir, which split at about 12000' - the left variation looked steeper, perhaps 45-50 degrees ? The remains of wet slide activity in that fork didn't bother me as much as watching a few rocks come down, so I decided to stick with the main couloir and make short work of it. The sun was getting higher and the snow softer. I exited out onto the summit plateau at around 12700'. Someone had told me to expect 35-40 degree slopes, and that seemed about accurate.

The usual slog I remember across the plateau and up class 2 scree & talus took me to the summit by 9:20. The day was excellent - clear, calm, and pleasant temps. Time for a bar of dark chocolate. The old summit register that I had signed in 2004 was gone though, as noted in an earlier report. The views were tremendous.

I headed back down to the southeast slopes, looking for an easier glissade / descent chute than the first time I'd been here. The chute on the climber's rightmost seemed fairly gentle and entirely snow-covered. I downclimbed past a section of exposed boulders and scree, then glissaded into the bowl south of the peak.

From the bowl I just followed the drainage down to camp. The snow had softened, but was still fairly firm, so I was able to make good progress, and got back by noon. By 3pm I had my car packed and was ready for some ice cream.

Pics are on my website here : http://rhysw.com/diamond_peak200605

According to Secor, the northeast couloir "ascends the left-hand (eastern) 40 degree snow couloir on the north side of the peak." The chute I went up was more on the eastern side, sort of northeast ... from other pics I have seen online, a lot of other people seem to have made this mistake. Oh well, call it the "East Chute" I guess.

Thanks to Bob Burd for noting this - the map of his route last May is shown here :http://www.snwburd.com/bob/maps/diamond_1.html

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