It's tough being an ice climber in the PNW. We travel 10,000, take off work, go broke, get skunked consistently, all for half the climbing days that somebody in UT, CO, or MT can get without really trying. Once and a while though, some local water ice forms up in mid-October.
With clear cold weather forcasted Chad and I took off work and headed up to the ol' stomping grounds of the Mt. Baker N side to try our hand at one of the Colfax Peak ice routes.
We took a quick look at the prize, the Polish Route. It looked terrific for the first half, the second half had mixed climbing to an overhanging curtain and then a free hanging icicle. It looked Wi6-7 to me, more than I could handle our first day out. We end ran a crevasse and headed another 15 min. up the hill to the Cosley-Houston. The route is mostly moderate with a couple pillars to surmount over the 6-800ft.
Chad picked rock and took the sharp end for the first lead.
You can see me at the top of the first Wi2 section. Chad is camoflaged in the rocks atop the first piller.
The first pitch ended up being 80m after I yanked the belay and simuled. Chad was able to put a screw in and reach the top of the difficulties before I had to climb. The first pillar was significantly harder than it appeared. A full pitch of it would be Wi6 but we estimated it Wi4+/5 because of its length.
I'm at the base of the second pillar, Chad is still at the rocks.
The second pitch was another long simul affair. I had quite a bit of difficulty with my umbillical set up at the base of the pillar. Note: don't use Nano wires because they invert and prevent you from holding on to the pommel. After some fussing and complaining, I just climbed the pitch which felt like solid Wi4 because the ice was very aerated and chandeliered.
The final pitch was a ~200m of simul climbing joy. Perfect neve, water ice, rock pro, and a top out to a calm sunny summit.
We ended up climbing the route in 3 hours and 3 pitches. Great day out for the start of ice season. My palms, ankles and calves are crying though...
Chad on the first Wi2 step (the one I am seen standing on-top-of on the first picture). A little thin, and a little funky considering it's the first ice I've touched since March.
Chad in the thick of it. It was a great lead. 80m with an overhaning crux right at the end and all while carrying a pack.
The summit. Stick a fork in Chad, he's done.