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Old 02-04-2012, 06:28 PM   #1
mudrat
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Colden: Southernmost Avalanche "Zucchini" Slide

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MudRat PICTURES
Nangaparbat PICTURES



Spring of 2011 led me to Mt. Colden’s southermost Avalanche Slide (West Ramp)
last spring. The steep ledges and open slab of the initial 300’ were spectacular, as were the views of Lake Colden, Flowed Lands and the MacIntyres. I believe it yields, perhaps, the area’s most spectacular view of the lake. I’ve wanted to revisit the slide since then. I didn’t expect it to be this winter. “Nangaparbat” expressed interest in it many months ago and, during a conversation, mentioned climbing it...soon. I asked if he wanted company and the preparation began.
----
We met at the Loj and began our trek to Avalanche Lake at 9:05 a.m. The temperature read 17F, but felt rather warm and dry. We’d been communicating for quite awhile on the forum, but got acquainted en route to the slide. I already had a deep respect for him and I walked alongside listening to fascinating stories and facts about Nepal where he’s recently explored.

Less than two hours later, we were walking on the glistening surface of Avalanche Lake in the mid-morning sun. Clouds to the south swirled like a great tsunami heading for “our” slide. The recent rains and quirky winter weather created a rich pallete of ice on the surrounding area. The mountains bled beautiful formations that created a small swell of concern at what we’d find on the footwall of the our destination. NP is a technical climber. I’m not currently, but have a healthy curiosity that sometimes pushes against the limits of my comfort zone. This would either put an early end to my day as I turned back, create a 2,000’ bushwhack along the slide or yield conditions that were outside my normal comfort zone, but worth attempting after serious assessment of the conditions. I was read to accept any of the options.


I recognized the drainage immediately by its width and the confirmation rose like a great white wall to the east. The bushwhack went rather well, easily on the stream bed at first and a bit more strenuous in the waist deep snow for another 20 minutes. Only occasionally did we plunge through. The terrain was rugged and mined with erratics, blowdown and spruce as it gained pitch upon approach. We found our way to the base at about 11:20, some 6.5 miles from the Loj.


Some of the ice flows looked familiar…I remembered layout of the features/ledges, the anorthositic jewels, hidden deep underneath. We had a snack, rehydrated and swapped snowshoes for crampons as I looked up at what I imagined could be my greatest challenge this winter. I know the feel of anorthosite underfoot, but I’m much more uncertain on ice. NP was encouraging, “We will get you up this in winter!” I was already in the process of picking what I thought might be a safe route across to the northern side.


As it turned out, the conditions were perfect. It was swollen with ice, but enough encrusted snow broke up the flows to pick a safe route. We climbed rather quickly, much more so than in spring. I focused on each foot and ax placement until I felt the bite of metal in ice. The first ice flow gave me a few problems as the front points didn’t provide the necessary purchase. Even low on the slide, I knew a fall would be a big disastrous. It didn’t so much shake my confidence as annoy me. I needed a more aggressive setup and now had to be extra conservative. Nangaparbat picked the route and, with the eye of an experienced climber, led the way obviously taking my first problem into serious consideration. I followed, comfortable in his company and, soon, on the climb itself. Every step was a learning experience. I love being out solo, but I wouldn’t do this alone in winter. I also wouldn’t do this without the aid of the encrusted snow without using rope.




Once more comfortable in my footing, I watched the perspective of the lake change behind the foreground of ice. I soon realized that we were following the same route that I did less than a year ago. It was like visiting an old friend with a new friend as a partner. After 200’ vertical, we were just beyond the ledges and on a smooth convex slab (buried somewhere below our feet). One hundred feet up the steep slab, I saw flows of ice that marked a lessening of pitch at the center portion of the slide. Things were going well.


The bottom was no longer in view and the trees were losing their individual features, appearing as more of a carpet of branches covering the land to the lake. I felt my stomach do a quick turn as I looked directly below over a field of ice. A slip would end more than my day, but again, my crampons were biting well into the consolidated snow. NP hooted his excitement from a bit higher which brought me back to the task at hand rather than the “what ifs” that occasionally scampered across my mind.


Nangaparbat kept a keen eye on my progress and climbed ahead to shoot pictures every now and again. In the meantime,the cloud ceiling was lowering and occasional gusts became a bit more steady. Loose snow blew in wisps down the slide, swirling over the bulges. Algonquin’s summit, was swallowed from just above the top of the Bear Paw Slide. Snow showers then moved in. It was the perfect winter day with just a touch of moodiness to the weather. Blue bird skies make for incredible shots, but so does a low foreboding backdrop of clouds.


Once above the first 300’ vertical, the slide decreased in pitch and we rested, appreciating the splendid climb. I was still reeling from the adrenalin of satisfaction, but needed a bit of food and water to put the spring back in my step. We’d a long way to go ascend on the slide and then there was the task of trudging through the spruce to the cliffs below and south of the summit. The center of the slide was completely snow covered with a semi-supportive crust. Nature threw us an occasional curve as we plunged through to our knee or hip.





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Last edited by mudrat; 01-17-2013 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:29 PM   #2
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Part 2/2

The top tributaries (2) were a mixture of ice flows and crusty snow. The pitch was less than the footwall and I felt comfortable experimenting a bit. It gave me a chance to play with NP’s axes which were a stark contrast to those I was sporting. At the top of the slide, we changed into showshoes and began the arduous, but short lived task of fighting with the spruce in 4 feet of semi supportive snow and rime.

NP did an awesome job leading up the slide, I tried to return the favor by breaking “trail” to the cliff. The process of walking on crust for a 3’ and falling through to the waist turned to one of walking 10’ before plunging. I knew that as we approached the cliffs, there was an abundance of blueberry covered stones. After about 20 or so minutes we found solid footing on their icy rime covered faces…mostly. I planned to lead us north until the cliffs petered out. I recognized the fallen ledge that I’d climbed in the spring, but we passed by until spying a steep chute that easily led to a crown of ice encrusted cripplebrush. All but their top few inches were buried. Even so they managed to swallow NP’s leg and eat one of his snowshoes.


I busied myself with covering my face against the stinging wind as he extricated the shoe and strapped it back on. We walked on the spruce until it became rime encrusted anorthosite. The trail was nowhere to be seen, blown over, iced in and untrodden. The summit was only a few feet away by this point. Upon the summit proper, the the wind died to a whisper. It was 2:45 p.m.


The trek down was uneventful as we followed the deep post holes of a climber we’d seen earlier when passing by the trap dyke. Jumping ahead in time, we made it back to the Loj under a failing sun at 5:45 p.m. for a total trip time of about 8 hours 40 minutes.


To conclude, I really do have to thank Nangaparbat for his enthusiasm, patience and keen eye in finding a safe route. I’ve a pretty level head, but things could have turned quite dangerous with just one poor decision or under different conditions. It was a perfect day for us and the timing was just right for how attacked this slide. It was also nice finally connect with NP. We've had several intriguing conversations over the last several months.

To conclude...I’d strongly caution anyone thinking about this slide to be proficient in the use of technical ice climbing gear. This wasn’t a walk in the park and it would be very easy to make a single wrong move in even the best ice conditions.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Old 02-04-2012, 09:43 PM   #3
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Fantastic climb gentlemen! Those pics of the first 300' of vertical are nerve-wracking just to look at! Excellent photography as always. The above picture of the 'tsunami' remind me of an eagle?
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Old 02-05-2012, 01:53 PM   #4
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Fantastic climb gentlemen! Those pics of the first 300' of vertical are nerve-wracking just to look at! Excellent photography as always. The above picture of the 'tsunami' remind me of an eagle?
Thanks! I thought of a raptor too right after the wave. That was there and gone in the blink of an eye as the clouds came in. The area never ceases to amaze me in its diversity of lighting and weather.
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Old 02-05-2012, 05:06 PM   #5
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I was dreaming of this slide since , I first read Mudrat account of his bold ascent last june.

However, I had other project like getting lost attempting the Eagle Slide to the point of nearly broking into tears at the summit trail of Giant, no kidding, when I saw the picture of the Zuchini in summer, I have felt awe for Mudrat solid head of soloing something that tricky.

But the climb was in my mind since then. last week I have climbed the Trapdike and was amazed at how much ice was to be found on the mountain.

Then the idea pops out again , going to climb the Zuchini but in winter.....

I knew it would probably be doable, but did not know what to expect.

After talking about this with my partner of the day, We went on to give it a try, frankly I had concerns for my partner, I did not want ambition to got a grab over a next victim, since I knew he did not have much experience on alpine winter ground.

As it turns out, we were able to find the line of weakness of the slide that allows us to climbed the whole thing in about 2hrs 40 min.

It was a real pleasure for me to meet Mudrat in the first place after much discussion over the last months.

Let just say it is not a day that we will forget soon.

A word of caution, this is a serious climb, we have walk on avalanche debris at the base, and there is some route finding to do to find the easiest possible way. Which does not mean it is easy.

Great day out with a great partner, I will remember it for a long time.
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Old 02-05-2012, 10:49 PM   #6
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Nice climb, guys.

I thought this slide was off limits. When I hiked past it last year on my way to the Trap Dyke, I thought I saw a sign saying 'no climbing allowed at Avalanche Pass', or something to that effect.

AmI thinking of another close-by slide?

Looks like the slides in the Adirondacks are now offering a nice combo of snow and ice.

Liked your 'montage', Mudrat.

Now I know which slide you told me that you were going to climb, at last Thursday's beernight, Jean-Luc.
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Old 02-05-2012, 10:54 PM   #7
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Nice climb, guys.

I thought this slide was off limits. When I hiked past it last year on my way to the Trap Dyke, I thought I saw a sign saying 'no climbing allowed at Avalanche Pass', or something to that effect.

AmI thinking of another close-by slide?

Looks like the slides in the Adirondacks are now offering a nice combo of snow and ice.

Liked your 'montage', Mudrat.

Now I know which slide you told me that you were going to climb, at last Thursday's beernight, Jean-Luc.
Hi and thanks, it was a great day!
The slide you're thinking of is right next to the trail north of Avalanche Lake. I believe it is "forbidden" due to avy danger etc and proximity of trail. It's also a short slide. The one we did is about 5 or so slides to the south and about 1/2 mile SOUTH of Avalanche Lake. It requires a 20 minute bushwhack from trail to its base.
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Old 02-05-2012, 11:17 PM   #8
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Thanks for the clarification, Mudrat.

I'm glad you and Jean-Luc had a great day.
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Old 02-06-2012, 10:28 AM   #9
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Well, well, well... I was gonna ask if you wanted to climb some of the Dix slides on the 18th, figuring that the answer would be "no". I guess that would now be a solid "maybe".

You've come a long way gecko-boy!
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Old 02-06-2012, 10:33 AM   #10
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Well, well, well... I was gonna ask if you wanted to climb some of the Dix slides on the 18th, figuring that the answer would be "no". I guess that would now be a solid "maybe".

You've come a long way gecko-boy!
18th? That's the gathering anyway and no doubt Grace slide will be in there!

heh heh heh...I told Nangaparbat about both 'gecko' and 'lemur' stories
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:02 AM   #11
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Way to go out there and confront your limits. Sounds like you had your baleouts figured out in advance and went with a pro.

That pic with the steep side-view of the ice with the lake in the background made me think there is no way I would ever do that no matter what sort of gear I had but then I saw the crusty snow in the foreground and read the report. I still don't think I'd want to go. (I'm entering my autumn years I guess)
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:08 AM   #12
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Way to go out there and confront your limits. Sounds like you had your baleouts figured out in advance and went with a pro.

That pic with the steep side-view of the ice with the lake in the background made me think there is no way I would ever do that no matter what sort of gear I had but then I saw the crusty snow in the foreground and read the report. I still don't think I'd want to go. (I'm entering my autumn years I guess)
I wouldn't have been there solo w/o NP. Like I said in the report, he did a great job of things.

Autumn years...ha! We were talking about you en route and I said, "Yeah, Neil would probably scamper right up." I was reflecting back upon you and E-man trying to get up the bottom/center of Gothics NW a couple years ago as Glen and I headed south to an easier access point.
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Old 02-07-2012, 07:03 AM   #13
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to both of you!
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:45 AM   #14
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Wow! Loved the report and pics guys, especially the action climbing shots.
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:48 AM   #15
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Wow! Loved the report and pics guys, especially the action climbing shots.
Thanks GC! You have your eye on anything slide-like this winter?
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