May 5, 2007
All week I wondered if we would get to go on this trip. I was coming off a bout with a cold and sore throat, and there was new snow in the mountains. But the weather report for the weekend was favorable, and an obliging assistant leader (Larry Huff) assured me that even if I wasn’t up for it, he would lead the climb. On Friday my throat was better, and we decided to go for it.
We met at 6:00 a.m. at the South Eugene High parking lot and drove up through cloudy skies. By the time we turned onto the dirt road heading to Corrigan Lake trailhead, we had left the fog behind and the new snow on Diamond Peak was glowing white in the sunshine. We drove until snow stopped us about ½ mile from the trailhead.
As we made final adjustments to our packs at the trailhead, I made the decision that crampons could be left in the car. As things turned out, this probably cost us the summit.
The conditions on the hike in were good for snowshoeing. There was maybe four or five inches of fresh snow over a corn snow base. We made steady progress to the ridge above Corrigan Lake and made it out of the trees a little after 11 a.m. Once we were out of the trees, the ridgeline became windblown and frozen. In much of it the crampons on the snowshoes worked fine, but as the ridge became steeper, the crampons didn’t get much bite and we couldn’t kick steps with the snowshoes on. We tried kicking and cutting steps with no snowshoes, but this wasn’t going well either. We finally opted for the south-facing side of the ridge, and cut through the bowl to the saddle between the first false summit and the summit ridge. It was slow going — we had to kick steps into the firm snow beneath the new soft snow, and move carefully across the slope. We finally made it to the saddle a little before 3 p.m. The easiest and fastest route to the top from here would be up the windblown ridge, but without crampons this wouldn’t be possible. The western facing slope would be another slow process of step kicking. We reluctantly made the decision that the summit would have to wait for another day. We lingered a bit to have a bite to eat and take in the snowy scenery before heading down.
The trip down went well. We glissaded from the saddle to the base of the bowl and traversed back to our tracks on the ridge. We made it back to Corrigan Lake in good time and were back to the cars in less than three hours from our turnaround time.
It may not have been a summit day, but it was a good experience building trip for the strong group of climb school graduates that participated. Participants included Dan Koziol, Michelle Tuma, Andrew Jensen, Sean Allensworth, Lee Schaffner, John Mowat, Larry Huff and leader Susan Sullivan.