We began distributing group gear at 11:30 PM Saturday night, finished loading back packs, and put on boots for a 12:30 AM start. Having arrived at the trailhead an hour earlier, we hardly had time for any sleep that night. From the beginning, there was a fierce, cold wind with 35 mph gusts. After five hours of climbing, we were at the bottom of Devils Kitchen where we tried to get out of the wind for a short rest behind a round, manmade snow wall. The temperature was 20 degrees. Looking ahead, we could see a few climbers passing the bergshrund on the east and ascending through the Pearly Gates, but the 12-foot-wide chute looked too steep and icy for our liking. We divided into two rope teams (the jackrabbits and the normal people) for the traverse west to the bottom of the Old Chute. Crossing the traverse meant dodging small chucks of ice kicked loose by climbers or falling from the crenellated walls above. It was best to be a jackrabbit in this stretch. Setting pickets for snow anchors for protection in the chute helped ease our minds and nobody slipped to give the system a test. We reached the summit by 8:30 AM, where it was far too cold and windy to spend much time. There must have been 200 climbers on the route that day, but we did not experience many delays waiting for others. It was like a smoothly operating assembly line. We descended straight down from the Old Chute to the Hot Rocks, and then held our breath while crossing back over to the hogsback to avoid the stink of sulfur released from the fumaroles. Upon reaching the hogsback, the sun was well up, the winds had calmed, and we were cooking in our warm clothes. We shed layers and crampons for a nice descent with several opportunities for glissading. The long day, warm sun, and lack of sleep began to take their toll as we slogged through soft snow next to the groomed ski runs during the final two hours. We reached the vehicles at 12:30, making it a 12-hour, car-to-car climb. After removing boots, packs, and other gear, we had a short rest before beginning the most dangerous part of the trip which was the long drive home while trying to stay awake. I'm happy to report that we all survived that part too!Members: Brian Hamilton, Julie Polhemus, Randy Sinnott, Danneille Harris. Nonmembers: Jeffery Gordon, Alexander Ellis.
Descending from the Old Chute—photo by Brian Hamilton
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