Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Martha Martha...

There's something about 5am, in consideration to driving to Colorado, that makes it not too early, yet not too late. Whatever the case, Cory and I found ourselves waking up to the familiar chime of the 5 o'clock alarm Thursday morning. Since we had gotten together the night before and loaded everything into the Xterra, we were ready to go without delay. 

We drove and drove until we reached Estes Park, home of Rocky Mountain National Park wherein the Martha Couloir and the Cables Route awaited. Our plan was to hike up to Chasm lake and camp out while climbing a couple routes near Longs Peak. Once we obtained the necessary camping permits, we said goodbye to the comfort of our car and trekked up through the snow. 

Embracing the "light is right" mentality, we carried nothing extra (though thinking back we could have probably saved about 8oz). We carried one small pack (MHW Scrambler 30), and one big pack  with the brain removed (BD Quantum 45). Before ice axes, crampons, and clothing, the total weight of the two packs was about 65 lbs, not too bad for a trip in January! Our plan was to switch out the packs as we went to offset the weight difference. This plan worked well and we'll likely do it again.

Anyway, back to the subject. We reached the Chasm Lake turn off just as it started getting dark, we threw on our head lamps and continued up the familiar trail. We traversed the snow slope with some difficulty though we never saw the need for crampons. After ascending the short rock step, we reached the edge of the frozen lake. We were both quite grateful that we did not have to scramble across the boulders to the side of the lake. We found the Hilton bivy sight and began excavating snow and piling it up to provide us some shelter from the wind. Once we finished, we quickly pitched the tent, ate dinner, and called it a night. 

Neither Cory nor I saw any need to wake up too early that morning. We ate some oat meal then racked up for the climb less than a quarter mile away. We reached the snow slope below the Martha Couloir and began climbing. The snow was steep and firm and made for an enjoyable start to the day. 

We climbed up the first constriction in the couloir and made our way up the snowfield that is the second pitch. We roped up and climbed the next three pitches which were quite enjoyable. The route was in great condition and we felt confident and secure the whole way up. The weather was nice enough that I climbed in BD Torque gloves the whole way up, only throwing on mittens once. 

We took some go pro videos of the crux pitches. 

Once we exited the couloir, the weather was not as friendly. It was as though we were caught in the battleground of two fierce winds which were making war each other. 

We scrambled to the top of Mount Lady Washington where we were met with violent 60mph gusts. Because of the wind, we decided to hike down Lady Washington to the Chasm Lake trail rather than take the scramble down camel gully. Looking back on it Im not exactly sure that we made the correct decision. 

The day grew into darkness and we were once again forced to push on under the power of our headlamps. We made it to our camp and collapsed into our sleeping bags. Cory went straight to sleep while I fired up the jetboil and ate dinner. 

We slept. The wind blew. Then the wind blew some more.

On our scramble down Lady Washington we both agreed to save Cables Route on Longs for another day and head home. 
So we woke up, and begrudgingly ventured out of the tent into the blowing snow. We were surprised at how much snow had blown near our tent, a couple more days and it surely would have been buried. 

We once again crossed the frozen lake, and made our way down the mountain after another successful adventure in the Colorado Rockies. 

Cory coming down the snow step


We stopped at Coffee on the Rocks on the way back, where we were met by many ducks. They were pretty dumb however, as they all flew away as I stood up to grab a chewy bar for them. 

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