Friday, February 8, 2013

Crystal Crag West Couloir

A couple weeks ago I got to guide a really cool trip for SMC- the West Couloir to the South Ridge of Crystal Crag.  I climbed with Alex Caillat, who I have done a bunch of stuff with over the past year (Mountain Madness in the Palisades!) and Nayan Savla, his friend from Santa Barbara.  Both are keen to get into ice and mixed climbing so we first spent 2 days working on ice skills in Lee Vining Canyon.

Crystal Crag is a great climb, summer or winter; the only catch when you climb it in winter is that you need to ski approx. 10 miles round trip to make it happen!

So we got Alex and Nayan set up with AT gear and got skiing out of Twin Lakes by 6:30am.  
The day was a perfect warm and sunny day, so in no time were we booting up to begin the climbing below the West Couloir.  The snow conditions were less than ideal, with 16" of loose sugary facets sitting on top of the older crust.  This made for slow going and interesting mixed climbing through the narrow chokes up higher, but Alex and Nayan both cruised through once I got the rope up there.
After we hit the ridge the climbing became much more like the classic Sierra 4th class ridges we all love, and we hung out on the summit for a bit before picking our way down the West Face, which unfortunately also was a bit hairy with all the loose unconsolidated snow.  
A little bit of survival skiing down to Crystal Lake and then through the Lake George Gully got us back to the cars by 7pm, leaving the crux of the day for Alex and Nayan, who still had to drive back to SB!  
Enjoy the pics, courtesy Nayan Savla.

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