Feather Peak, (13,242 ft)
Standing on a snowy bench, high above a frozen and snow bound lake, as we gazed in awe at the long cuoloir that was flanked one one side by an impressive rock wall, we heard our leader Kai speak up, 'I think I am going to go into four wheel drive here'.
But I am getting a little ahead of myself. On Saturday, 26th May 00, by 10am or so, led by Kai Wiedman, our leader, we (Hal Tompkins, Charles Schafer, Pete Davison, Pat Callery and myself, Arun Mahajan) set out on the Pine Creek Trailhead in the strange town of Rovana, trying to convince ourself as we kicked dust and dried horse dung out of the way under a warm sun, that this was actually Memorial Day.
The snow cover was spotty but increased as we went past the switchbacks that overlook the Tungsten Mine with the sound of the swollen cataract as it crashed down nearby, making music for the ears. The logs made the two stream crossings easy and in about four and half hours, we were scouting out our individual tent/bivy sites amidst the ubiquitous horse stuff in the trees at the far right corner of Upper Pine Lake. Camp site was at 10200 ft.
By 6.45am on Sunday we were on our way, making detours and hopping over logs and walking over the frozen snow bridges to cross the fast flowing stream and it's many streamlets. The going was steep as we crossed the first pass that took us to a plateau that was completely snow covered and we stared awestruck at the long and continious face of Merriam. But then we turned our attention to the equally stunning visage of Feather Peak, our destination.
It's left side dropped off sharply into a jagged ridge that had a steep col that Kai said was to be our descent route. The hard morning snow made me think that a descent on that col was impossible and so I suggested that we could stick close to the rock face instead of doing the traverse under the col with it's long run-out. 'You all worry too much' said Hal. 'You have been taking too much ganja' said Kai. Both of them obviously implying that the snow would soften soon. We dropped down to one of the large Royce lakes and then simply walked accross it as the snow was deep enough over the layer of ice on the lake. Then we did the steep climb to the top of a bench that placed us right below the long cuoloir that was our ascent route.
It was then that we heard Kai say, 'I think I am going to go into four wheel drive here'. It was a signal to don crampons but Hal did not see the need and suggested that he and Pete lead the way and let us know if crampons would be necessary.
Hal and Pete led the way and climbed fast and they made great steps for us. Kai told me that he would rather have Hal on this trip than the Swedish Bikini Team....hmmm....
The snow was perfect and we were sinking a foot and half into it sometimes and the cuoloir got steeper near the top but everybody did fine and within an hour of having started from the bench, we were drinking in the fantastic sight of the Seven Gables at the top of the cold and windy cuoloir. Another few minutes of easy class-3 work got us to the summit of Feather Peak where, the register indicated that we were the first to summit this year. We spent about thirty minutes at the top and the views were extensive but it was Humphreys and Bear Creek Spire that really caught the eye. Starting from camp at 6.45am, we had summitted at 11am.
We decided to strike for the col between Feather and Royce and to that end, descended the steep snow field at the backside of Feather. Kai and I continued down over class-2/3 talus and scree and then turned left towards the col whereas the rest, led by Hal struck a more direct route by going over directly left, staying just below the ridge line. As we looked over to them, we thought that ours was the easier way and theirs, the sportier.
We met up at the col and Pete, always strong, decided to continue on to the summit of Royce alone. The col looked steep and intimidating but Hal simply walked down it and we all followed. Again, the soft and deep snow made it easier to down climb, despite the angle.
By 3 pm, we were back at camp. Pat and I set out back towards the trailhead at 4 and making good time, we were back at the cars at 6.30 pm. Kai reports that even he and Pete got out not much later than us on the same evening, Sunday.
Thanks to Hal for leading us to the summit and to Kai for setting this trip up and for leading and making us one of the privileged few who climb Feather Peak.