Friday, February 22, 2008

President's Day Celebration

This week the winds that have plagued the Colorado Front Range for weeks finally died, and the avalanche conditions guarding the approach to the Longs Peak area settled to "moderate." I woke on Wednesday, checked the forecast, and decided to declare a "no powder, no wind day." I'd been waiting for the chance to do the mixed route Martha on Mt. Lady Washington for a couple of years, but partners and conditions had never lined up. Now I had no partner but conditions were excellent; I decided to celebrate President's Day, two days late, on my own.

Martha is a route that was probably climbed 30 years ago, but only recently became popular, thanks to Internet spray on Mountain Project. It's a long, moderate mixed climb on the south face of Lady Washington, looking straight at the Diamond across Chasm Lake. The setting couldn't be more spectacular.

After a two-hour walk on well-packed trails, I reached Chasm Lake only to find that Martha had no ice. But there seemed to be enough snow to cover the rubbly low-angle sections, and I knew there wasn't supposed to be any rock climbing harder than low fifth-class, so I decided to head up anyway. It was good fun: steep snow interspersed with short rock climbing cruxes, most of which were easy to climb with gloved hands; I seldom needed the single ice tool I had unstrapped from my pack. At the top, I sat down to bask in sun that was rapidly being obscured by the next incoming storm, gaped at the Diamond across the chasm, and then slogged to the 13,200-foot-plus summit of Mt. Lady Washington, another place I'd never been. With soft packed snow on the trails, the walk/skid out was a cruise, and I was back at the car by 3 pm, in time to return a few calls and emails. Another workday well utilized!


Hans Mundahl said...

Is the route in the second picture or the first?

Looks like a sweet day!

Dougald MacDonald said...

The first photo is the Diamond (northeast face) of Longs Peak, the monarch of Rocky Mountain National Park. The second shows the south face of Mt. Lady Washington, with the Martha couloir in center left.