Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watusi Rodeo

The high-pressure temperature inversion was forecasted to last through MLK weekend, so at a leisurely hour on Sunday morning, Mark Bunker and I headed up Highway 20 to Colonial Peak. The north face of Colonial was first climbed in 1986 by Mark Twight, Mark Bebie, John Stoddard and Monte Westlund, by a central route they named "Watusi Rodeo." It's only seen a handful of ascents since, but is an impressive face, and one I'd been eyeing for several years. Although completely reasonable as a car-to-car day route, we decided just to approach on Sunday, since the days are still so short.

The north face of Colonial Peak from the basin above Colonial Creek. There were 4,500 ft. of crampons-required terrain from here to the summit, although the face proper is only 1,500 ft:

Soloing moderate terrain on the first part of the face:

Conditions in the Cascades are currently more spring-like than winter-like, which makes for excellent alpine ice conditions. Mark leading the first of two fat ice pitches:

Coming up to Mark's belay with the second fat ice pitch above:

After the ice pitches it was unclear what would be the best way to climb the upper rock bands. The route was chose worked fine, but was not easy. In fact, while traversing some steep rock bare-handed I ripped off a handhold and took my second-ever lead fall while alpine climbing! Fortunately, I had just placed a good pin, and the fall was uneventful. Some of the plentiful step-kicking between steeper pitches:

Cumbre! We made it down to our bivy just before dark, and then after melting more snow slogged back down to the car: