Wednesday, January 1, 2014

North Ridge Pheifferhorn - December 31, 2013

Peak: Pheifferhorn (11,325 ft)
Trailhead: White Pine Trailhead (7.700 ft)
Route: North Ridge
Date climbed: December 31, 2013

The last day of 2013 did not disappoint.  I climbed Pheifferhorn via the classic winter route up its' North Ridge with Luke and John.  

Looking down Little Cottonwood Canyon from the Red Pine Trail

We left the parking lot at 7:30 am on our skis.  We followed a well established skin track pretty much all the way into Maybird Gulch.  Once we actually arrived at the base of the route, it was very apparent that no one has climbed the route since the last storm or even this season. We reached the base of the route around 10:45 am.  

Skiing across Maybird Gulch towards the Northeast Couloir of Pheifferhorn Peak.  The North Ridge route is the right skyline.
We chose to climb the northeast couloir (variation B) and join the ridge higher up.  This was a good decision, because that prevented us from climbing or hiking out well after dark.  We left our skis at the base of the couloir and post-holed our way up the couloir.  The snowpack was moderately stable.  The top of the couloir presented some mixed rock and snow and some challenging moves.  At this point the clouds lowered, the wind picked up, and the flurries began to fall. 

Looking down the Northeast Couloir of Pheifferhorn Peak into Maybird Gulch 
Getting ready for the crux of the Northeast Couloir, which involved some mixed climbing
We scrambled up class 4 moves in our ski boots at a good pace.  We eventually reached a small saddle before an exposed traverse and the upper crux.  Here we belayed 2 short pitches, which John lead with confidence despite the challenging moves and intimidating weather.  Once on top of the crux, it was just a hike to the summit, which we reached around 3:30 pm.  

Slogging through the occasional low angle snowfield on the ridge
4th class scrambling in ski boots
Upper Crux, low 5th class
Steep mixed climbing on the North Ridge 
Exposed 4th class climbing up the North Ridge
We hiked down the Maybird headwall, back to our skis, and eventually all made it back down to the car in the dark despite getting split up, off track, and not having headlamp (Mountain Man Dave, if you read this, just know that I'm sorry, I know you are shaking your head right now - I'll never leave my headlamp at home again!).  Good times.