Climbing the Nooksack
Colin and I left Seattle Saturday morning and hiked into the base of the Nooksack Tower the same day (see Approach Notes below).
We made an early start the following morning (5am). We managed to only have one headlamp so an earlier start would have been problematic anyway. The schrund is still pretty much buried so accessing the couloir wasn’t an issue.
We soloed/simul-climbed most of the couloir to the notch (second used the rope for a couple of steep sections). The cornice at the ridge turned out to be pretty easy to turn on the right side. It's obviously very windy up there in winter. There were these big flutings on the minor peak next to Nooksack and big snow mushrooms on the East face of the tower.
Colin made short work a steep but solid(ish) rock pitch up and left above the col. This actually had some tricky but cool mixed moves up a corner system and then led leftwards into a natural bay in the rock. I climbed the next pitch up a rather loose chimney – lots of swearing, scraping of crampons and a momentary reduction in points of contact with the rock.
This pitch allowed us to reach a large snow ramp leading toward the summit. The snow had already had a lot of sun so wasn't the best. Colin led a rope length up this, getting another good rock anchor. We weren’t really sure how much more climbing there was so I headed for the crest. After half a pitch of snow and some moves on snowed up rock I pulled over the lip and found myself looking down the other side with the summit just a few feet away.
Colin followed and we congratulated each other on a job half done. The top of the Nooksack is the coolest. It's really small with great views of pretty much everything. We sat there for a bit rehydrated and enjoyed trying to figure out what all the peaks were. Of course you still have to get off the mountain.
Colin did a great job of setting anchors on the descent; I guess he's had a lot of practice. We had do search around to find good ones under snow covered rock in some cases. We rapped to the col and then down over the cornice and once more for a steep section where the couloir narrows. The rest of the snow we down climbed while trying to dodge bits of falling snow mushroom... unsuccessfully.
Note to self: If you have the "Headlamp of Immunity" (TM) then you cannot be eliminated (or fall off).
Times: Left the bivvy at 5am, summit at 11am (5 hours). Back at bivvy by 4pm (11 hour round trip).
Gear Notes: Pins (definitely!), nuts, cams (no need for screws and in most places pickets would have been useless).
Lots of slings/tape for rap anchors. Suncream would have been nice.
Route/Approach Notes: Drove to the end of the Nooksack road. Biked the section after the removed bridge. Snowshoed the last
half mile to the river crossing. The log is still there. Hiked most of the valley to Price Lk, snowshoed the last section.
Snowshoed all the way to a bivvy on the glacier. Just under seven hours in and three out - bikes rule.