Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Colchuck Peak/North Buttress Couloir

A full value early season alpine climb in a picturesque setting. Our team of four enjoyed a scenic camp at the partially frozen Colchuck Lake, solitude on the route, and epic views of the Stuart Range.

  • Road impassable/closed
  • The road was closed at Bridge Creek Camp, adding 8 miles of road walking round trip to our itinerary. Road was nearly completely dry except for a small drift nearing its end. Rangers say it’ll be open in time for permit season. I’m half convinced they’ll keep it closed until then, regardless of the road’s condition. 

    Once on trail, inconsistent snow until a little way after the second bridge crossing of Mountaineer Creek (approximately 4800’). Snow was soft with ample opportunities for post holing. We leveraged snowshoes for this part of the approach. Colchuck Lake was partially frozen and its shores fully snow covered.

    Our party was greatly concerned about the higher than normal freezing level (>9K) for this time of year. Particularly as related to lose wet slides and rock fall. We obtained encouraging beta from hikers, skiers, and climbers returning to the trailhead. 

    On route, we had a bit of everything in snow quality. Our early start afforded us safe travel up the NBC prior to excessive direct sunlight, morning shade on the NW face, and loose cloud cover protected the Colchuck Glacier during our decent. All and all, many variables lined up nicely for safe and enjoyable climbing.

Saturday May 4th, a lazy start and a mellow approach had us arriving at the head of the lake in late afternoon. Our evening in camp was still and quiet. Overnight skies were exceptionally clear and full of stars.


Sunday May 5th, we left camp at 4:30 AM. First light was around 5 AM. We neared the moraine shortly there after and opted to climb from the NBC's base rather than contour the lateral moraine / traverse to the couloir as some parties do when the moat opens up. Rock fall was prolific overnight. We stayed out of the runnel, and away from cliff bands as best we could.


We stomped out the NBC in just under 2.5 hours. Rock steps were snow covered. Sun light began to kiss the ridge top as soon as 6:00 AM.


Nearing the notch, we picked up the pace so as to limit our time in the sun. Upper reaches of the couloir had direct light around 7:15.


Patty is all smiles now that were are past all the bulges and nearing the top of the NBC.


At the notch around 7:45 preparing to traverse out to the NW face. We roped up here and with running belays for the rest of the route.


Don't get sucked out too far climbers right to the more moderate rib, it's too far. But also, don't start up too soon, as it dead ends into cliff bands. It's a bit of a Goldilocks  "just right" snow ribbon leading you upward to another notch on the summit ridge.


We slowed down considerably on the NW face with route finding and pro placement. Less than satisfying sugary snow was encountered often, but plenty of horns, cracks, and more solid snow patches were available for protection.  The distinctive notch to shoot for can be seen here.


Once atop, we maintained our  positioning on the NW aspect and then traverse climbers right to the summit block. Here is Alex following Ben in their line to the top via a low 5th class weakness / open book. I took the more moderate line to the 4th class chimney climbers left above the snow covered ledge. 


First team was at the summit shortly after noon. Second team arrived at 12:30. Summit vibes until well after 1:30. Descending the scramble route was a slog fest, wallowing often in waist deep snow vacancies. Dragontail, the Col, and our Goat buddy.


Looking back at the south aspect of Colchuck from the Col.


A bit of an icy glissade of the Colchuck Glacier lead us back to camp, break down, and hike out. Back to the car a bit after 7:30 PM.