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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 29 Jan 2007
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostWed Jan 28, 2009 1:48 am 
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Date:  1/24/09
Destination: Bald Mountain (Silverton) 4795
Party:  Matt, mtnmike, rdyhiker, BarbE, Lori J, Lynn G, Richard B

The snow condition was: Crusty.  Crusty trench along the road.  Crusty untracked snow in the valley.  Crusty frozen avalanche debris on all the slopes.  Crusty old cornices on the ridge.  Crusty arÍte on top.  Nasty slippery lumpy foot-tripping crust on the way down.

Route:

Thereís a whole passel oí Bald Mountains out there.  This is the one near Silverton, off the Deer Creek Road, north of Long Mtn, south of Kelcema Lake.

Our route was: Hike the Deer Creek Road 3.5 miles from the MLH (1575 ft) to the hairpin bend (2834 feet).  Go SW up the valley toward the Long-Bald col, and ascend through the gap in the lower band of cliffy slabs.  Then angle NW to go right of cliffy slabs until you can angle over and get onto the south ridge of Bald.  Circa 4550, thereís a 10-foot rock step downward on the ridge.  Then follow the ridge to the summit.

This route on Bald works best with lots of snow, as long as avalanche danger is low, and preferably without the nasty crust.  Itís a longer road walk, but the winter snow covers the alder in the valley and the slabs higher up.  Itís a snow scramble except for the rock step; more about that later.

Bald Mtn South Ridge Route Map
Bald Mtn South Ridge Route Map
Bald Mtn Route (viewed from Devils Peak 5/31/08)
Bald Mtn Route (viewed from Devils Peak 5/31/08)
Closeup of Route
Closeup of Route

Report:

The road had a solid beaten track all the way.  At two places, heavy wet snow slides had crossed the road.  About two miles in, we could see our destination through the woods to the west.

First avalanche across the road
First avalanche across the road
Bald Mtn from the Long-Bald col to the summit
Bald Mtn from the Long-Bald col to the summit
Second avalanche across the road
Second avalanche across the road

We hiked through the woods on mostly solid snow about a quarter mile, then came out into the open basin between Bald and Long.

The basin is surrounded by slabby cliffs, especially on the Bald side.  All the slabs had avalanched, so the basin was almost continuous avalanche debris.  With the long dry cold spell, it was generally solid and safe from further slides, but either slick where snow had slid across the surface, or very rough where debris had accumulated.  I spent more time on hiking on avy debris here than I have anywhere before.

A band of cliffs ran across the basin midway between the bottom and the col.  We angled across the north side of the basin and ascended some forest in the center to get past the cliffs.  Then we worked our way up to the right through snow bands between the slabs until we could turn back left through some more trees to reach the ridge crest.  We had enough crampons to equip all but one person, and the crusty snow softened enough in the sun to let us kick a path.

You can tell how Iím feeling about a route by what happens with my equipment.  If Iím concerned about traction on the snow, I get out my ice axe.  If Iím concerned about traction on rock, I take my gloves off.  And if Iím concerned about finding a workable line for the route overall, I stop taking pictures.  On this trip, my ice axe came out below the first cliff band.  My gloves came off for the rock step.  And I have no pictures from the time we left the road until we reached the ridge, except for two times that we stopped in the upper basin.

Coming out of trees onto avy debris above the lower cliff band
Coming out of trees onto avy debris above the lower cliff band
A line of ascent that didnít work out
A line of ascent that didnít work out

When we reached Baldís south ridge, travel was easier on the ridge crest under big trees.  As the ridge narrowed, we were threading between trees and lumpy cornices.  A couple hundred feet below the summit, we found the rock step.  It was a narrow point with about a ten-foot step downward, but there were footholds on the step, and a mound of snow for exiting at the bottom.  It was a workable downclimb with the rock dry, but youíd definitely want a short rope or a string of runners if it were snowy or icy.

Rdyhiker and BarbE decided to stop at that point.  I was very impressed with their decision-making.  They decided that the step was within their capability, but after the strain of cramponing up all the crust, it wasnít a good time to try it.  With the summit in sight, it takes much more strength to stop than to just keep going on.   I admire their good sense to consider the conditions carefully and their fortitude to make a difficult decision.

Rdyhiker & BarbE waiting by the rock step.
Rdyhiker & BarbE waiting by the rock step.

Beyond the step, the ridge was easier than it looked, threading between bits of snow, dry ground, and dense brush.  The summit itself was a pure snow arÍte, an inverted ďVĒ of snow running up over the top of the summit.

Summit arÍte, vertical
Summit arÍte, vertical
Summit arÍte, horizontal
Summit arÍte, horizontal
Self-portrait
Self-portrait

The summit also provided wider views, which I wish everyone could have seen.  All the nearby peaks were shaded, but Baker glowed in the sun far to the north.

Big Four (above the ridge of Long)
Big Four (above the ridge of Long)
Three Fingers & Whitehorse
Three Fingers & Whitehorse
Baker (above Jumbo)
Baker (above Jumbo)

I made my summit tea quickly while waiting for the others to arrive, not wanting to keep the people below waiting too long.

Summit tea looking back down to the Bald-Long col and basin
Summit tea looking back down to the Bald-Long col and basin
Summit arÍte looking toward Helena
Summit arÍte looking toward Helena
The rest of the party coming up the crest
The rest of the party coming up the crest

We kept our time short on the summit, mindful of the companions waiting at the step, and of the long crusty descent below.

Mike, Lori, Lynn & Richard on the summit (no choice about standing single file)
Mike, Lori, Lynn & Richard on the summit (no choice about standing single file)
BarbE photographing me photographing her from near the summit
BarbE photographing me photographing her from near the summit
Coming back down the ridge to the step
Coming back down the ridge to the step

On the way down, I took a few more photos.

Heading back down the ridge
Heading back down the ridge
Hook-beaked cornice
Hook-beaked cornice
One of Mikeís wooden cairns among the trees
One of Mikeís wooden cairns among the trees

In afternoon shadows, the crust had frozen harder.  We took our time carefully retracing our path downward.

Crossing a steeper spot
Crossing a steeper spot
Descending debris into the basin
Descending debris into the basin
Melt patterns in the debris
Melt patterns in the debris
Our route had gone up the snowy slabs in center, then left by the trees on the crest.
Our route had gone up the snowy slabs in center, then left by the trees on the crest.

We tried to keep a cautious pace, and careful travel on everyoneís part prevented any out-of-control falls, but there were still some injuries.  Rdyhiker got the worst of it.  A slip on some higher debris banged her leg with a crampon.  Later, a stumble amid some bigger debris made her very unluckily fall onto a large icy lump that injured her ribs.

On the last part of the road, sledders had smoothed the surface to an icy glaze.  Mike fell and hit his elbow.

The most hazardous place was literally the last step into the parking lot.  Lynn stepped down, slipped, and called out a warning.  Five of the other people also slipped or fell at the same spot.  Rdyhiker injured her hand there.

Stats:  10.4 miles round trip, 3300 gain, 9:10 hours


It would have been a good trip, and we all made it back to the cars under our own power, but I canít really feel like a trip was successful when people ended up with injuries worse than just temporary scrapes, bruises, or strains.  Mikeís elbow is still hurting.  Rdyhiker probably has broken bones in her hand and/or ribs.  I hope theyíll be able to heal quickly.

Edit: I forgot to include that Mike should get lots of credit for route-finding.  He picked out the lines that worked best through most of the steep parts.

--------------
ďAs beacons mountains burned at evening.Ē J.R.R. Tolkien
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Hiker Mama
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Hiker Mama
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 7:28 am 
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Wow, Matt and company.  Your TRs are always fascinating to me.

I'm sending get-well wishes to everyone.

--------------
My hiking w/ kids site: www.thehikermama.com
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tigermn
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 8:13 am 
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Wow definitely out of my comfort zone (I'll stick to walking to Kelcema Lake), but always enjoy reading such reports.

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My flickr photo site.
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wildernessed
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wildernessed
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 8:47 am 
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up.gif Nice Arete shots Matt, hope everyone heals quickly.

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I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent_Gandhi
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wamtngal
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 8:55 am 
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Looks like a fun trip! Sorry to hear about the slippages and injuries - heal quickly folks!

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Opinions expressed here are my own.
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loper
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 9:24 am 
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Nice work although sorry to hear about the injuries.
Take care,
L
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the Zachster
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 9:30 am 
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Clearly the value of a trip has more to do with the quality of your companions than the quality of the snow/conditions! What a bummer with all of those injuries. I hope they heal real quick so you can all get out enjoy better conditons soon. Let it snow...let it snow...let it snow!

--------------
"May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
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dicey
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dicey
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 9:42 am 
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Thanks for the report Matt.  Maybe soon we can trade out wearing crampons all day to wearing snowshoes or skis?
Sorry to hear about the injuries on your trip - that is a real drag.

From your pics/map it looks like one could do Long and Bald via the connecting ridge.  Maybe a good early spring trip with stable snow conditions and longer days?

--------------
I'm not always sure I like being older but being less stupid has advantages.
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gone
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gone
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 10:29 am 
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Interesting report, if a bit unnerving.  Lots of work, for sure, but some great views.

Some unfortunate injuries.  Sure sounds like rdyhiker got the worst of it.  Rib injuries are terrible things.   frown.gif

Thanks for sharing the details, and I hope everyone heals quickly!  smile.gif
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BarbE
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 11:58 am 
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Intense, exciting, a bit unnerving at times, but a good memorable trip as far as I'm concerned.
Experienced company and no falls, aches or pains helped make this a fun adventure for me.
Good conversations made the long road walk go fast and as a bonus the weather ended up being better than anticipated. Good thing too with the  challenging terrain ahead of us.
Thanks Matt for lending me your crampons and giving expert advice.
It made all the difference on the steep crusty ascent and greatly improved my confidence.

Not making it to the very top wasn't a disappointment at all, although in hindsight it looked quite doable.

Gotta go-Rdyhiker and I are off to check out crampons this afternoon.
A few more pics
Mike pointing out peaks
Mike pointing out peaks
Bald Mountain looking bald
Bald Mountain looking bald
Crossing the lower avalanche debris
Crossing the lower avalanche debris
Rock hard ice formations
Rock hard ice formations
Mike getting to a flat spot
Mike getting to a flat spot
First lunch spot
First lunch spot
Finding a safer route
Finding a safer route
Soft snow on the way up
Soft snow on the way up
A long ways up
A long ways up
Matt heading up the narrow ridge
Matt heading up the narrow ridge
Matt near the summit
Matt near the summit
Dang- that's steep
Dang- that's steep
Rdyhiker's careful descent
Rdyhiker's careful descent
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Go Jo
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Go Jo
of the lykkens
PostWed Jan 28, 2009 12:35 pm 
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My stomach did flip flops just looking at some of the pictures. Looks to be a true adventure! If rdyhiker and barbe are off to look at crampons of their very own the challenge of it must have out weighed the injuries. Great report & photos ~Jo
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Joey
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 3:52 pm 
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Summit tea - nice touch - I like it.

The pics and TR are good too.
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Schmidt Alti-Babe
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Schmidt Alti-Babe
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 4:28 pm 
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Matt wrote:
You can tell how Iím feeling about a route by what happens with my equipment.  If Iím concerned about traction on the snow, I get out my ice axe.  If Iím concerned about traction on rock, I take my gloves off.  And if Iím concerned about finding a workable line for the route overall, I stop taking pictures.  On this trip, my ice axe came out below the first cliff band.  My gloves came off for the rock step.  And I have no pictures from the time we left the road until we reached the ridge, except for two times that we stopped in the upper basin.

Even though I enjoyed all of your TR, this part really stuck with me.

Conditions sounded a bit intense.  And all that avalanche debris.  Wow.

Heal up quickly everyone.   agree.gif
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puzzlr
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puzzlr
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 7:44 pm 
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Nice report. I always feel like I'm getting the real story with your reports. No sandbagging!

Do you know if the way you got in there would be a feasible route to Long Mountain? I've seen routes from the other side, but it looks very steep.
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Tazz
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PostWed Jan 28, 2009 7:45 pm 
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good stuff matt and all!   up.gif
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