This year, Ben and I waited until May – most of the cornices had slid but the snow was soft and we ran into exposed rock. Ben crossed a small snow bridge, which collapsed. I felt crazy uncomfortable trying to bridge it and decided to work my way around the rock and trees. The going got stupid steep. I was using my ice axe plus my other hand, scrambling style. I finally told Ben that I couldn’t go on – what concerned me most was going back down. I felt so badly for Ben, knowing how much he wanted to go to the top. And we weren’t even all that far away. It looked to me like that approach was the steepest section of our trek.
I’m not as agile as Ben on snowshoes and if I’d taken them off – well – I know how little traction my boots have. In retrospect, I wish I had had my crampons with me. I think I would have been good with them on, being able to dig in and hold. As it was, thank goodness for the ice axe – it gave me a much needed anchor at least three times on that climb – and served as an even better anchor when we finally had to make a descent – which turned out to be steeper than last year because of snow conditions.
But – before that – we turned the day around to something quite fabulous. We came back down from the ascent to Ymir and climbed up the opposite ridge, following it all the way to the descent down the ski hill. It was a magnificent ridge with brilliant views. For me, at least, it made up for the failed attempt at the peak.
On the steep inital down, Ben crashed into a rock and tree – got himself a wee bit cut up. I noticed (ha!) and decided to try a slightly different route and crashed into a tree. This was good because it stopped me from sliding down another million metres.
It was that kind of snow – crazy slippery.
Note the last photo on this post. Ben is still upright – the trail to his left shows my bum track down the second last pitch in our descent. Thank goddess that North Face makes really tough shorts!
Was it a good day? Hey! It was a day in the alpine! Of course it was good. And I challenged myself. And while I wish I had challenged myself even more, I’m glad I turned around when I did. Without crampons, it was the smart thing to do. Imagine – me doing something smart!