Route: Started at the Glacier Gorge TH and hiked to Black Lake via the skiers shortcut to Mills lake and the black lake trail. Climbed the West Gully in 2 65m pitches. Rappelled to descend and skied the trail back to the trailhead.
Crew: Joe and Prakash
Distance and Elevation Gained: ~10 miles and ~2300 feet
Ice Grade: P1 – WI4, P2 – WI2 – 2+
The storms of the past couple weeks have markedly improved conditions to black lake covering up a decent amount of deadfall, thus significantly improving ease of passage for skiers. We began skinning at 7:15AM and reached Mills Lake at around 8:30AM using the skiier’s shortcut.
The trail up to black lake had a few large trees across it but we were able to duck under them easily. The snow was continuous and the grade easy to skin up. We were at black lake at about 10AM.
From black lake the conditions looked about as good as they could possibly get for an attempt on this route. P2 looks deceptively shorter than P1 in this pic but it turned out to be just as long as the first pitch.
From the lake we went up and to the right through the shrubs and boulders and then traversed left staying high below the ice and cliff faces and above the steep snow slopes guarding the ice. The skis went almost to the base of the ice until we decided it wasn’t really worth skinning. Black lake from the base of the west gully ice…
Longs Peak and the trough route look great from this vantage point…
P1 from the base of the climb… Joe led this one. It went for about 65m or so.
The top 15 feet or so of P1 felt like WI4 and getting over the bulge at the top was tough enough to clean. I didn’t want to try and imagine leading it
Above the bulge there were a few feet of easy ice / scrambling beyond which Joe had built his anchor. The second pitch looked like easier 2/2+ ice.
I led the second pitch… which was also roughly 65m long.
I set up an anchor in the last few feet of ice below a huge flat plateau of snow, rock and tundra.
After I brought Joe up we set up V-thread anchors and did two rappels down to the base of the climb. It took about 3 hours in all from start to finish.
We skied off the slope below the ice and began the descent down the trail at about 3:30PM.
We were back down at the car at about 4:45PM. Skis were definitely the way to go.