All photos from this trip can be found here.
This finally happened after several canceled ice climbs over the past two years due to snow and ice conditions and avalanche concerns. The four of us left north end of Alpental parking area quarter past 5 AM and it didn’t take long before getting to Source Lake Basin. From there we put on snowshoes and continued making our way up to the east basin by 7 AM. Then we spent another hour postholing in snowshoes getting up to the base of the northeast buttress by 8 AM. We made a stop to stash away snowshoes and some gear about 100 feet below the base to retrieve after the climb.
The area was as different as night and day compared with just four months earlier. The blanket of white stuff and without the scree sure made it that much more prettier! The climb itself was quite straightforward with no surprises. We climbed in two teams of two and swing led for a total of five pitches. Crux of the climb was the short vertical ice section at the beginning of the fourth pitch. The incline was greater than what I had anticipated, but I supposed that was the thrill of it all.
Partner and I arrived on the summit quarter to 1; she started to head down to join the other two after spending 10 minutes on the summit. I spent another 15 minutes to get as many photos as I could and enjoyed the views before meeting up with the group at top of the gully as they were setting up a double rope rappel.
We were able to get down the gully far enough with one double rope rappel. It was a little tough to retrieve the ropes at first, possibly both were cutting into lip of the cornice. But with some aggressive tugging, the ropes eventually let loose and came tumbling down the gully. Thank goodness for that!
The rest of the descent was done with a combo of face-in down climbing and plunge stepping. But before getting completely down into the east basin we needed to traverse horizontally and made a stop back at where we stashed the gear for retrieval.
After getting back down to the thumb tack we stopped for a group photo, since we couldn’t all be on the summit at the same time to get one.
After slowly making our way back down to Source Lake Basin in slush with snowshoes on, we hiked the rest of the way on the summer trail back to the parking lot.