Day 1: We arrived at the parking lot at about 12:15 AM and found that about four cars had been broken into. It had clearly happened earlier that night, since the emergency flashers of one was still going. It appeared to be a random hit - there must have been twenty cars in the lot - but that wasn't much comfort, so we pitched our tent near the car. We awoke to "STATE POLICE, GET OUT OF YOUR TENT AND SHOW ME SOME ID. Yes sir. After talking with the cop for a half hour and then a ranger for another 20 minutes (he was much nicer, incidentally), it was time to hit the trail.
The ski in was great for the first six miles - slippery, but that meant plenty of glide so we made good time. I turned to Max and Noah and said something about how nice it would be for an inch or two of snow before we get to the real uphill sections of the ski. I think it was Oscar Wilde that said "when the gods wish to punish you, they answer your prayers." We got the two inches, and it was stickiest, wettest snow that has ever fallen from the sky. Our skis became useless, harder to use than to not, and we walked the final few miles to Roaring Brook, grateful for the lean-to that would keep us far dryer than our previous arrangement of three big guys in a two-man tent.
Day 2: Day 2 is pretty easy, just 3.3 miles to Chimney Pond, and 1500 feet of elevation gain. We got there with no hassle, picked a lean-to with a sweet pine-bough-and-snow enclosure, and set up on Chimney Pond with a bottle of Jameson, studying the lines. We met some cool climbers from Boston who gave us some great tips about our trip to Denali (they'd been last year), and we agreed that The Primitives, which rarely forms, was the plum line.
Day 3: Rain. The South Basin was totally socked in. We got up at 6 AM and again at 7 (okay, Noah got up) but then gave up and slept late. Everything got soaked, despite our very-enclosed lean-to, and we spent the day playing cards, hanging out with Ranger Greg, and generally being lazy. A rest day isn't always a bad thing.
Day 4: The Primitives. We left camp at 7:15, just as it was getting light, and moved quickly. Max took the first block and we simulclimbed all the way to the base of the ribbon of ice you can see in the photographs, probably about 1000 feet of steep snow and occasional WI 3-4. Then I took over and led four pitches of snice, which was nice for sticks but awful for pro. The anchors ranged from tenuous to bomber, and though we moved quickly, a party of 3 is always slow. The wind picked up around noon and was soon steady at 25-35 mph, withs gusts around 50 or 60. We topped out at about 5 PM, and were back in camp around 7.
Day 5: We dropped SO much gear off the climb. It was freaking amateur hour up there for a while. We dropped a nut tool, a glove, a piton, an ice screw and a screamer. Noah also lost a tool off his harness on the descent. So while he went to find his new tool, Max and I headed back up Cilley-Barber and found, incredibly, the screamer, the piton and Noah's glove. Four v-threads took us back down, and soon we got to work on our second bottle of Jameson.
Day 6: Ski out, drive home. We made superb time, about 5 1/2 hours from Chimney Pond to the parking lot. Burgers were soon in our bellies, and we began the long drive home through - what else - a crazy blizzard.
It's worth noting that this route was about 2200' total, or approximately 1/4 the length of the Cassin Ridge. Expect more updates to come: Max and I both learned a lot about our systems and the tweaks needed before AK.