Ascent of Mount Crosson on 2018-06-03

Climber: Scott Larson

Date:Sunday, June 3, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Crosson
    Elevation:12800 ft / 3901 m

Ascent Trip Report

I thought this would be an easy day. Where I was perched, the sun stayed up late and also shined on me early in the morning. It was a calm, warm (for Alaska) night. I got an early start, but as I was getting ready, the wind picked up and it made taking the tent down a real affair. A huge lenticular formed above Denali, a sign of high winds. Foraker, however, looked perfect. Today would’ve been the day. A mile long gain of 1000 ft was all that laid between me and the summit of Mt Crosson, the peak guarding the exit of my route. I should have used skis, but I knew the descent would be steep and I’d want crampons and ice axes, so that’s what I started with, because I didn’t want to transition at the windy summit. I took some photos at the top, the views in every direction were phenomenal. The beginning of the descent started out easy, and the snow was perfect for taking big, secure steps down. After a few hundred feet, the difficulties began. As Ranger Mark stated, and my observations at the start of my journey confirmed, the top of Crosson was pretty messy with crevasses. I didn’t take a photo with my phone when I started, so I couldn’t plan my route like I could with the other tricky sections. I had to cross a very thinly covered crevasse that I knew would break through if I stepped on it, so I made the wise decision to switch to skis; I find them much safer to cross sketchy crevasses. I cruised over it and continued to survival ski my way down very steep corn snow and over blind humps on this broad ridge. It was hard to be sure what side of the ridge to be on, as crevasses and weird snow cliffs/seracs were scattered about. I was surprised that I was able to ski, albeit very poorly, down these steep slopes with a huge pack on and deadly fall potential. But the snow conditions were excellent and without the pack, would’ve been prime skiing for 6000 vertical feet! I didn’t notice the wind had died, and it got progressively warmer as I descended and the midday heat arrived. I was still wearing my puffy down layers and I was roasting. Skiing took my full concentration. The last thousand feet was heavy corn and I kicked off numerous small, slow wet slides. There are two ways to get off Crosson and onto the Kahiltna glacier. The first is a south-facing icy, rocky gully that dumps you out into an ice flow and then a very crevassed area of the glacier. Not a good solo option. The other way down is a southeast-facing handful of snow chutes with thin, rocky ribs separating them. From year to year, the conditions on these change dramatically. And I didn’t have a photo to help guide me. What I did have, from about 10300 ft and below, was an old boot track and ski tracks from some party earlier this season. Unfortunately, I lost the boot track, as roller balls and rolling rocks down mushy snow look very similar to an old booter. The ski tracks I could follow, and I did to where they ended at the top of one of the rocky ribs. I wasn’t sure which chute to descend; the slope gets steeper near the bottom so you can’t see how it merges with the glacier below. Of course, I go down the wrong chute and get seriously cliffed-out. Off come the skis and I boot back up. But I didn’t think to take the other chute the skier could’ve gone down. In all fairness, I couldn’t see how it ended and cliffing out seemed likely. Instead, I traversed across a few chutes and ribs the other way, as I saw what looked like a debris fan that would allow me to get off the peak and access the glacier. I got pretty nervous and stressed out about not being able to get down, so I radioed NPS for help - I was hoping they could just tell me what chute to go down, but nobody really had good eyes on it. This was mentally exhausting. Not only did I have to get off this mountain, but then cross a heavily crevassed section of glacier, solo, before merging back with the main trail. This challenge was no longer fun. Traversing the chutes was tedious. I got soaking wet from the knee down, as my feet kicked through heavy corn and rotten snow underneath. I would often punch a leg all the way through to my crotch and sometimes my foot would get stuck. It felt like wading through muck. At the ribs, I was happy to be on rock, though it was just as loose and rotten as the snow. But at least it wouldn’t devour my legs. Or so I thought. I made my way down the steep, sketchy rock, setting off small slides here and there. Pretty similar to class 3 descents in the Sierra. Only this black shale rock is quite a bit different than decomposed granite. As I reached the debris fan I had seen from above, where pebbles and snow granules were an even mix, leaning up against the rock wall of the base of the peak, it started eating my legs! This wasn’t quite a debris fan like I had expected, rather, it was pebbles that constantly slide down and deposit themselves on the snow below. I was actually punching into the randkluft (moat) separating the rock from the glacier! This was so unique, unlike any moat I’d seen before. After fighting my way through and making minimal progress, I decided to put skis on. At least they’d keep me afloat. In a few minutes, I made it to the glacier. I radioed NPS of my updated status and also told them that I would check in every hour as I crossed the glacier. The crevasses here are massive and endlessly deep. A sure death if I fell in one. It was slow going. In the more mangled sections, I would probe every step; shove my avalanche probe into the snow below me and make sure that it was going through real layers of snow and hit something solid (ice). The snow bridge over a crevasse feels the same at first, but then the resistance on the probe disappears and you sink it all the way in. Better move out of there quick! I looked back at the chutes and ribs to see my mistake and heinous effort. Had I taken the other chute, the one with the boot track in it that I didn’t see, I would’ve descended seamlessly to the glacier and saved hours of frightening effort. Hindsight, literally. After almost two hours of skinning across the wide glacier, I merged back onto the trail and relative safety. Psychological relief. But not physical. I lost my sunglasses during my struggles in the moat and my backpack killed my shoulders. I didn’t have weight distributed very well: CMC, crampons, and ice axes were hanging off the back rather than tucked in snuggly to the sides. I was too tired to fix this as I slogged back up to camp 1 and ate two freeze dried meals.

Full report and photos here:
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Skis, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
Ascent Part of Trip: Foraker Full NE Ridge (8 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Mount Capps2018-05-31 
2Kahiltna Dome2018-05-31 
3(Attempt) Mount Foraker2018-06-02 
4Mount Crosson2018-06-03 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Scott Larson
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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