At 8 am the five of us, other than Craig, left from our overnight campsite a 1 mile in from the Green Lakes Trail just north of Squaw Creek at about 6,700'. We proceeded up towards the Hayden Glacier and along the north of the Hayden staying mostly on the cinder trail. However due to the early season we encountered and crossed far more snow than I have ever seen in the area. In fact, the crevasses all along the north side of the Hayden were just opening with none of the usual cracking waterfall noises that are generally so prevalent. Crossing this much snow did allow us to work with our first time climbers on self-arrest techniques and the use of an ice ax. We continued up through the Col between North and Middle on to the Collier Glacier and continued around Prouty Point, back to the saddle leading up the northeast approach up the Middle cinder cone. This was where it got a little troubling. Not only was the weather turning bad with thunder showers approaching, but there is a fairly steep section of the cinder cone normally traversed diagonally along the established trail about 85 yards long. With the trail still covered with snow, very steep and our climbing party consisting of inexperienced and two first time climbers, this was a bit more of a challenge that we had anticipated. We were considering a running belay, but instead elected to simply rope up and work up this section as a team. During this preparation, while looking down into my pack I saw "Instructor Quality" experience arrive in the form of our technical adviser, Craig Faiman, who had hiked in from Pole Creek starting at 5 am to meet us. Craig went ahead and after some careful investigation determined that the snow was stable enough to offer protection. This allowed us to rope up and climb safely almost straight up, (+/- 70%) about 30 yards and another 20 yards at 55% to the cinder trail and onto the top. After a photo session and a few cell phone calls we proceeded back down. At the steep section of the decent we set a sling anchor around an embedded rock and belayed each climber, one at a time, down to the trail below in a light rain. By the time we reached the Collier Glacier the rain was coming down hard and the clouds had moved in reducing visibility to about 100 yards. As we got to the Col the rain stopped, the sky cleared, and we had sunshine all the way back to camp.
My Observations: Great group to climb with: Jason, Lisa and John, very much up to the challenge, excellent learners, cautious but not frightened and very likely participants in Climb School next spring. Special Thanks to Bill who is a very strong team member to any climb and Craig, who kept coming and caught up to us even after I misdirected him to the south side of the Hayden Glacier.
Fuzzy summit photo by a solo climber.