Gladstone Pk - 13,913 feet
|Gladstone Winter Solo|
Reports of winter ascents of Gladstone are few. Jason Halliday wrote a report of his climb in February, 2009 in which he mentioned a climb by Ken Nolan in January, 2009 which had been written up in the now defunct 14erworld. I also seem to remember a report of a winter climb by Globreal who led a strong team of four, including Gladbach, but I am not now able to locate the report.
I started at 0525 by headlight and snowshoes from the Cross Mountain Trailhead. The trail is very popular with skiers and snowshoers so it is was well packed down and very easy to follow through the forest until entering some meadows near tree line when the first view of Lizard Head becomes visible. Most skiers and snowshoers turn around here and the tracks disappeared, but it was easy to follow the general direction of the trail, still buried in snow, by heading directly for Lizard Head. Aeolus was stirring by the time I got to the base of Lizard Head and was to be my constant companion for the rest of the day.
I turned west at the base of Lizard Head and headed directly for the east face of Gladstone by passing beneath the west shoulder of Cross Mountain and entering Bilk Basin. I was still on snowshoes and found it easier to lose a few hundred feet of elevation by descending into BilkBasin rather than slide slipping
high up on the north slopes of Cross Mountain. Soon it became more efficient to stash my snowshoes and to continue on with my ski poles until I was about 200 vertical feet below a rock band which traverses the entire east face of Gladstone at which point I went to an ice ax and crampons. I went through the rock band near the middle. The slope became increasingly steep and icy above the rock band but the angle decreased somewhat after obtaining a shoulder below the summit pyramid. Once on the shoulder it looked as if the summit was only a short climb up a steep couloir, but it turned out to be a false summit. The steep snow continued over a second false summit and I did not arrive on the true summit until 1220. The summit was covered by a snow cone which was surprisingly narrow and I stood on top only briefly so as not to be blown by the wind down the south face. From the summit I could see a lone climber about 75% of the way up on the east face of Mt. Wilson. The person must have been on skis because when I glanced that way again before leaving the summit the person was not visible and I could see ski tracks above where the climber had been.
I descended the steep couloir by facing into the slope until just above the shoulder when I was able to finally descend the rest of the way facing forward. I went through the rock band on the south side of the band on the descent. After reaching my snow shoes in Bilk Basin I strapped them to my pack and hiked the remainder out with only a few post holing episodes. The climb out of Bilk Basin to the base of Lizard Head was fatiguing both mentally and physically.
I was startled out of my haze when I reached the base of Lizard Head when the snow seemed to suddenly erupt in front of me. It was a lovely White-tailed Ptarmigan who looked with her beautiful black eyes at me from a few feet away. Flattered, I blushed and spoke gently to her in both my native Ospeyian and also a Chickadeean dialect which I have picked up on my travels. She seemed not to understand me and flew several feet away, landed on the snow and vanished.
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