Barbeau Peak - Trip Report - Part 5Click here to go to the Peak Page for Barbeau Peak
Thursday, June 18:
We all slept in at our windy campsite, and since Tony, Pete, and I had arrived last, we were the last to get up. Dave and Bill in their two-man tent, plus Jack, Dan, and Tom in their three-man tent, both had big problems with lots of blown snow piled up on their tents, while we were OK, in the shelter of their tents. They jokingly made some snide comments to us, but we had just set up our tent in the most logical place. We all now knew to set the tent back a ways from any wall.
It was my turn to make breakfast, and, once again determining that my stove was useless despite cleaning and repairing it as best we could with the tools we had, I made some scrambled eggs and potatoes. The others were off first, and Tony, Pete and I were soon packed up and off, too, towards a high and prominent peak we could see to the southwest. It was Tony's turn with the sled, and we soon caught up to the three snowshoers. At camp we had heard about their problems with punching through into micro-crevasses, and as a precaution Dave, Bill, and Tom traveled roped-up for the rest of our time on the icecap. The five of us skiers never ever came close to going in a crevasse.
After an hour or two we could see Jack and Dan ahead, and they went uphill a bit up the slopes of the imposing peak before stopping. It was now hot and, as always, very sunny out under the cloudless sky, and the last haul up to Jack and Dan's rest spot was a grind. Very shortly after the rest of us arrived, Jack and Dan set off for the summit, and we all took a rest.
Tony, Pete, and I were of course gung-ho to follow in the Bennetts' footsteps, but the snowshoers were, as usual, tired. Dave and Tom decided to wait, and finally Bill decided to come up, too. So the four of us headed up, leaving our skis behind--the snow was very deep and heavy wind-packed crud, and the ridge of the peak looked steep and icy. We followed Jack and Dan's footsteps, which was helpful, since they had postholed already for us. Their route quickly gained the east ridge of the peak, and then traveled up the broad, rolling ridge. I took Bill's small pack, which held both our water and crampons, but Bill lagged behind us badly.
Just at a steep icy section of ridge, near the top, the four of us met Jack and Dan, on their way down. They told us that the rest of the route was easy, with no need for crampons, and that we should have no problems. It was not even that windy up on the ridge. We continued on, stashing our packs, and near the top I waited, taking my time, enjoying the spectacular icy scenery in all directions. The final hike to the summit was on a narrow, knife-edge ridge, and I took lots of pictures of Pete and Tony ahead of me and Bill behind me. Bill was nervous and scared here, taking it very slowly--he did not seem very comfortable with the exposure.
The summit was a very prominent peak, the highest point in the large massif that cleaved the main icecap into the De Vries Glacier flowing north to the Arctic Ocean and the Air Force Glacier flowing south. Only about 5370 feet high, it was nevertheless clearly a major summit. It was possible that we were the first people to climb it, but it's location near the popular Air Force Glacier route meant that perhaps other parties did what we did. Still, there were no records of any ascents that we know of.
|Photo: Summit Ridge of Highpointer's Peak.|
Tony, Pete, and Bill did not stay long at the summit, but after they left I hug out for a few minutes, enjoying the solitude and the views and taking some pictures. I then left, tiptoed across the knife-edge, and on the broad ridge soon caught up to the others. I was soon past them, plunge stepping down in the windpack snow quickly--I always seemed to have the knack for moving quickly downhill on snow. I was back to the rest area where Dave, Tom, Jack, and Dan were all waiting about ten minutes ahead of Tony and Pete, who were in turn ten minutes ahead of Bill. We all hung out at this place, ate lunch, lounged in the sun, and chatted. While everyone was away Dave and Tom had dug a sheltered pit in the snow, which made for a nice area to rest.
Jack, Dan, Bill, and I all liked calling the peak we had just climbed "Highpointer's Peak", and even though Tony and Pete harrumphed at the name, and the very possibility that we had made a first ascent, we still decided to ignore the Brits and keep on referring to it as such.
Soon it was time to go, so we got packed up once again and set off. Dan, tired of hauling his sled (I had removed my food from it at the camp this morning), pushed it off from our rest area and watched it go downhill a few hundred yards before stopping, saving him some nasty skiing with a heavy sled behind him. Pete took our crazy carpet, and we all skied or showshoed downhill haphazardly. There were all kinds of mix-ups here--Tom lost a snowshoe and didn't even notice for a while and had to go back for it, and Jack stopped to rest, and it looked to us like he fell in a crevasse. We all went here or there while all this was happening, and once it was determined that everyone was OK and had all of their gear, we finally got into a single file line headed down the glacier.
Still, we were tired, and after only an hour or so we decided to set up camp. Since no spot was any better than any other on the huge, featureless, flat glacier, we just stopped and started pitching tents. It was still a little windy, so we carefully built low walls, but they were not really needed, as it turned out. Pete made dinner--as usual, lots of tea, but, in a nice change, he made a ton of nice mashed potatoes that I ate lots of. His other dish was gross stew, that, like a lot of the food Pete and Tony made, I had trouble gagging down.
We all went to sleep, I beside two snoring, bearded, craggy-faced Brits once again. It was a windy night, but not too bad.
Friday, June 19:
It was windy and cold in the morning, and I was the first one in our group out of the tent. Our tents were not too badly covered with blowing snow, so there was not much to do. I was glad it was Pete's turn to make breakfast, and I sat in my therm-a-rest chair inside the tent and ate my oatmeal dry, without water--the only way I could gag it down. We were all a bunch of lethargic slackers on this trip--this morning, we didn't get started on the way until 11 AM, given the time it took us to pack up our tents and gear.
We all stayed pretty much together for the whole day, a first, as we traveled 8.5 miles down the Air Force Glacier. We did our trip in 4 segments, with a long rest in between each one, and I hauled the "crazy carpet" for the first and last legs, since I hadn't taken it at all yesterday. We all had lunch at the middle rest stop, a leisurely affair--it was my turn to supply the lunch for Tony, Pete, and myself, and the two Brits found the chewy beef jerky I brought to be quite awful.
Since we were getting onto an actual glacier now, away from the large central icecap, the slope of the terrain was more pronounced downhill, and the skiers in our group had a huge advantage over the slowly plodding snowshoers. Tony, Pete, Jack, Dan, and myself were kicking and gliding effortlessly on the lower parts of today's trip, and a few times we could even just stand and let our skis slowly take us down. At our last rest stop we had to wait a half-hour or more for Dave, Bill, and Tom to show up. At least one of them told us they wished they had brought skis.
By the end of the day we were clearly "down there"--dry, rocky hills were visible all around and in front of us, and the surface of the glacier was getting softer and slushier. Jack had a pretty good idea of where the best place to get off of the glacier was, and he tried to steer us that way. However, we finally came to a steeper slope of glacier, carved by numerous meltwater streams, and decided to camp before the surface got too slushy. I skied down this miserable terrain, the crazy carpet with tent and fuel dragging behind me like a trash bag as I made wide turns and skied over the narrow meltwater channels. The crazy carpet and its cargo got dunked into these streams a couple times, but there was no way around that.
In our usual disorganized fashion we finally agreed to camp right near the first really big meltwater stream, a good source of drinking water, and went about setting up our tents. Unfortunately, the ground here was a thin layer of slush on top of solid gray ice, and no tent pegs would go in at all--we had to use our ice axes and ice screws as tent anchors. We wished we had camped earlier.
It was Tony's turn to make dinner, and he cooked up some Thai noodles while I sat near the tent in my chair--it was quite warm and comfortable outside, and our lower elevation--about 2000 feet--was making a difference, I guess. Dave, Tom, and Jack had gone off for a hike to the nearby edge of the glacier to look at the rock and dry hills there, and when they got back and told me about it I decided to head over. Wanting to ski one last time, I skied over on a long traverse, stashed my skis, and hiked down to a jumbled area of rocks, the first real non-icy ground I had been near in a week. I hiked back up to my skis, and then hiked uphill carrying my skis to allow me a few turns on the way back to camp. The miserable icy skiing was not really worth it.
That evening I rested and took care of other miscellaneous tasks. I was not feeling well intestinally, and it was clear that my relatively meager diet, the newness of it, and my exertion were messing up my digestion big-time. Before going to sleep I caught up in my journal, and then dozed off for yet another sunshine-filled nighttime as Tony snored intermittently.
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