Ravens' Ridge - 12k Acclimatization
DESCRIPTION: Mike spends two nights at 11,800' climbing to Deception and Lake peaks
PEAK ELEVATION: 12413' / 3,783m
DATE: 1/10/2009
Spent two nights on Ravens' Ridge near the Santa Fe ski area. Climbed to 12,400 for three days in a row and slept at 11,800 to acclimatize for Aconcagua. I leave for South America next week and this was a perfect way to refresh my altitude and cold exposure.
Last night was really, really cold. At 5:15p last night, when the sun dropped below the horizon, the temperature almost instantly dropped to only 5 degrees f. The temperature inside the tent also got down to about 5f early this morning, but I wasn't eager enough to unzip my bag in order to put my watch outside. I had a slow morning, making lots of tea and soup and basking in the sun. I couldn't make my pancake, though, because the syrup was frozen solid - I ate it for lunch instead. I also climbed to Deception peak today, felt a little daring, and decided to climb the knife-ridge out to Lake peak. Because of the avy danger on the lee side of the ridge I was forced to stay up on top and also to do some climbing on the sheer West side. There was a short stretch, maybe two or three steps, that was only 8 inches wide and icy with a 20 foot vertical drop on one side and a shorter drop but avy-prone landing on the other side...I slipped and nearly fell but thankfully I had opted for trekking poles over the ice axe which helped me balance just enough to prevent the fall. I opted to traverse the avy slope in this same section on the way down, staying very close to the rocks so that in case the slope let go I would be near the top of the slide. It got hairy when, simultaneously, my downhill step broke loose and my uphill foot punched through into a "well" between the snow and rock splaying me out like a gymnast. My uphill hand was also immobilized tangled up in my trekking pole. After a few moments of terrifying decision making I was thankful for my rock climbing this summer as I was able to crimp a small knob on the rock with my other hand. This allowed me to shift my balance, free my uphill hand, and support my weight enough to kick my uphill foot out of the well. Once my uphill foot was out, I was able to secure another step in the snow and get the hell off that ridge. There was also a 20 foot section of near-vertical, icy, class 5 climbing I've dubbed "Mike's Step" that I won't go into details about. Summer on this peak is much better because you can stay low on the avy side of the slope and traverse the nice, safe, dirt. I will not be going back to Lake Peak in the winter alone again, there is way too much risk.
Hiked up to Deception peak today without stopping even once to catch my breath. I think this is a good sign that I'm acclimatized to 12k. Good thing because I'm packing up and heading back home when I get back to camp today.