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Swiss South Face

Ho boy, another weekend of high pressure! Ian and I went to Hermit parking with the loose objective of something on the Rogers-Swiss massif. Once we battled our way up the infernal raincrust and popped out on the Swiss glacier there was already a group well up the Rogers headwall, and another swooping around to one of the Swiss couloirs. We took lunch and waited to see which couloir the second group would go for.

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The second group headed up toward the right side couloir, and at this point the euros who left parking all of 20 minutes before us were up Rogers headwall and on the way to the summit. There’s fast, and then there’s inhuman fast. I am neither, kudos to them. With the central couloir (Swiss peak south face) available for the taking, we headed towards it. We stopped skinning at a rock where the couloir first starts to remove skins and stash all unnecessary junk, like extra layers… The booting went relatively quick at first, thanks to the Billygoat plates. Damn, those things rock! I was leading up, and somehow completely missed the correct way up the south face, heading instead up some rocky narrow junk climbers right of the correct route. Ian likewise missed it and we continued obliviously on our merry way. I stopped at a couple points to prepare anchors for our way down, which we would surely need if we were to descend by that route. On the second rock step requiring a rap, the protection was in such an inaccessible spot by skis that I opted to string the rope through beforehand and leave the loose ends over in a better, more accessible spot. We were out of long accessory cord, so we wouldn’t be able to set another point anyways. Higher up we got onto a rib separating the correct line from the wrong line and realized our mistake. I downclimbed back to get the rope and the second anchor, incase we needed it descending what we were fairly certain was the correct route. Then we regrouped at the top of the couloir, abandoning previous designs on climbing the rocky face to the true summit due to the late hour.

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Close up of proper line, wrong line to the right and summit area

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Shortly after the point of whoops-a-daisy. It’s so obvious!
Now, time to go down it! There was some mixture of rime, suncrusts and chalky snow, all stiffening up as the harsh sun left the face. On the plus side, the line was clean enough to go fully without the rope, even at this early stage of winter.

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Ian contemplating the first turn
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At the point where the wrong line branches off above. Still a lot of scary stuff below
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It’s gettin dark, eh?

Then after some fun skiing on the mellow glacier, things inevitably got crappy on the way down the Hermit. The raincrust made it obvious that it wasn’t taking any prisoners, so we took it slow and steady, finally making it to the highway via headlamps after 10hrs on the go.

 

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