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Sat, May 22 2010 - Great Northern Mountain (View Original Event Details)

Coordinator(s): Jim Foster
Participants:Derrick Fercho, David Ginepra, Joe Schletz, Paul Cogswell, Thomas Bourgeois, John Oliver Ellis, Stephen Smith, Ben Donahue, John Schnaderbeck, Jim, Tim Anderson, Jim Foster

Write Up:
Another great day in the mountains! The forecast all week was rain and cold and so we were all skeptical that the climb would even happen. Thankfully none of us trust the weather forecasts and everyone that signed up showed up including one guest, Ben Donahue. This turned out to be a advanced snow climb. We started at the trail head with 12 and only four of us summitted because of how difficult the upper mountain was. For anyone who has climbed Great Northern you know how grueling the initial trail is to the ridge. Our lunch spot was the junction of three ridges a really cool vantage with unbelievable views into the park and along the Swan. From the lunch spot I pointed out the next check point along the ridge that we were all to assemble at and what would be the beginning of the serious summit bid. The snow conditions were very hard with a rare occasion of punching through. Ten of us made it to this check point. My co-leader Jim Cossitt took up rear guard and one of our member decided to pull the plug because the exposure and footing was playing serious head games. Jim retreated with him back to the lunch spot. We had a group huddle at the check point to determine if pushing on made sense given the conditions. All voted to keep going. We saw some weather rolling in but it would be snow up here. I had picked out our next check point, which was the spot I felt we all needed to put on our crampons. I had established at the outset that the minimum gear included snowshoes, crampons and mountaineering ax. We all got to this point and donned our crampons and pulled out our axes. Some in the party brought traction devices (which were not appropriate for the hard snow conditions). When we arrived at the first real snow obstacle, a 20 foot wall of about 70 degree snow, four of our party elected to pull the plug and retreat as this was above their comfort level. These four retreated to Jim Cossitt at the lunch spot. The last six of our group pushed on. I lead the climb up the wall kicking steps in so that those following could climb up the wall. We all made it up easily. From there we took stock of the last big push to the summit. This portion of the climb I noted from way below was going to be dicey at best. The side of the mountain was mostly steep and very hard snow with occasional exposed rock bands. I picked a line that traversed high realizing we had some steep snow to climb to make it to the saddle just below the steep pitch leading to the summit. It turned out on this last stretch that four of us had good crampons and two had the traction devices I referred to. These two struggled a lot because kicking steps was impossible. When the David, Tom, Derrick and I made it just below the saddle I stopped to wait for the last two, Joe and Stephen. I could see Joe but Stephen was masked by an intervening ridge of snow. At this point Stephen took a 150 yard tumble down the steep snow and across two rock bands getting banged up a bit in the process but no broken bones! None of us saw him fall and I thank God he was okay and was able to climb up and communicate to Joe that he had fallen but was unhurt. With this knowledge the four us pushed on to the summit. The last obstacle before the summit was a 40 foot wall of hard snow that started out at about 30 degrees and ended up at between 60 and 70 degrees. Derrick Fercho chopped steps up the wall and led the climb to the top. We all summitted at 1442 that afternoon after climbing about 4,800 vertical feet. We met up with Stephen as we descended and realized he had sustained a few injuries that needed some first aid. After doctoring him up and pumping him with ibuprofen we worked together to self-rescue him off the mountain. We arrived at the cars with at 1648 elated that we made it down safely. Injury Update: Stephen ended up getting internal and external stitches for a laceration above his knee, some stitches in his forehead and a bad contusion on his glut. Again, it was a miracle that no bones were broken and the injuries were minor.

Have some photos from this event that you'd like to share in our photo album? Please forward them to Tim Anderson at Please note that we prefer to receive the photos in approximately 640x480 or 750x500 pixels - do NOT send original high-res photos. If you have a LOT of photos, please submit up to twenty of your favorites (only) for a day event, or up to forty of your favourites for a multi-day event. Thank you.

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