It seems we reached the summit around 11am. The sun had graced portions of the Northeast Face but the majority needed more time to allow our edges grip. How long, we weren't certain but with nearly 10 hours of daylight remaining, the longer, the better.
The summit was an extraordinary haven with peerless views in every direction. My only regret was not being able to see ourselves because we stood atop the granddaddy of them all. Beckey writes, "Mt. Fury epitomizes the grand alpine wilderness of the amazing Picket Range." I'm bound to agree.
There was no wind on the summit but it was covered in snow. I decided to make the most of my 1-2 hours there by taking a nap and some cozy rocks to the west provided the perfect loft -- the kind you get all teary-eyed and empty-stomach just thinking about. I took off my boots to dry my socks and fixed a ham and cheese sandwich complete with mustard and mayo. Some chewy shock tarts did me in and for the next hour, I was in heaven.
A view of the Southern Pickets from my loft.
By noon the mountains had restored my energy so I got dressed to see what Jason and Sky were up to. I found them sprawled across the snowy summit making use of their packs to stay dry. Besides sun, the only weather we had to shelter was the cloud of BS that engulfed us from the start. The summit showers were particularly heavy. At one point I even sought my cell phone to call Josh and proclaim our success. Looking down the Northeast Face provided a reality check and the showers subsided as the moment of truth approached.
Some serious talk got us to thinking that another summit of Fury the next day wasn't likely. Instead, we agreed to allow the final two days to backtrack our approach. A pick-up time of 6pm at Ross Lake seemed too late so I called the resort and bumped it up to 2pm.
Ok, so you've waited long enough and we've waited even longer so how about the ski.
By noon we were getting antsy and by 1pm our hair must have been standing on end. The smooth slope was still firm but the lower runnels had been getting plenty of sun and that was our main concern. We wanted them soft but not too soft. What we really wanted was to get it over with and now seemed like as good of time as any.
Myself, Jason and Sky on the summit of Fury. Brace yourselves.
I took the role of photographer so Sky agreed to go first. A cautious set of turns led him through the smooth slope and left beneath some rocks to the start of the runnels. Jason went next stopping midway to let me pass. The Southeast Glacier became even more tempting after chattering my way down 50-degree ice. The smooth slope was no softer than a baby's toenail. Fortunately, the start of the runnels provided some breakable crust that I could tell would turn to mush at any moment. I stopped there and kicked a platform for a photo of Jason.
Looking down at Jason on the smooth slope.
Looking up at Jason from the start of the runnels. Umm, yea.
Ok, I'm getting sweaty just thinking about it but I digress.
The least of our concerns was over. How about them runnels? I called down to Sky and we seemed to agree that left of center looked best. There were two problems with this route. First, we weren't sure that we could ski it. Second, we would need to cross the main runnel at some point to get back to skier's right as it provided the only route down the lower face. The only problem with right of center (the way we climbed) was that we were pretty sure we couldn't ski it. We don't normally choose the route with more problems but in this case it was worth the gamble.
The breakable crust was very unpredictable so we ended up taking turns skiing inside the main runnel until its sides became too steep and icy to surmount. A bobsled might have kept going but we had no desire to become a luge so after a couple hundred feet, we exited left.
Sky enters the main runnel which we skied for a couple hundred feet before exiting left. Our tracks can be seen on the right and for some reason it looks flat.
Myself entering the main runnel.
Our next move was uncertain as the slope narrowed between the main runnel and a rock spur on the left. I led some pleasant turns before traversing left to cross more runnels and more unpleasant turns. I called it quits above the narrow slope and found myself sidestepping the sloppy 60-degree crux with half a ski length to edge. Loose it and you join the rock, snow, ice, and every other piece of debris inside the rift. It took all my focus, most of my patience, and a good deal of my energy before rounding the corner to safety.
Sky making his way through the crux. The main runnel is hidden behind him.
Sky wasn't too far behind. He started the next slope while I waited for Jason.
The next set of turns ended at a large runnel that entered from the left. Sky's first impression was that we'd have to downclimb but I yelled some free-heel encouragement and he somehow managed. From there we had to join the main runnel at the edge of oblivion and after a few tense sidesteps it was over.
Finally, the end of the upper face. We took our skis off and discovered a sizeable cliff below us. This gave us a good look at the lower face which offered more cliffs, more runnels, and a few crevasses. There was a clear route through the runnels and crevasses but no apparent exit through the final cliff. I had a sinking suspicion that we might get cut off ever since my view from Challenger the previous week. We faced a short climb to skier's right so I figured we ought to just continue to our tracks and descend the Fury Glacier. Paper, rock, scissors… watch it! A basketball-size rock came tumbling from high above into the rift and over the cliff suggesting that our decision time had passed and that the lower face was out of the question.
With skis on pack and UTBs on foot I hurried up, across, and out of the main runnel. Sky and Jason met up with me in a crevasse that we tried to milk for water. This was just below the schrund that we passed beneath that morning so it wasn't long before we reached the saddle. I had some second thoughts but they were quickly forgotten as the ski down the Fury Glacier provided much better turns than lower face appeared to. We took one wrong turn at the beginning of the icefall with the hope of going center. Skier's right provided the only alternative. I stopped for water above a cliff before descending to Luna Lake. From there we traversed its northern shore to a rock outcropping where we rested.
Myself turning below the saddle.
Wrong turn at the beginning of the icefall. The saddle can be seen on the upper left and part of the Northeast Face is behind it.
Jason skiing the Fury Glacier.
Myself skiing above Luna Lake.
I wasn't looking forward to climbing back to the col but knew it was my duty to break track. Sky carried the rope and led the upper slope of the Northeast Face. Jason carried too much food and spent too much time trying to eat it. In all actuality, I was on a mission. Having gotten to camp past 9pm the previous two days I was looking forward to an early dinner and some much-needed rest.
With one last photo I was off. The others stopped a couple hundred feet below so they didn't actually know what was going on inside my twisted head. There was no rush to join me so I think we understood each other.
My only rest came halfway up where I stopped for water among the bountiful streams. I reached camp around 7pm.
The Fury Glacier with our tracks.
With so much food at camp I felt obliged to pillage. By the time the others arrived I was well on my way through a second sandwich and dessert.
We went to bed with full stomachs, bloated minds, and plenty of daylight. A fitting end to a gut-wrenching day.
A view of Challenger from Jason's tent. I wanted to take this as a sunset photo but was too tired to stay awake.
With no alarms, a dark tent, and 0-degree sleeping bag, the only thing that would be waking me was warmth. The sun broke free from Luna's shadow around 7am and I awoke shortly after. We basked on the rocks for upwards of an hour and spent another hour packing. At the col we discovered our tracks had nearly melted and realized that our turns from the previous day would soon be gone. I turned my back with an exclamation. "My work here is done!" Deep down I knew that wasn't the case but it still felt good to say.
We bid farewell to The Mount Fury. Until next time.
Another look at The Mount Fury.
Our work here will never be done.
The traverse out was a slush feast including a short climb to gain the middle chute. Some bumpy steeps led to the head of Access Creek where we shouldered our skis and opted to stick with boots all the way to Big Beaver. Highlights include Jason's pathetic attempt to cross Access Creek. We all faced a similar split but Jason was the only one who couldn't pull out of it. He ended up with wet boots and sore tendons.
Sky skiing the middle chute on our way down to Access Creek.
Jason adding some tears to his wet boots. He managed to make the split but wasn't able to pull out of it.
We followed the guidebook's recommendation and stuck to the north side of Access Creek on the way down. This involved an assortment of downfall and devils club and a steep sideslope with less brush. My first impression was that it's better than our ascent up the south side but it's difficult to compare up with down. During the ascent I felt like Mini Me but with gravity on my side and ski boots on my feet, I felt like the Terminator.
A log crossing at Access and the familiar Big Beaver crossing led us back to the trail. There we switched to shoes and brushed off the pine needles before making our way back to Luna Camp.
That night was much like the first. The hotdogs were a little greener but with a warm fire and cold beer, it was all good.
Another leisurely start put us on the trail between 8 and 9am. Sky led a mad dash for the finish while Jason and I lingered. We stopped for water and a photo of a toad. Next time I think I'll bring a canoe.
Jason and I were a few misquote bites behind Sky who hit the dock around 11am. The pick-up was scheduled for 2pm so it seemed that we had a bit of a wait. During the next half-hour we drooled as the taxi passed too and from somewhere up lake. I waved my whitees (skis not underwear), but to no avail. Turns out they hadn't neglected us but were headed back for another pick-up and delivery to… Big Beaver! There was no problem taking us back early so we were on our way by noon.
The boat home.
The final mile took a few more ounces from our shrunken stomachs. Sky and I each weighed in with a loss of 6lbs but the Benny Crag plan didn't seem to work for Jason. Matter-of-fact, he may have even gained some weight. He blamed it on the water but I had a feeling he was hiding something. More fruit? Pudding? We may never know.
All in all, a good trip. I'd like to say it worked out as planned but it didn't. You don't plan for the Pickets you come prepared. As with the previous, we were thankful for what we were given and look forward to the next.