Mount Fury, Elevation 8,280ft
Northeast Face, 50+ degrees
June 16, 2003
Ben, Jason, Sky
Mount Fury from the Luna/Fury Col. Our climb is in green and our ski descent is in red.
Today was the day. The toil, torture, and temptation of the past few weeks and many-a-drool stain on the pages of Beckey had come down to this. It was time to reap our reward on The Mount Fury.
Nature's calling came as daylight and my attempts to stay hydrated were quickly realized. Restlessness took the place of dreams and nightmares so there was no need for an alarm. Waking is never a pleasant task but we found plenty of motivation beyond the crisp, cool air. Getting dressed, eating, and packing took place in random order. Last came the burial and for this I was glad to have my shovel, which I carried for camp, shelter, and the heaven-forbid avalanche. None of these items were pressing but the varmints seemed intent on spoiling our supplies. It was only one chipmunk that we spotted the previous day but you know how that goes. Fast moving rocks didn't provide any discouragement but we figured that a fridge might. With a garbage bag and a foot of cover we laid our perishables to rest. Soon after, we were on our way.
Jason preparing to leave camp near the Luna/Fury col.
Over 1,000 vertical feet of skiing and a sizeable traverse got our day off to a good start. Firm but smooth snow provided an efficient mode of descent. The final 15 minutes were spent on foot as the traverse went from mostly downhill to slightly up. We began our climb a mere half-hour from camp. It seems that most groups descend to Luna or Lousy Lake during their carryover/climb of the Northeast Face but with this higher traverse we were able to avoid the lower half of the descent and climb from the col.
I led the first slope. Softening snow and the occasional crack kept me on my toes as we raced the sun to the first saddle. I don't recall who won but the photo favors my opponent. The tradeoff was warmth as we were blessed with more views and another stretch for our skis to come in handy.
Jason climbing the slope below the first saddle.
We switched from crampons to skis at the first saddle and dropped a couple hundred feet to the head of the Fury Glacier. With a menacing icefall below and 50-degree slopes above, we took advantage of the present flats during our first and only break.
The climb to the second saddle was more of a walk. I entertained myself with close-up crevasses and enchanting light while Sky pressed on.
Jason negotiating a crevasse at the second saddle. The first saddle is near his ski tips and Luna Peak is in the background along with our camp near the Luna/Fury col.
From the second saddle we downclimbed a bit to the highest of several bergschrunds that divide the upper and lower face. The traverse beneath it wasn't too much trouble with Sky as a probe. He also got stuck carrying the rope but the added weight didn't seem to hamper his hurry. Last I heard, he was yelling from above making sure we didn't need it. Meanwhile, with pack off and camera out, I attempted to capture surreal slope we were about to set foot on.
Jason begins the upper slope.
We had spent a great deal of time trying to convince ourselves that the upper slope would go. From past photos, the previous weekend, and the previous day it was dubbed everything from "a joke" to "not bad with good snow." Nobody spoke of difficult or impossible (at least nobody within our group), and for good reason. I can think of no better means for failure. In other words, sometimes it pays to be a liar.
With most of my hobbies I tend to be less stressed in the field versus at home planning. There are exceptions, and the Northeast Face of Mount Fury is a prime example. My intrepid plan had turned into a game of survival. The prize was grand but the punishment… much greater. The rules would be made up along the way. Obstacles…
The slope was steep. Jason did a good job of describing it with a variety of profanities that I would tend to agree with. It started over 50 degrees with no let up it sight and the runnels were truly absurd.
If only I had a microphone.
The exposure was sick. I tried not to look down but the runnels were a constant reminder of a slip-and-slide to certain death. With crampons and an ice axe I felt solid during the climb but the ski had me worried. The runnels were too narrow to turn in and outside there was no more than 5 feet of width between them. Most led to the mother of all runnels -- a 10 to 20-foot wide rift down the center. Next stop, Lousy Lake.
Another look at Jason and one of many icy runnels we had to cross.
Jason wasn't so solid during the climb so I did my best to kick good steps. This took place primarily on the crest of the runnels where the snow was softest. I think we'd have done better on the firm snow with a second axe but we were in no hurry and made sure each step was solid.
Myself kicking steps on the upper slope.
By the time Sky topped out I felt like I'd gone nowhere. Progress was difficult to judge so I kept looking back at Luna Peak for reference. Jason and I both had camelbaks so there was no reason to stop besides the endless photo opportunities. The climb isn't terribly long but with nowhere to rest your mind tends to focus on the finish. The end came all too soon as we joined Sky's route where the slope narrows. His monstrous steps were difficult to match so I kicked every other on my own. This was the only section we couldn't see from the col but ended up being the least of our concerns.
Jason nearing the narrow section.
The least of our concerns.
So that's it, the summit of Mount Fury. How about we descend the East Route back to camp and call it a day?
Speaking of the East Route, its start was mighty tempting. That being the Southeast Glacier whose corn had been baking all morning. The upper slope rolled at some 40 degrees to a presumable bergschrund that could be negotiated on skier's right. Hard to believe that it was skied 18 years prior by Lowell Skoog and friends during a traverse from Hannegan Pass. I saw some breath-taking slides from their trip and was led to believe that it hadn't been skied since. Not surprising given the approach that most people consider arduous without skis. Although we hadn't given it any serious thought, we kept it in mind for the following day.
Jason nearing the summit.