Troublemint Peak (6800ft) - 06Jan2022
Troublemint is a peak I had on my mind for a while. It has seen a lot of action over the years, including some of my climbing partners. I have heard it is quite the chossbender. My relationship with choss is a love-hate relationship. I love the smell of choss as it blows out, sending this distinct smell into the air, and well, I also hate when the holds blow out. The two times I was invited to climb Troublemint, I had other set plans. It worked out as I am not a fan of high-traffic areas. This zone can be very busy in the summertime. A winter climb would suit my needs if I wanted a lonesome experience.
With an unbelievable weather streak and stagnant avalanche conditions, I was awarded my chance to attempt a winter ascent of Troublemint. With daylight being limited to 5 hours and 44 minutes, I knew I had to time getting to the Col around sunrise. So I started heading down the Mint trail at 350am. To my surprise, a full moon lit up the valley, and using a headlamp was unnecessary. The approach to the head of the valley went by fast. The whole valley was wind-blasted, so the approach was cruiser. Before I knew it, I was heading up the approach gully to reach the Doublemint Glacier. Somehow I climbed up with my snowshoes on the steep bulletproof snow. I swung up to the remanence of the glacier and 200ft short of the Col. I swapped to crampons as the snow was becoming too steep for snowshoes. This was the only part of the day I wallowed in deep snow. I was happy with the snowpack, just not delighted 200ft took so long.
|Top of the Col.|
|Start of Couloir|At the top of the Col, I dropped 600ft in elevation. The down climb was straightforward, with the final 15ft being near vertical but with snow that axes would stick into. I swung around to the East Face and went up a couloir I was convinced would bring me 150ft short of the summit. I am good at planning routes based on satellite imagery and topo maps, but I have yet to plan something so far back. The couloir was about 1000ft and deposited me right where I planned. At 1pm, I finally felt the sun's warmth as I emerged on the ridge around 6600ft.
|Views from Ridge|
The first half of the ridge was steep snow/ice that only my front points and axe tips would gain purchase. Not very hard climbing, but room for error is next to none as a self-arrest would be near impossible, and the slope slides straight over the Doublemint glacier. After that, the snow became softer, and the purchase was easier on the heart. The summit block was finally in sight. I went around climber's left and stayed clear of the only cornice I saw on the entire route.
I flaked the rope at the block and attached it to my harness. I knew digging out the rope on a single human-sized summit would not be fun. At first glance, the summit block with snow seemed more leisurely than usual. The snow did help a bit, but most of the snow was a fine powder just brushed off. First, I had to create a pocket to swing my right leg over and kick in to lift myself up, followed by kicking my left foot in. One more short step, and I was on the summit of Troublemint.
The victory was short-lived. It was only an hour before sunset, and I wanted to get down the ridge before dark, so I started digging to find the anchor. The crack became visible. I placed a cam and clipped it to my harness to secure myself while feeding my rope through the anchor. I did a short rappel and downclimbed the snow section. I set up a second anchor because I did not want to downclimb the frozen section. After the second rappel, I could mostly shut my brain off, as the only objective hazard I had left was retracing my steps up through avalanche terrain. I had no concerns, but I always mentally note when I am in terrain traps.
|Secound Rappel to couloir|
As I was heading down the East Couloir, I was in alpenglow heaven with a full moon in the background. The view made me forget that I still had to go over the 600ft pass and 10 miles back to the car. Climbing back over the pass with the last remaining light, I looked towards the hut. I had a light overnight pack so staying the night was an option but climbing this peak in a day was something I had set on my mind. After returning to the Little Susitna River, I resupplied with water and decided to slog out.
|Headed Down Couloir|
After filling up, I noticed my phone had died from the cold. I really did not want to hike the last 8 miles without music. Luckily I learned placing a hand warmer under the charger port, and one on the back of the phone will get it back running. The final hike out was done the same as the approach, completely under a full moon. Blasting music all the way down the trail to keep my mind occupied. 19 hours later, my car was in sight.
|Looking Down Mint Valley|
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