I met Bill at Hicks creek just as the sun was coming up. We loaded my pack on Bill's snowmachine and headed down the Matanuska river toward the Awesome Valley. It was a cold ride, when we departed the machine 9 miles later I was ready to ski and generate some heat. Conditions on the creek were amazing compared to last year, although Bill managed to find a weak spot.
It took us about 2.5 hours to ski to the base of the gully where the route is. The snow alternated between chest deep body shoveling and hard wind slab. We collapsed at least three slopes, the whumpfs were loud and disconcerting, but there was not enough energy to create a slide, so we kept going.
The Awesome Pillar
I had told Bill straight up the day before that I had no interest in leading this route, but would love to climb it. It spanked me hard last year and I barely made it up, the memory of its steepness is still strong in my mind.
The nicest line on the route unfortunately would require a snorkel to get up. The remaining options involved cold cranky ice with large cauliflowers. Bill gave it a good go, making the climbing look easy, the gear however was the problem. Even after extensive excavation the screws were hitting air.
When Bill decided to bail, I was right behind him, after I took out his crappy screws I was surprised he hadn't called it earlier. We took a couple laps from his high point and called it a day.
The ski track was fast and fun on the way out, a beautiful canyon, and cool place to spend the day.