Fifteen minutes after entering the "June Couloir" of Williams Peak, Nick and I knew we were in danger. Cookie sized rocks strafed our heads as we screamed up the soft ice. The size of the falling debris multiplied as the clock struck 9:00. While pondered this, a larger projectile exploded to Nick's right sending dozens of smaller pieces flying in every direction. "Let's bail" we said in unison.
The name "June Couloir" is short for "You-will-likely-die-if-you-try-to-climb-this-on-a-hot-day-in-June Couloir". A warm night in the Sawtooth valley did not help the situation. The route needs to be climbed in sub freezing weather.
Nick and I quickly rappelled 200 feet to distance ourselves from the disintegrating cliff above. "What should we do now?" Plagued by the guilt of wussing out, our gaze turned to an amazing white couloir nearby which had the potential to redeem us from the shame of retreat. We launched ourselves up this safe feature. The Redemption Couloir is east of the June Couloir. It is 40 degrees and capped by a small cornice between two stable rock walls.
After clearing the cornice, we lunched in sunshine and scanned the cliffs above. I immediately mis-remembered a passage from the guidebook which I wrongly believed stated that the east ridge of Williams Peak was only a third class scramble. It sure looked harder than that, but we figured "What the heck. We'll give it a go."
Soon we were third classing rock that was actually fifth class and beginning to get concerned. Our ropes and hardware were nestled snuggly in our packs as we climbed higher and higher without protection. Finally, I called up "Nick, throw me down a rope."
Nick responded "Not now, I need to concentrate."
"Fair enough" I thought.
A shout of relief and joy soon followed. The end of a rope came into view. "Sorry, I was forced to do a V4 move over the NE Face" Nick, an avid boulder, explained. For the next 500 feet, we stayed roped up, occasionally belaying on the trickier sections. In short order, we were at the top of the our earlier abandoned quest, the June Couloir. We gazed over the edge at the loose final pitch. On cue, a large rock tumbled down the NE face, and crashed into the couloir before rumbling down to the valley below. We felt vindicated.
A stop on the windy summit and a fine glissade of the SE Face brought us back to the trail and safety.
The June Couloir is in the center of Williams Peak. The Redemption Couloir is to the left and so it the East Ridge.
Bombs away! Nick in the lower June Couloir.
The wonderful white Redemption Couloir
The East Ridge didnt look third class.
The top of the June Couloir was full of loose rocks.
Lets go home!