photo- A view of the southeast slopes of Mt. Democrat from the summit of Mt. Bross. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
I had ridden Bross and Lincoln over the last several months and it was time to ride Mt. Democrat, the last official 14er in the Kite Lake drainage. Democrat looked like it had some nice lines on it. I called Ben up and he said that he was down. We drove up to Kite Lake on the night of the 18th. We got a bit farther up the road than I did a couple days prior when I was up on Bross. We were within a half mile of the summer trailhead.
We woke up at 4:00am in the morning of the 19th. We left quickly and hiked up to Kite Lake. We were able to scout the south face from this brief hike. It looked like a nice line. We contoured around Democrat a bit more and headed up the southeast slopes of Democrat somewhere around where the summer trail was. There were places where we crossed it but most of the trail was still buried in snow.
Ben got out on his axe and crampons for the ascent. I opted for by splitboard and skinning crampons again. We made our way up to the ridge between Democrat and Cameron Point.
I was surprised at how easily I skinned up this fairly steep slope. It was a nice sunny warm day. This east facing aspect began to thaw and corn up as we headed up the ridge. We had a good freeze the night before and the conditions were just right for corn. I was ready for some nice turns after sliding down the rock hard S-couloir on Democrat a couple days before.
We summited with clear skies, little wind, and warm temps. It was definitely starting to feel like late spring/early summer in the high country.
photo- Zach Taylor on the summit of Mt. Democrat. photo by Ben Koelker, 2009.
photo- Ben Koelker on the summit ridge of Democrat. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo-Ben Koelker near the summit of Mt. Democrat. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo- Zach Taylor(left) and Ben Koelker(right) on the summit of Mt. Democrat. photo by Ben Koelker, 2009
We took in the views for a few minutes and then started looking down to pick out our line. There were several nice lines to pick from. We looked down and picked out Lake Emma. Lake Emma sat at the base of the south face. Our line ran straight off the summit down the fall line of the south face and out to Lake Emma.
We dropped in one at time slashing corn turns down the upper south face. Here it was a mellow pitch with nice snow.
photo- Zach Taylor riding down the upper east face of Mt. Democrat. photo by Ben Koelker, 2009
photo- Ben Koelker enjoying some turns off the summit of Mt. Democrat. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo- Ben Koelker looking down the steeper lower south face. You can see Lake Emma directly beneath him in the valley. Kite lake is just out of view to lookers left. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
We both pulled over to the side and looked down at the rest of the line. The face steepened and was broken up by multiple vertical cliff bands that ran parallel with the fall line of the slope. This gave the lower line more of a couloir like feel.
We dropped in and enjoyed the steeper turns. As we got down to Lake Emma we curved riders left of the lake to the east. We looked down at east facing terrain between Lake Emma and Kite Lake. While corn conditions still prevailed on the south face, this lower elevation east facing slope was hot and slushy. Fortunately we could avoid most of the terrain here that was steep enough to slide. We made our way down around some rocks and snowfields. Several times we triggered small wet point releases as soon as we went over a steep roll.
We had timed it just right to get some nice soft snow up high and we got back down into the valley as the snow turned to dangerous mush.
We rode almost all the way back to my car. We walked the last little bit. What a great May day in the wilderness!
photo- Zach Taylor descending the south face of Mt. Democrat. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009.
photo- Ben Koelker skiing out the bottom of the south face of Mt. Democrat. photo by Zach Taylor, 2009
photo- A look at the south chutes of Democrat. photo by Ben Koelker, 2009