Trip dates: 24 April 2022, 21 May 2023
TL;DR Climbed the Priest-Coupe, dropped down the other side of the mountain to climb the West Ridge to summit, then descended the NE Ridge.
I made an initial attempt on the North Couloir of Rexford in April 2022. Centre Creek FSR was drivable to km 2.8 with 4wd-hc. At the time there was still plenty of snow, necessitating skis on approach. Fortunately this also meant that much of the hellish bush was buried and easy to travel over. Some of the time saved however was negated when I slipped rock-hopping across Centre Creek and dropped my pole, which I then chased after through the creek. I stopped and ate salami while I rung out my ski socks on the other side.
A few hours of skinning up was intermixed with some convoluted tree climbing, in skis, to gain the final steep step to Rexford’s upper north slope. The day was growing hotter than expected. As I approached the base of the couloir, wet snow began to sluff from the walls above with greater frequency, occasionally triggering slides below. The decision was made to retreat, and I got out of there in somewhat of a hurry.
I left the trailhead at 0645, and by 0700 had found a suspect tree to cross the swollen Centre Creek on. I elected not to fall in the creek this time. A short thwack led to the base of a long avi runnel, followed by another thwack and some 5th class cedar yarding to meet the upper snow slope. The recent heat wave had purged most of the snow from the walls above, and a firm avi runnel made for reasonably quick front-pointing up the slope. I reached the base of the NE couloir (the Priest-Coupe route) by 0945. There were three bergshrunds in the NE couloir, each a bit more technical and committing than the last. The first two were steep snow over a small abyss, the last demanded some mixed climbing up the rock face on climber’s left – a little bit of weary ice clung to the wall here which made things slightly more secure. Unlikely the schrunds will be passable for much longer this season. A short ways higher I met the junction for my target objective, the North Couloir – it was completely devoid of snow at the lower choke, and looked wholly undesirable. So instead I continued up the steep snow of the Priest-Coupe to the Rexford-South Spire col. After some deliberation of where to go next, it seemed the easiest way to the summit, and planned descent route, would be to drop down the west side of the mountain and gain the low-5th West Ridge of Rexford. By the time I was on the west ridge unstrapping crampons, the sun was shining high in the sky, making for a very pleasant next hour of scrambling.
I took a short break at Mt Rexford summit and began to descend the NE ridge at 1300. Clouds quickly rolled in, stealing away most of the visibility. The ridge descent felt long; variable snow conditions ushered me on and off the rock, and sometimes into battle with the krummholz. A few short rappels were made here and there. Eventually I made it back to the basin below, in unfamiliar terrain on the opposite side the NE ridge from where I had started. There was a major gulley flush with fresh avi debris, which I chose to avoid – instead opting to descend in the steep trees adjacent. The thwack was quite horrendous and included a couple of tree rappels. In retrospect the gulley would have been a much better option, but after a long day of no-falls-allowed, the bush bash seemed more secure and less mentally taxing. It wasn’t. Down in the valley, much subsequent bushwhacking was had as I scoured back and forth along the creekside in search of a good log bridge. This took some time and determination. I made it back to the truck at 1915, with sore feet and hemlock needles down my back. Full day 12.5hrs car-to- car.
The day had ended up being a (mostly!) enjoyable link-up of three routes – each of a different flavour. A fine way to experience the mountain.