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Powell/Thompson col and Powell plateau from the SW?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:35 am
by Sebastian_A_K
Dear fellow cross-country enthusiasts,

I have an admittedly very specific route question. I’d like to use the Powell-Thompson col (let’s call it P-TC) to connect lake Sabrina and the PCT near Muir pass (Not sure yet which direction).
Has anyone been over that col?
Secor suggests that en route from P-TC to the Helen lake area you need to drop to the 11400’ level, and then go back up to lake 11725 to reach Keating pass, even higher up. Essentially, you walk all the way around the Powell plateau. I’d like to avoid that by going straight over the Powell plateau. And of course bag point Powell while at it. But:
-is it possible to reach the plateau from the SW (with a pack), or descend to the SW?
-can the ledge that connects the P-TC to the route to the plateau (the “Eckert variation”) be found from the top (rather than from the col, which is what all reports are about)?
I’m a backpacker with plenty of XC is experience. I like to keep things to class 2 with a pack but I’ve also been across stuff like Southfork pass (not recommended btw).

Re: Powell/Thompson col and Powell plateau from the SW?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 9:08 am
by giantbrookie
I haven't tried this, but topography abd Secor's Mt Powell route descriptions suggests you may have some class 2 options. There is nothing mentioned for getting up to the plateau from the SW, but the topo suggests you may have one or two chute options just north of what amounts to the subtle "SW shoulder" or buttress of the plateau--these chutes would reach the plateau S of the Mt Powell named on the map, which according to Secor isn't the true Mt Powell (supposed to be highpoint to the NNE overlooking the rugged N ridge). From there to the PTC Secor mentions a "southeast" chute from the cirque just below the col. The actual chute seems to be more east-trending (from top to bottom).

One thing I'm wondering is that if you are willing to undertake this route, for which the approach from the S is still complex and physically difficult, then why not try one of the more direct routes such as Haeckel Col, Wallace Col, or Echo Col? I have been mulling over these routes a lot lately while daydreaming about possible trips in 2020. The only one of these I've been over is Haeckel Col and I'm pretty sure I messed this up by crossing too close to the actual low point, which led to a fairly difficult (but very solid) class 3 move on the east side plus a couple of lesser class 3 steps on the west side. I think Haeckel has a bit of class 3 at the top no matter how well one picks the route and crossing point, but it is a very straightforward and direct route and it lacks some of the loose rock issues I've heard about associated with the Wallace and Echo routes. I think there is at least one trip report on Topix that describes the Haeckel Col route in detail and this route appears to be better than the one I took forty years ago. This Topix report from 2014 (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=11254) reports no class 3 on the east but a little bit on the west.

Re: Powell/Thompson col and Powell plateau from the SW?

Posted: Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:38 am
by Sebastian_A_K
Indeed, Secor only mentions the S side of the plateau. Nothing about the SW. on the topo it looks similar, but I do wonder why secor hasn’t mentioned it since the approach he describes is from keating pass, and that would make the SW the obvious side. Hm.
As for between the plateau and the PTC, apparently the SE chute can be reached via a ledge right from the pass. But what im wondering is, can you find your way in the reverse direction? It’s often really hard to see the way down when finding the way up was easy.

I should have mentioned that I’m not necessarily looking for the most direct route to Helen lake. Just for a nice off trail one. Wallace col I have done, very nice approach along the ridge between moonlight and hungry packer, then a bunch of talus in both sides of the pass, but the pass is clearly class 2 and no problem. Bagged Wallace in the way, also easy. Haeckel might be ok, too. Echo I have researched a bit and while the class 3 section is short it seems pretty real and more than I want to do with a pack.