The solution? Climb it in June. Brilliant. Apparently we're a bit late with this revelation since I don't think anyone climbs the route in summer any more. But still, we can be taught!
Ross and I left a bleary-eyed Brenda in the van at the climber's bivy at 3:30am. She had a full day of studying ahead of her, but that wouldn't start until after several more hours of sleep. It was dark, cold, sleeting, and miserable. Egad how I envied her! I don't think we really expected to get very far but nevertheless we turned on our headlamps and began trudging along the road and up the moraines. We found our way through the icefall (not without incident), dodged crevasses across the glacier, made an end run around the bergschrund, and began kicking steps upwards.
We'd resolved to kick really good steps just in case we needed to descend the same way we came up. This seemed like a great idea when I was in the lead making the steps. Unfortunately the frailty of our plan was revealed when I was later following Ross's steps; by the time I'd placed my feet in twenty of his steps the rest had disappeared. The blowing snow simply filled them in within minutes. I was mildly alarmed when I realized this but by then the weather was showing signs of improvement so we continued on up.
We'd set a turnaround time of 1:00PM. By 12:40 we'd basically completed the route but still hadn't actually topped out. The weather was still pretty dodgy so, much to Ross's dismay, we began heading down. Of course after we'd descended a few hundred meters the weather began to clear out in earnest and we were left agonizing over our decision. Oh well. The sunny skies made the descent seem easy despite not having any steps to follow down. We were back on the glacier in an hour and a half.
Almost without us noticing it had turned into a beautiful day; the sun was blazing and the fresh snow was dazzling. It was only at this point that I stupidly remembered to put on sunscreen and sunglasses. Alas, it was far too late and I already had the sunburn of my life. I'd even managed to burn my eyelids. The next couple of days were agony as my eyelids and face swelled up painfully.
Anyway, we trundled across the glacier, Ross fell into a couple of crevasses up to his waist, and we generally enjoyed our walk back to the van. Brenda, bless her, met us part way up the moraine with fresh water and snacks.