Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Black Dike

After getting skunked by warm temps this past January, we finally got on the black dike. I think this route certainly has a more fearsome reputation than it deserves... its really a quick climb. We did it in three pitches Wi3, Wi4Mnothing, Wi3. Even though its short and far easier than its rated the position is incredible and the quick mixed section adds a lot to this route.

We arrived in enough time to watch the day's first party spend 2 hours on the top half of the first pitch. Finally they bailed and we became first in line.

Here's the route's crux. The short mix step takes you to the ice which is actually vertical, brittle and thin. Only 20 feet though.

Andrew on the top out.

After an epic 6 hour drive (it wouldn't be a trip with Andrew epic jones without an epic) we opted for a quick hit just 15 min from home base. Andrew here starting up the verglas-thin first pitch at Bristol Cliff, VT.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chasing Windmills

Gorge ice forms up so infrequently, rarely is it good for more than a short period. Days spent hiking up to nothing more than spindrift and snow. When it forms up nicely you can take your rock picks off the tools, sharpen your crampons and slay the dragon.

Beach side climbing on the lower tier of Cape Horn. Five individual lines formed up this year. The leftmost and rightmost lines formed up fat and Wi5. The center three had wild chandelier features, mushrooms, daggers and were STEEP! All lines were about 70-80m long.

Me climbing the leftmost line. Dowel pullups finally paying off...

Marcus on the rightmost line battling super-chilled water.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ancient Ancestors let my ice tool be your arm...

Another great trip to the Canadian Rockies. Where do I sign up for Canadian citizenship? I need to move to Canmore in a big way.

Day1: Climbed at Ranger Creek area. Got on R + D and Chalice.
Day2: Polar Circus. Got stuck behind Jasper climbers... who knew Canadians could climb ice so slow? Decided the only thing more daunting than waiting another hour and a half, after already waiting two, was rapelling behind them in the dark.
Day3: Unintentional rest day. Evan Thompson Creek not in. Pushed the season on one route, ended up with a long down climb and a v-thread. Climbed Chantilly, literally the Reality Bath of the drainage... look out for pine cone fall!
Day4: Haffner junk show + drive home.

Jeep Cherokee advertisement.

Marcus on R+D.

Walking over to the Chalice. Donn following first pitch, Chad belaying.

Marcus following on pitch one of the Chalice.

Chad leading R+D.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Delta Force Alpine Special Ops

0100: Delta force reaches insertion point undetected, under cover of moonless night.

Delta force member prepares for blitzkrieg assault.

Approaching the "crux."

The long right trending traverse.

High on the route.

1000 Delta Force reaches the summit.

Monday, November 03, 2008

60 Days

2008 was the best rock climbing season I've ever had. Season started in February climbing at Ozone with Dave. We climbed all but two routes at Ozone this year. Managed a couple spring trips to Smith, got handled, got very close to getting Wartley's... next year. Lot's of days at Beacon.

2008 Beacon Favs:
Steppenwolf 10d
Borderline 11b
Takes Fist 10d
Bluebird 10a
Powerline 11b
Free for Some 11a
Headcase 11a

Had a good alpine rock trip to the Sierra climbed the Hulk and Mathes.

Some failures too... Squamish didn't go as planned. But there is always next year.

Here's to 2008!

Step'nwolf 5.10d

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Colfax Peak Cosley-Houston

It's tough being an ice climber in the PNW. We travel 10,000, take off work, go broke, get skunked consistently, all for half the climbing days that somebody in UT, CO, or MT can get without really trying. Once and a while though, some local water ice forms up in mid-October.

With clear cold weather forcasted Chad and I took off work and headed up to the ol' stomping grounds of the Mt. Baker N side to try our hand at one of the Colfax Peak ice routes.

We took a quick look at the prize, the Polish Route. It looked terrific for the first half, the second half had mixed climbing to an overhanging curtain and then a free hanging icicle. It looked Wi6-7 to me, more than I could handle our first day out. We end ran a crevasse and headed another 15 min. up the hill to the Cosley-Houston. The route is mostly moderate with a couple pillars to surmount over the 6-800ft.

Chad picked rock and took the sharp end for the first lead.

You can see me at the top of the first Wi2 section. Chad is camoflaged in the rocks atop the first piller.

The first pitch ended up being 80m after I yanked the belay and simuled. Chad was able to put a screw in and reach the top of the difficulties before I had to climb. The first pillar was significantly harder than it appeared. A full pitch of it would be Wi6 but we estimated it Wi4+/5 because of its length.

I'm at the base of the second pillar, Chad is still at the rocks.

The second pitch was another long simul affair. I had quite a bit of difficulty with my umbillical set up at the base of the pillar. Note: don't use Nano wires because they invert and prevent you from holding on to the pommel. After some fussing and complaining, I just climbed the pitch which felt like solid Wi4 because the ice was very aerated and chandeliered.

The final pitch was a ~200m of simul climbing joy. Perfect neve, water ice, rock pro, and a top out to a calm sunny summit.

We ended up climbing the route in 3 hours and 3 pitches. Great day out for the start of ice season. My palms, ankles and calves are crying though...

Chad on the first Wi2 step (the one I am seen standing on-top-of on the first picture). A little thin, and a little funky considering it's the first ice I've touched since March.

Chad in the thick of it. It was a great lead. 80m with an overhaning crux right at the end and all while carrying a pack.

The summit. Stick a fork in Chad, he's done.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conness and the Crest

We still wanted to go for a big climb. The SW Face of Conness is a 1200ft. 5.10c. The approach is hard to nail, the pitches are long, there is a 50m offwidth, in other words a handful. We took off at 5am, doing the first bit in the predawn light. With the thunder of Dana still on our minds we proceeded carefully as a few errant clouds blew through.

Andy on the summit plateu headed down to our face.

The SW Face from the notch. The route heads through the steepest part in the center. Long story short we took too long to reach the start of the climb. Made it to within 20ft of the end of the offwidth... just three pitches from easier ground and had to make a difficult decision. Bail, or push ahead and chance a forced bivy 1000ft up. The last 20ft of the offwidth were difficult, and 20ft from extremely questionable bolts from the 1950s. We bailed. It stings a little bit but we were drinking beer by 10pm instead of hanging from our harnesses in the icy wind.

Two days later we went for an easy day on the Mathes Crest. Extremely easy, a good day on exposed terrain. With beers waiting at the car.

A Hard Rains Gonna Fall

We woke up to dark clouds and the knowledge that the Dana Plateau is not a good place to be in a thunderstorm. We just hoped we could make it out before the inevitable afternoon storm.

Andy on the plateau above Mono Lake.

The striking Third Pillar of Dana.

Sporting the Lawrence of Arabia look... you know... without the sodomy.

We agreed that we would bail when we heard thunder. That happened one monster pitch from the top. After five or six scetchy raps, we were back on the ground below the plateau just as an impressive bolt struck down near us. We ditched our gear and ran for cover. After a half an hour we climbed back up to the plateau and ran for the cars. The best part of dissapointment is how good the beer tastes afterward.

The Incredible Hulk

Perfect rock. I don't need to say anything else.

Andy running up easy ground at the start of the Red Dihedral.

Andy climbing on the summit ridge complex.

Tunneling to the top.

The Incredible Hulk not looking lame. The Red Dihedral is on the right skyline of the Hulk.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mt. Stuart Direct NW Face

Just becasue the author of the guidebook had the FA doesn't make it a "classic" route. This route has moments of greatness coupled with miles of loose, mossy, rope drag, 4th class simuling that makes it just not really worth doing. I'll come back to Stuart's NW face but it will be covered with snow and ice when I do.

Here I am on the second pitch... the beginning of the crap. We apparently missed the first pitch which is supposed to go at 10+, it felt like solid 11/12 though I mostly did it at C1.

Here's the money pitch. The perfect corner is just that, but very short. We linked three pitches into one with a 60m rope. Your on the perfect corner for less than half of it. Don't go too high. I ended up a solid 30-40 feet above my last piece of pro which was not solid and an additional 10 feet from a solid cam. The crack completely peters out, the climb revs up a notch and it makes you scared and not happy. Managed to wiggle in a marginal RP and down climb back to safety. Most of Kearney's pitches are only 15m long!

James following the second pitch.

We ended up doing the route in 18 hours car to car. Could have moved a tad faster, could have carried less, but a decent time all told. Thankfully we summited so we don't have any compelling reason to come back to this route.

Finger of Fate

The Finger of Fate East Face was so good it deserved its own entry. On our last day James and I went to do the FOF car to car. The route gets no hype what-so-ever but it really deserves some. The first two pitches are the business ringing in at mid 10 and mid 11 but they get five stars out of four. Perfect hands, perfect corner, perfect gear, it has it all.

The roof on the second pitch.

The route takes the right facing open book.

James following the spectacular first pitch.

James nabbing the best part of open book route, the double cracks.

James "holding up" the summit block.

Poco's Sawtooth Sandwich Extravaganza

After a seeing a soggy forcast for our intended Picket's trip, Chad, Donn, James and I headed instead for a week of alpine rock in the Sawtooths, ID.

Donn had a score to settle with Warbonnet Peak that included an injured climbing partner and a $10,000 rescue. We spent a day approaching Warbonnet, a day on the climb, and a day out. A nice and easy schedule. Everything went perfectly except for Chad's new boots which rubbed his heels raw.

After getting out... and maybe indulging in a few, James, Donn and I went to climb the Stur Chimney on Mt. Heyburn. It's one of the Sawtooth Classics at only 5.4 and a worthy route, though only two pitches. Best part is the blue TCU I snagged without a nut tool mid-route.

The spectacular 5.6 finish to Warbonnet. You get a bolt that wouldn't hold your hat and a pin that even sweet baby Jesus-lying in a manger watching his Young Einstein developmental tapes, learning about shapes and colors-couldn't make hold a fall.

Donn on the summit of mighty Mt. Heyburn.

Approaching Warbonnet.

The best part of the Sawtooths (besides a Poco Sawtooth sandwich, Chad)... the boat ride.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Beckey-Chouinard Beta Photos

Right off the belay from pitch 4 as per the Atkinson-Piche guide.

Pitch 6. You can see this feature very prominently on page 276 of Atkinson-Piche.

The Great White Headwall. Head for the chimney dihedral on the left. Lost in the Towers follows the crack going up and right.

Here's the route's crux. Make sure you have a #3.5 for this one, I'd probably throw in a big hex too. We did it with just the hex, but it didn't go very smoothly. My buddy got lost on the next pitch (#11) heading too far left. You want to move right into the obvious left facing corner. Pitch 12 can be hard with a pack, but after that you're nearly home-free.

Looking over the Atkinson-Piche topo again, I'm pretty sure we neglected to do the 20m rap after pitch 15. That probably accounts for most of our difficulty between the top of that pitch and the summit.

Also, when approaching the first pitch of the route stay on the right side of the ridge crest, we stayed left and it probably cost us 1/2 hour.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Blue (Ice) Canadian Rockies Part 2

On our fourth day in a row we needed something a little bit more moderate. Guinness Gully is a great long WI4 that we had both done before, but neither of us had climbed Guinness Stout WI4+ which stands above the Gully. Chad led pitches 1 and 3, the ones he hadn't done before, and I led the 2nd pitch and the Stout, ones I hadn't climbed before. Chad leading the thin first pitch.

Day 5 was a needed rest day.

On Andy and Jared's last day we headed out with them to climb in the Ghost River Valley. A 4x4 truck is mandatory to get in here so Chad and I laid in the canopy on the bumpy ride in. Andy and Jared went to climb Hydrophobia WI5+ and Chad and myself went for the ultra-classic, The Sorcerer WI5. Can you find the line?

The Sorcerer is simply the best ice climb I've ever been on. Better than Kitty Hawk, better than Polar Circus, better than the Weeping Wall. The two pitches consecutive vertical pitches lead to some amazing exposure. The ice was very "airy" and you could find hooks all the way up. Here's me following the last pitch.

We took one more rest day and reloaded for our final climb: Carlsberg Column WI5. It was actually the first time we had seen anyone the entire trip. We didn't have to wait to climb but we did end up taking a much harder and steeper line because they claimed the easy one. It might have been the fatigue at the end of a long trip, but it felt like the most difficult lead I'd ever done. Lots of ice mushrooms and chandeliers and a long steep finish.

Our line was one the right side of the long central column feature, up through the bulges and mushrooms.

Given that I'll be getting one week off in March for the next couple years. This is going to be a yearly trip. It's the best time of year for climbing and its right when you're at the peak of your fitness and abilities.