Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rule #3: Cardio

Colin B and I had a productive trip into Strobach yesterday.  We climbed what we believe is the first complete ascent of Unholy Baptism.  The first pitch (~70m) was ice pouring out over the cliff with a thin top out.  This pitch took 13cm screws but the ice was rotten and most pro was suspect.  The second pitch (~65m) started on some cauliflower and mixed climbing on the right then climbed 20m of sustained and overhanging ice to a small stance and another 30m of vertical ice.  We used 12 screws and a few finger-sized cams and blades on this this pitch.  Thankfully the second pitch took 16cm screws for most of it's length but again the top-out was thin junky ice that offered little protection.  We rappelled from a tree up and right of the climb.  Unholy Baptism certainly seem like a fitting name for this climb.  It's the steepest and most sustained pitch either of us have climbed and feel that it merits the WI6 grade in current conditions. 
Unholy Baptism
First Pitch
Colin embracing the Screaming Barfies

Second Pitch

Colin contemplates the dorp...

Colin nearing the top of second pitch

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Approach:Pitches Climbed :: War and Peace:Calvin and Hobbes

Spent the last two days climbing local ice.  The more I explore ice in Washington the more I realize that there is plenty available.  The thing is, it is usually very green unstable ice and often quite thin.  Washington could really be a great place for an ice climber but we need a different approach.  They climb frozen dirt in the Tatras.  Since 90% of the routes in the ice guide are in climbable shape a few times a decade why not add some bolts on these rare formers to make hard routes that can be climbed each year?  

The other problem with Washington ice is that it is rarely easy.  Granted we screwed up the approach a little but it took a 4-hour ski after 3-hours of driving to reach Strobach, then another 2-hour ski and 3-hour drive.  That equals 12 hours of skiing/driving for 50m of climbing!  I don't know if I'll be doing anymore day trips to Strobach without a sled.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Rap Wall which is about an hour drive and an hour approach from my house.  The easiest route is M7 and the hardest is either M11/12.  The climbing is techy, steep, and if the chains are covered... scary.    Lots of potential for new routes and still a lot of existing ones to send... game on.

Jeff following First on Right

Ghost Dog M11/12

Rap Wall

First on Right... ironically on the left

The Climb on Admiral's Port or Eagle's Left

It doesn't feel like ice season until I get up to the Canadian Rockies.  The vast majority of my climbing days have been in the Canadian Rockies and though it's 700 miles from my house, it always feels like home.  BJ and I had a quick trip, that in true Rockies fashion, was relentlessly plagued by high avalanche danger.  Despite, we made the best of it climbing a bunch of mixed climbs, heading into the ghost and running up a classic in the Evan Thomas area.

BJ on Bear Spirit

The Business

Upper cirque of THOS

BJ on the crux of Half a Gronk

BJ topping out on THOS

BJ seconding first pitch in Evan Thomas

Ice (+ mixed) Dreams

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Starting Gun

I'm a little embarrassed to say how much time we spent driving from Seattle to Bozeman and how little climbing we did relative to that drive time.  Just another page from the book of PNW ice climber...  

However, having completed the mental crux of the trip on the drive, the climbing seemed relaxing.  We didn't climb anything that noteworthy but went through a good circuit of classics at the Unnamed Wall and earned our G1 merit badge but bailed when the crowds (20+ people) arrived.  

It was nice to go to Hyalite with someone who hasn't been there much so I could finally do the classics that my other partners had done climbed too often to be bothered with.  

The trip was far too short but weather dictated an abbreviated stay.  Avalanche conditions made many climbs a little too exciting for my taste so at the very lease we got the rust off and are ready for the real deal later in the year.
The Fat One (not Jason).

Me climbing an uber-fat Thrill Is Gone.  The rack made for good training
weight as the ice covered all the rock protection.
The Good Looking One (The Climb)

Testing the Waters...

You would have to throw yourself off the wall to fall of these hooks...

Mitosis Begins...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

Climbing high on RNWFHD's double crack, one my favorite pitches. For more rad photography check out this:

Starting a new career has been a major adjustment.  Its the first time in about a decade that something has had a higher priority to me than climbing.  I've known for a long time that, while climbing is awesome and I love it, for me, it isn't the only thing.  At times, I've flirted with complete vagabond climbing dirtbag status but I always tired of it... quickly.

Even so, changing my priorities initially felt like I was abandoning my chosen path, that I would never reach some of those long term goals I've been working for.  It doesn't feel that way anymore.  The goals are the same, the path is just going to be different.

Linear movement toward any goal is a rare thing that requires singular focus, motivation... and to be honest some selfishness.  I'm looking forward to having something to hang my hat on besides climbing which is so often dictated on the forces of nature.

Despite work taking the driver's seat I have one day of skiing and God willing four days of ice climbing planned over the next five days.

Game on...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Looking For A New Half Dome

Deja vu: Garrett on the Robbin's Traverse in 2010, Erica in 2004

During the past week I climbed in the Yosemite Valley for the first time in over six-years. I've climbed in the Valley very little, but had one of the more significant climbs (at the time) of my career there. In 2004 Erica and I tried to climb Half Dome RNWF in a day. At the time we were pretty green. Though I had climbed for years, I started leading sport routes in 2002 and plugging gear in 2003. So I had only trad climbed for about a year prior to attempting this route. Erica had been leading gear routes for longer but neither of us were world-beaters.

Long story short, Erica and I approached and fixed the first pitch on day-1 then tried to fix and fire on day-2. We didn't climb fast enough and we found ourselves climbing in the night by pitch 16. We made the Big Sandy ledge on top of pitch 17 and had a forced bivouac. We ran out of water on day-2 and spent a big chunk of day-3 climbing the remaining pitches (7?) before descending back to the base of the face and collapsing. On day-4 we stumbled into Curry Village, pizza, beer, etc. At the time I felt like we could have done better. We went slow when we could have gone faster, we could have started earlier, etc. My impression of the route is that it wasn't that bad, we could have, should have had it.

Six years later I wanted to get back on the route just to see how much easier it would be, to cruise where I had faltered, to measure what I am against what I was.

Garrett and I did the climb much faster. We climbed it valley-to-valley in ~18 hours but could have easily shaved off 5-6 hours (stuck behind parties 2-3 hours, took the longer but easier descent 2 hours, linking different pitches 1 hour, faster movement in daylight 1 hour). While the climb is almost entirely 5.9 or easier, it was still surprisingly heads up. There were head scratching moments figuring out traversing moves or transitions from aid-to-free and gut-busting squeeze chimney sections. Nothing felt too hard, or too scary, or run out etc. But it didn't feel that, easy.

Returning to the scene of one of my career's defining moments wasn't what I expected. Six years ago unable to sleep, I stayed up all night in fear of the coming day. Today I slept, well. The fear was gone... it was just another climb. While I am a much stronger climber today than I was years ago, I wonder in which aspects am I stronger? Obviously I can pull harder moves, I'm smarter, I make more right decisions and less mistakes. Still, I wonder if my head or my heart is not as strong. Six year's later what is my new Half Dome? What climb will put the fear of the unknown back into me and push me to edge of my physical and technical limits?

Perhaps the years have taught me something about my abilities and exposed unknown resources. However, something tells me I'm not challenging myself the way I once did. Perhaps I'm stronger as a climber in every way but poorer in ambition and desire?

I don't know... but I think I need a new Half Dome.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Momento mori

The weather is already turning in the PNW; I can't believe it is already September. Just a quick remembrance of life and, living in the grey north, the sunnier times past...

Andy on Mercy Street, the best 10b lie-back in Squamish (even the Split!)

Andy on pitch one of Rutabaga. The second pitch is a fun stemming problem with a wild finish.

Andy on the (guess it...) Split Pillar.

Another long wait on Rock On...

The kids from VT swing by the neighborhood

Elephantiasis gets zero stars in McClain's book but a couple more in mine

Getting my Crime merit badge...

Anyone else think Joe's Crack is akward?

Stones on or near Pixie Corner.

Awaiting the Dalestrom at Yehiniko Lake in northern B.C.

Pitch four on Dalestrom on Dormouse Peak.

Enjoying the best nightlife the greater Tattoga, B.C. area has to offer

Stikine silhouette

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Night of the Carnivorous Rodents

Rob and I took advantage of the last few good weather days in August to climb the classic Torment-Forbidden Traverse. It's truly a classic Cascade's mountaineering objective with a long ridge, glacier crossings, steep snow and maybe just a little choss. We climbed the route in two days and had a bivy that, while in a spectacular location, had one severe drawback: carnivorous rodents. I've never seen rodents who would try to eat ANYTHING. They munched on water bottles, sleepings bags, foam pads and packs. We tried to get some sleep but realized after a rodent was crawling in Rob's hair that we were in for a long night. We finished the route in good style but decided to spend one more night in Boston Basin enjoying the excellent weather.

Rob rappelling down the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak.

Looking back on the traverse toward Mt. Torment.

Rob climbing on day two.

A couple hours from the bivy on day one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Balancing Act

Colin and I put up a new route, or at least a new version of an old route on Colchuck Balanced Rock this past weekend. We spied some good looking corner and crack systems both above and below the rock scar. However, we weren't sure that there would be cracks in the rock scar or that the rock would be stable enough to climb safely. However we found mostly solid rock detracted only by loose rock left on ledges from the rock fall. While I'm sure it won't be popular and maybe not even repeated, the second pitch was the best crack I've ever done in the alpine. IMO it was as good as the Split Pillar but in a less impressive position. I would definitely run up the first couple pitches again if I were in the area.

Route Topo

Picture with route overlay

Climbing slab on fourth pitch.

Pulling through the roof on the third pitch.

Colin's hand a little torn up...

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Short Story

This story has a short version and a long version. The short version is that Blake and I were awarded the AAC’s McNeill-Nott Grant and a grant from the Mazamas. Additionally as the youngster, Blake received the Mountain Fellowship grant from the AAC to help him out.Collectively we were pitching the idea of climbing the North Ridge of Mt. Ambition which is a proud snow and rock ridge involving over a mile and 5,000 ft. of climbing to accomplish. We covered roughly a third to a half of this terrain on “sub Fisher Towers quality rock” before reaching a decision point. To continue would mean complete commitment with little or no opportunity to escape other than by finishing the route. Turning around here would be simple enough but we wanted that ridge. In the end we decided to bail. We very well may have been able to climb the ridge despite the bad rock as it didn’t appear that technically difficult. However didn’t break a hold and take a bad fall or trundle large blocks onto the belay we decided that we would essentially be soloing due to consistently horrible rock quality. Receiving funding for a climb always adds the element of potentially letting your supporters down by not finishing a climb. However having had to descend or short section of that ridge reinforced our decision. For Blake and me, given the conditions it wasn’t worth it.

Deciding against Mt. Ambition was not the end of the trip. Over the course of the remaining week we established two first ascents in the area on Mt. Endeavor and Doormouse Peak. We didn’t put up anything very technical but it was consistently an adventure. If I had to sum up the climbing and challenges we faced I would say that it cannot be defined by its technical grades but rather by the sum of its parts.

The route we didn't climb: Mt. Ambition's North Ridge. We reached the snowfield at the distinctive pyramid (on the right skyline), right where the climbing got committing.

The route we climbed instead: Mt. Endeavor roughly up the ridge on the left skyline.

Another route we climbed: the left skyline on Doormouse Peak.