Monday, December 19, 2011

A Long December

Ice climbing is intrinsically motivating.  Unlike rock climbing where you just need to wait for a dry day, ice climbing is all conditions.  You can have ice but wind and not climb.  Ice but its fragile and not send.  Ice but its thin or baked and you back off.  Unlike rock climbing, you cannot pass up an opportunity to climb when it presents itself.  As an ice climber in the PNW... you earn it.  In a period of just over a month I've done three trips and logged just nine days of climbing.  To earn those days I've driven 4,800 miles just to and from the climbing areas.   Totally worth it.

Here's some highlights from two trips to the Canadian Rockies and one trip to Cody, WY.

Mean Green Pitch Four

Animal Rights Activist

Pillar of Pain

Mixed Master (minus the mixed!)

Redman Soars

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Things That Scare Me

Picking up something heavy, picking up something light and moving quickly that's pretty much what it boils down to.  However, there are certain WODs that are absolutely devastating.  These workouts cause a shiver when I flip through my training log for daily WOD ideas.  At work we use a pain scale for patients to describe pain.  Any one of these equate to a 10/10 on the pain scale.  Here's my top (bottom!) 5.

1:  3000 FY.  3000 meters on the rower in less than 10 minutes.  That means you need to row 1:40/500m for 10 minutes.  I've done this workout probably three or four times and each time I was crushed.  I think I actually spat my lung out the last time I did it.  So far my best is to get less than 200m from hitting the mark....

2:  300 FY.  300 Calories on the AirDyne in less than 10 minutes.  Let's face it, the AirDyne is pure evil.  It saps your energy in mere seconds.  Granted I've only been on it a couple times but the 300FY seems nearly impossible.  I did some 2 min splits on the Air Dyne with 2 minutes rest and not a single one of my splits would have been fast enough to be on pace for the 300FY.  The aftermath? SVT.

3:  Thruster Chicken.  Start with a 45# bar at 2 reps.  Add 2 reps per minutes.  Keep adding reps until you can't complete the reps in that minute.  Thrusters are incredibly metabolic.  Initially you are able to get some healthy rests after your reps.  By the end you will go 4-5 minutes doing constant repetitions of thrusters.  It's hard to keep your head in this one because it is so hard.

4:  Thruster Ladder.  Start with 25 reps at 65# followed by 20 at 85#, 15 at 105#, 10 at 115# and end with 5 at 135#.  I could lift my arms for the better part of week after this WOD.  I haven't had the courage to try it again since.

5:  The Chipper.  When I'm getting ready for a big alpine trip I usually try to shift into some depletion style WODs.  Mountain Athlete used this when they had their push for 90+ minute WODs.  They're grinds so you better load the iPod with a bunch of punk rock because it won't stop.  Here's the one I do a few times prior to a big trip:
1x        250x Step Ups, w/pack (M-35#)

5x        10x Dead Lift (M-185#)
            15x Box Jumps (M-24")
10x      Row 500m
            5x Turkish Getups each arm (M-12kg)
7x        5x Pull ups
            10x Kettlebell Floor Press each arm (M-12kg)
            10x Back Extension
1x        20-15-10-5x
            Curtis P (M-75#)
1x        250x Step Ups, w/pack (M-35#)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Snow Creek Slow Cooker

Psychopath Pitch Crux

Marcus pulls the roof on pitch three.

Marcus jams steep cracks and flakes on pitch four.

Pitch four close up.

The chimney right before the Pressure Chamber.
In the spirit of revisiting the ol' ticklist Marcus and I spent a day this week climbing Hyperspace.  Believe the hype, Hyperspace is good.... real good.  Fully admitting that I'm not a rock hotshot I found the climbing pretty challenging, though with some move specific beta much more obtainable.  First off, expect some physical climbing.  The upper portion of Hyperspace reminded me more of Yosemite style chimneys and bombays than anything I've seen in Washington.  By the time I topped out, I felt pretty beat up.  You don't need to worry about saving your tips because you only use knees, elbows, forearms, ass and back to get up this thing.  It seems like the perfect Yosemite training route.  I'm looking forward to getting back on this and hopefully finishing without feeling like I went ten rounds.

I won't delve into specific beta as Blake's entry on Mountain Project is spot on.  I will say that brassy offsets or rps should work well on the Psychopath pitch but the first 2/3 protects well with tcus.  Also, the pressure chamber is not an offwidth problem its a stemming problem.  Although it must have been pretty humorous going inverted with a thigh jam in a squeeze chimney... at least for one of us.  Blake's suggested grades seemed pretty accurate as well, though I wouldn't call any of them easy for the grade.  Take doubles from green c3 to #3, don't forget some stoppers including rps and possible some offsets.  No #4 needed and you could probably swing it with just one #3.  We took ~12 slings and used almost every sling each pitch.

The Doldrums

Jason on the very fun final pitch of Davis Holland - Loving Arms
The doldrums (aka intertropical convergence zone) is an area of the world where weather systems from the northern and southern hemispheres meet.  The weather convergence produces a region laden with long periods of stagnant windless air that torture wind powered seafarers.  This summer, that's right all 78 minutes of it above 80 F, feels similar to the doldrums.  Long periods of sitting through poor weather in town, working night shifts and a few missed opportunities punctuated with a memorable climb.

I've certainly gotten out far less than I would have hoped this summer.  Partly my diminished activity has been the weather but a new city, job, more distant local climbing and paucity of climbing partners has also played a part.  Despite the circumstances I have revisited a few climbs that I forgot about long ago.

Almost a decade ago my buddy Tim and I got on the Davis-Holland only to get cooked in triple digit heat.  I managed to get back on this route and finish it one evening a couple weeks ago.  I found that nearly every pitch had memorable and exciting climbing.  If you haven't done this climb... do it tomorrow... or at least don't wait another decade!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gato Negro

Mid P3 about to haul, the crux is at top center
Marcus and I settled the score with Gato Negro after having earlier trouble identifying the start of the climb.  It always kills me to go on a "climbing" trip and have the approach be the reason for failure but in the Cascades the incidence is high.  What adds to the insult is that literally every trip report for this route expounded on it being the "easiest approach in the Wine Spires."  It actually is an easy approach but I think the info out there is poor unless you have prior knowledge of the area.  Here's the beta I wish I had:

Approach:  Follow the approach description per Burgandy Col in the Nelson guide.  Once in the basin below the W Face of Silver Star break off the trail toward the R in a gently rising (don't loose any elevation) traverse.  Once on the W side of the mountain, the massif appears to be broken into three sections with two major gully systems (think canyon-esque gully systems).  Gato Negro is in the middle of the three divisions, the Wine Spires are to the L and the other peak of Silver Star on the R.  The climb starts about 50-100ft of a major broad right facing corner and ledge system just uphill of a yellow section of rock.  The second pitch (more on this later) is reached by scrambling up a chimney past a tree to a large sandy ledge.  The bolts on the second pitch may be visible to you if you have great eyes but I couldn't see them until I was on the ledge.  The rock is clean on the second pitch.

Route:  We used the topos included in this post, I think made by the first ascensionists.  Pitch 1 doesn't exist.  Unless the route started via spelunking I have no idea why it was included.  Pitch 2 is rad and shouldn't be missed.  I could see it feeling pretty heads up if it were wet, cold or windy out but if you're not sending this pitch than the rest of the route is likely out of reach.  Pitch 3 is about 55m as opposed to the described 80 ft.  Pitch 4 is exactly as described.  We set up a haul just above the second chockstone (no established anchor just bracing oneself and pulling the pack up) and once again at the top of the pitch which we moved 20ft R to make the haul clean.  Above here the topo was kind of useless.  We followed the line of weakness making sure not to stray too far L and to keep below the crest on the R for two rope-stretching pitches which brought us to an alcove-like area about 20 ft below the crest approximately what is described as the top of pitch 7.  Pitch 8 headed straight up to a roof which was gained by traversing and escaping its L side.  Head back into the L facing corner through a small crux then face climb up and L.  Pitch 9 heads for the crest eventually crossing it to the right.  The 10th pitch is scary.  After clipping a pin move right around the false summit to the true summit.  This move is scary, felt like ~5.8 and definatley had consequences.  A much better way to finish the route would be to climb the stunning  crack to the false summit (you'll know it when you see it) then finish by climbing the crest to the true summit.

Descent:  We had snow which apparently made things much easier.  From the true summit slings we did two single rope raps with a 70m rope skiers left into a major gully systems.  I think you would be screwed if you brought a 60m rope as the stations are not set for this.  Once in the gully go down, there were at least two optional rap stations lower in the gully.  You get deposited about 200m right of the first pitch.

Rack:  1x70m rope.  Stoppers.  2xCams from #1C3 to #2C4.  1xCams from #3-5C4.  If I were to ditch a cam it would be the #4C4 as I placed the #5 on almost every pitch and it was very nice to have on pitch 4

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making Adjustments

I've been back from Alaska for a couple weeks now and aside from being extraordinarily busy, I've been trying to make adjustments.  Specifically from a haggard expedition weary alpinist to somebody in shape to do some summer rock climbing.  It has been a slow transition.  Despite every day feeling like a "high-gravity day" I have some hopes to be in shape someday soon.

In the meanwhile, a few shots that I got from Marcus the other day.

Breaking on through.... the other side:  Digging through the cornice on the Colton-Leech.

Digging for pro on day two... before the storm.

More recently, Yannis getting his first day in at Index.

Marcus and I were also asked to participate in the CiloGear Propoganda Movies the other day.  I wish somebody would have told me that I sound like Jeff Spicoli.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Into the Wild

After a few days of storms and then one clear day to clear snow from the face we headed up for round two on Mt. Huntington.  Our calves were shot after our first attempt but we cruised the couloir on our second ascent.  It took about 4-5 hours fast than our first go.  The weather was immaculate... but that wouldn't last.

Marcus climbing through the first constriction

Above the first constriction

Climbing into the second constriction

Marcus strikes a "blue steel"

Marcus on the second constriction

Looking for "the" bivy ledge on day one

The Colton-Leech is known for a paucity of bivy ledges.  We found exactly two on our ascent.  Our bivy ledge on day one was hacked into ice on the edge of a 2,000' cliff.  It took about four hours to clear enough ice for our ledge.  Thankfully the pro was good.

Room with a view

Day two started calm but quickly spiraled into a maelstrom.  We had a morning with just light clouds but once we had passed the point of no-return the clouds closed in and the snow started.  Most of the day felt like we were in a blender and the temps were cold.  We figured about -20F... thankfully there was no wind.  I'm sure we would have bivied or bailed if that were an option however from 7am until 1am we found exactly one spot to bivy... and that was on the summit ridge itself.  It was one of the colder days climbing I've ever had.  I just barely warmed up while wearing all my clothes, belay parka and moving.  The belays seemed endless and were bone-chillingly cold.  At long last, we dug into the summit ridge crawled into the sleepings bags after 2am and tried to rally for the descent and hopefully better weather.

Marcus leads out early on day two

Entering the upper snowfield with the WFC visible to the right
Marcus climbing on the upper snowfield

A quick break in the weather...

Marcus discovers the exit from the upper snowfield

Marcus shakes off the rust on day three

Look Ma, No Lenticular!:  Denali on day three
When day three dawned clear we thought we had it in the bag.  We knew we were a bit climbers' left of where we meant to be, but that could be reversed.  Marcus had a great traversing lead over unconsolidated snow flutings that found a fixed rap anchor.  At this point we were sure we had it in the bag.  After all, Marcus had some solid experience on this peak... piece of cake, right?  During Marcus' traversing pitch, Daniel had Paul from TAT buzz our route to check up on us and radio back.  We were feeling pretty good at this time and gave him a thumbs up... but several hours later we still couldn't find the descent.  We spent hours trying different ledges systems looking for the WFC.  We felt pretty zapped after the previous cold day.  At long last, we decided to rap down the unknown descent of the WF.  We expected to leave the entire rack on the descent, but stumbled into the WFC after only 5-7 rappels.  Once in the couloir proper, it was like sport climbing as we descended John's threads from March.  After a full day descending we slumped into the snow in the upper basin and enjoyed the first warmth or sunlight we'd felt in several days.  

1000 yard stare mid descent on the WF

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alaska Take One

This is the fourth trip to Alaska that I've had in various stages of planning... but just the first to see me actually get into the range.  The wait did not disappoint.  I've climbed on big alpine faces before... and certainly at a higher altitude but Alaska is just different.  I've felt stagnated with climbing, going to the same areas and doing the same types of climbs.... Alaska has opened a door and I don't think I'll be looking back.

Though Dan and Eric had spent three days waiting to get into the Tok'... Marcus and I pretty much showed up and flew into the range.  Of course no other pilot than Paul with TAT would have flown that day... fly with that guy or learn to love the Talkeetna nightlife...

The Stumptown basecamp.... only fourty five minutes from pancakes and coffee to ropes and ice screws on the Colton-Leech!  Our route starts in the obvious couloir above the camp, left of center, and continues to the butress before climbing ramps up and right to the summit.

The initial couloir was about 2,000' of bulletproof calf-burning ice.  I climbed a lot of ice this season but I need to devise  a new training method to prepare for the unrelenting front-pointing this feature offered.

Marcus cruising about halfway up the couloir....

The second ramp before the final constriction....

Marcus following the first pitch of the second constrictions...

Upon reaching the top of Count-Zero Buttress we saw a dark mass of clouds coming from the South and a massive lenticular formed around Denali's summit.  It seemed like a good time to retreat before the oncoming storm which caught us about halfway down the couloir.  Even the initial squall sent a lot of slides down the couloir and made anchors difficult.  We we're happy to be down on terra firma and eating pancakes while we waited for another break in the weather.

Sometimes you eat the bar....

and sometimes the bar eats you....

I had a pretty inglorious end to the ice season this year.  Far from the great run I had on the Spring trip last year. This season's finale coincided with the biggest April snowstorm ever seen in the Canadian Rockies.  Despite some good sends at Haffner it is hard to justify a long drive for short mixed climbs.  Still, I had a few good days this season and the plans are already laid for the following...  Not much left to do but enjoy some sunny rock climbing and get honed for when the chilly November air settles in again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Something Old, Something New

It certainly didn't get any warmer over the week since Chad and I were last in Canmore... in fact it got a little colder.  At times it was a little too cold.  Consider our first day where we figured the high to be around -25C.  I'm still feeling some lingering frost-nip from leading that day.  Despite a somewhat favorable avalanche forecast the recent fatalities and natural releases coupled with the phrase "unsurvivable avalanches" kept us playing it pretty close to the vest.  Dodging avalanches is becoming a theme in my trips to the Canadian Rockies this year.  Despite, Donn, Chad, Rob and myself rallied for some good climbing.  Though I felt the low-hanging fruit was all taken, I managed to climb new routes on three of our five climbing days.

It's already late February and because of a busy March I won't be getting in the traditional early Spring ice climbing trip.  Though I'm sure I'll still get another 5-10 days of ice this season I can already feel the motivations subtly shifting from ice to alpine and even rock.  I can't say I finished any of the projects I started the season with.  However, I feel like I made some progress and given an opportunity am much closer to realizing those dream routes.

Who knows maybe my the Spring will shape up favorably and I can still make a couple forays on the big rigs?

Chad climbing "Moonlight"

Donn leading up "Snowline"

Donn on the first pitch of "Weeping Wall Right"

Rob following second pitch of "Weeping Wall Center"

Chad enjoying a perfect day on the second pitch of "WWR"

Chad cruising "Shagadellic"

Just trying not to lose my "Mojo" on this pumpfest

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Wrong Side of Zero

And we ain't talking Celsius!  

Chad and myself enjoyed a chilly uber-bowl weekend ice climbing up in Canmore this past few-days.  We were joined by Marcus and Jeff for a couple days.  Scary avy conditions kept us away from the big rigs.  For the most part we stayed in the canyons clipping bolts and enjoying some of the best mixed climbing Canada has to offer.  Add to that watching an epic failure by Ben Raper Rothlisberger  and I'd say it was a pretty good weekend.

Pretty busy day at Bear Spirit our first day.  The curtain is starting to fill out, but there are still a lot of moderate mixed lines to tune up on.  Day 2 saw Marcus and Jeff at Louise Falls with single digit temps and heavy snowfall while Chad and I scrapped around at Haffner.  Chad crushed his first M lead which included a runout on overhanging ice.  The temps plummeted even further on our third day, -8F.  We got a late start and went for some low hanging fruit at Grotto Canyon.  The climbs are short, 12m, but surprisingly fun.  With the ice in current condition there was a big of a run out from the last bolt to the first screw... but that just added to the routes.  The middle route featured a double steinpull followed by a big reach to a free-hanging ice feature.

Chad running up Pitch 1 of Carlsberg.

Pitch 2 of Carlsberg.

The surprisingly fun mixed climbing in Grotto Canyon.