Friday, March 30, 2012

Too Cold to Fire

Colin and I headed to Alaska just after the official start of Spring.  We were the first climbing party to fly in this season (other than the winter big-mountain soloists).  We didn't get anything done besides taking our gear for a walk a couple times... unfortunately it took two airplane rides and a car rental to get our gear to the glacier so we could walk it.

I can't really describe how cold it was except to stay that everything froze, quickly.  It was a big effort for us to stay warm in base camp and it was impossible to stay warm while climbing, alpine bivying or belaying.  The results of the trip are still disappointing and will probably cut even deeper as temps improve and people start sending climbs.

Though a complete failure from a climbing standpoint we did get to spend a week in one of the most beautiful places in the world, explore some potential new lines and see an amazing show of the aurora borealis.

We'll both be back to Alaska... but not in March.

Looks warm in the sun, but I don't think we felt north of zero

Skiing toward Mtn. House from Peak 11,300

What we did in the 10 hours we weren't in sleeping bags

The morning after a miserable night

Flying out of the Ruth Gorge

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Best Ice Crag in North America

Sorry Banff, you too Cody.  Colorado, you weren't even in the running...  

Lake Willoughby, VT takes its rightful spot as the best ice crag in North America.  Over the length of about two miles ice spills off Mt. Pisgah forming many sustained difficult ice climbs.  There's no contrievance at Willoughby.  Most are independent lines on independent features... and they're proud.  Essentially everything is harder than Wi4 and many are harder than Wi5.  A few of the prouder features fall plumb-line for three rope stretching pitches.  The best part might be the approach: a ten minute stroll up a hillside.

Don't get me wrong, there is more proud climbing within a three hour radius of Banff than there is within three hours of Lake Willoughby but on a crag-to-crag basis its the best and is a lot of room for futuristic lines  on par with anything that the Stanley Headwall or Trophy Wall have to offer.

Given its easy access from urban centers and major international airports, for my money, I'll be back next year for sure...

Andrew about to top-out on a Willoughby Pillar.  

This is the NE's worst year in decades...
and there were still about ten individual lines in.

Cruising up an Underwood Canyon classic...

The NE:  Climb Free or Die!