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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hyalite Ice: Climbs Below Winter Dance

Sam and I got to go to another(!) area of Hyalite we had never been; the climbs below Winter Dance. There are 3 major gullies coming down from below WD: Land of the Lost (including Slot Corner aka Pitch 1), Curtains and Over Easy. Slot corner was busy as was Curtains so we warmed up on Over Easy WI3. Super fun short, fat flow that can be made as hard or easy as you like. Then we jumped on Curtains WI4 and I got up it without any breaks. Short, but very consistently steep climb. Land of the Lost WI4 still had a crew on it so Sam and I walked down to the corner climbs and each got a lap (solos for me; I set up the rope for Sam) on Fat Chance and Thin Chance and I top-roped a fun mixed route climber's left of Thin Chance. 5 different routes in a day is a recipe for a good Hyalite day!
Over Easy WI3
Im not looking down on you, but down at you Sam.

The top of Curatins with Winter Dance visible above. There were two climbers up there that day. Nutcracken?

Curtains Cave

Thin Chance: A tale of too many hooks...
Fat Chance: A soloist

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hyalite Ice: Upper Greensleeves

Sam and I needed to climb and get christmas trees so climbing Upper Greensleeves almost seemed appropriate. Neither of us had ever been up there eventhough we have been to the Genesis area a million times. We got in line with the ice fest crowd and got up there in time to claim one of the two major flows up there, the looker's right blue flow compared to the looker's left yellow flow. I lead it with a pleasant, steep, spicy surprise at the top. It goes from pretty low angle to vertical. We top-roped it a few times each and then went down to hunt for christmas trees. We found and harvested two beauties!
It started out covered in snow but we eventually sluffed most of it off. 
Our lil nook in the trees. It never stopped snowing on us.

The Trooper loves to go ice climbing!
My tree with the climb visible above in the trees.
Sam's lil guy.
Plenty of room!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hyalite Ice: Potentially unclimbed climbs on SE face of Palace Butte have now been climbed

I was just chomping at the bit to get back up to those climbs to climb em' and look for any evidence of previous ascents. Again, I was partnerless but luckily Im comfortable soloing ice at the grades I expected to encounter. So I skinned out of the busiest Grotto Falls parking lot I have ever seen (Bozeman Ice Fest) and a little over 2 hours later I got to the first climb. I swapped my splitboarding boots for my ice boots, threw my stingers on and up I went. The first flow was pretty short but I expected to find climbs above it. I slogged up an avy gully for a few hundred feet but didnt find anymore climbs. I then traversed to the west into the next gully and walked down it expecting to have to rappel over the next climbs I wanted to climb. And wouldnt you know it! I found an old piece of cordelette around a tree that I needed to rap off. Bah humbug! But I should have known better. So I rapped down a pitch and then another back to the base. That would be the ONLY piece of cord I found all day. I climbed the two pitches I just rapped over and just continued climbing ice trending uphill and West. I climbed a fun little flow without any evidence of an anchor but I walked off, whos to say the previous party didnt do the same? The main amphitheater of ice took a huge hit from the warm weather we had experienced all week so I just skinned on by to the money climb. At this point I was pretty tired but there was no way I was going down without climbing the biggest chunk of ice up there. So I put my ice boots back on and up I went. Really really glad I did. Definitely the best climb up there; it would be a classic if it was easy to get to. Now I dont have to go back! Again, I got some great turns until I got into the thick trees even though it was around 50*! I definitely caught some flack from some people on the trail for having the splitbord out with such little snow and such warm temps. To them I say "You just move along down the trail with 10 other people to the established climb that you can see from the trail that you read about in a guide book and know exactly what to expect.' I dint say that cause it sounds arrogant and mean but I thought it!
The first flow I climbed expecting to find bigger chunks above.
My cord is red, the old cord is black and tan.
The old tat was at the top of this pitch which has another pitch right below me where I took this photo from. You can see my rope to the left already set up to rap the next pitch. (next photo) 
This flow was awesome and a lot bigger than it looks. The upper section is dead vertical and got my heart pumping!
The amphitheater 5 days later; much thinner. The ice in the previous photo is the ice you can see just to the left of the tree (but not all the way left) in the middle of the photo. 
I climbed the flow on the right and walked off way left. 

Heres a glimpse of the first pitch of the two pitch route.

The money climb. When I rappeled, my 70m rope got me to the snowy ledge where I could walk off left. 
After a hard day like that I deserve and cherish fresh socks!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hyalite Ice: Potentially unclimbed ice on the SE face of Palace Butte reconnaissance mission

Its a dream of mine to find a first ascent ice flow in Hyalite canyon. So many strong, creative and adventurous climbers have passed through the area that its extremely difficult to have an original idea up there. The day prior, Kyler and I spied some ice on the SE face of Palace Butte from ~8500ft on Mummy mountain that we knew wasnt in Jojo's book and for all we knew, was unclimbed. I didnt have a partner for to climb, or to ski for that matter, so I went on a solo scouting mission with just my backcountry splitboard gear and a camera. I skinned up the looker's right or North creek bottom coming down from the saddle between Maid of the Mist and Palace Butte. The standard route to the saddle is up Maid of the Mist creek which is the the looker's left or Southern bottom. After some super fun, steep bushwhacking I started to get into ice. The first flow I encountered was at about 8500ft and they continued all the way up to about 9200ft! Climb after climb I came upon, granted most were short. The last climb I found before I got into Alex Lowes WI5 route (Reparation?) was a ~45m climb, the money climb of the day. Actually found about 1000ft of great turns down into the bottom. Cant wait to get back up there with my spiky stuff!

The longest continuous flow at ~45m
Reparation(?) WI5 you can see from main fork trail.
NxNW face of Maid of the Mist with a couple flows that are also not in the book.
My skin track through a text book avalanche start zone but the snowpack was just fine. Wouldnt recommend going up there when its bad.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hyalite Ice: Silken Slot to the Climb Above the Dribbles

Got to go to another classic Hyalite area with Kyler and do some ice climbing. I lead Silken Slot with a non-traditional variation to the top in 2 pitches and some unintentional simul-climbing. Then we hiked way up the mountain to the Climb Above the Dribbles. Kyler lead both pitches completely clean and with great style. I didnt feel like I could do the last, crux pitch with any style so I opted out. Thats a big boy pitch that hopefully someday I can lead cleanly. I didnt want to sit on the rope every couple of feet and hangdog the whole way up. I dont know if I would have, but thats where my head was. I realize now that being able to climb that on top-rope could be a once in every 5 years opportunity or so; there arent too many people that can climb it that I personally know. Oh well. Thats why Ill go back when I can lead it. We paid homage to Guy Lacelle's commemorative mountaineering axe mounted on the tree at the base of Silken Skein Falls where he was killed in an avalanche before walking out. I have been up Hyalite so many times that I feel really comfortable, almost invincible up there. Its easy to become complacent or arrogant and forget that you are still in the mountains where they call all the shots. That axe was/is a great reminder that I am very, very far from invincible.
Maid of the Mist

First step of Silken Skein Falls; the axe is mounted on the tree under the left-most icicles. 
The first pitch of Silken Slot; you climb the ice on the right and tunnel under the two chockstones.
The Slot above.
That is actually the Climb to the Left of the Climb Above the Dribbles. Ridiculous names. 
Stoke factor high
Thats what WI6 looks like! You start on the drip in the back of the cave and transition on to the ice.