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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hyalite Ice: Unnamed Wall; The Fat One and the Elevator Shaft

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Fat One and the Elevator Shaft with Sam and Manfred the other day. As usual, they were fun and easy. We heard an avalanche let loose somewhere in the main fork that sounded like a semi-truck rolling off a cliff and then down through a hill of trees. Total mayhem. Never did figure out where it happened.
Sam cleaning (removing gear that the leader placed) the Elevator Shaft WI3+

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Backcountry skiing: Goose Creek (Thursday) and Lick Creek (Sunday)

Is it hard to go to work or just so easy to go skiing? I answered my own question twice last week; its hard to go to work WHEN the skiing is so good! (Avy) Conditions on Ellis were so bad I decided to steer as clear of avy terrain as possible and what better venue than Goose Creek? Knock on wood but I dont think Goose Creek Meadows can avalanche. There are some teeny little tiny little headwalls that, given the worst possible conditions you have ever heard of, could slide about 10 ft but nothing that could bury you. The weather relented for a bit and I was awarded some great views of the Absarokas. A couple of powder laps with the place to myself later, I was ready for work.

Cowen is the tallest pyramid in the middle.
Still wanting to play in the snow, Manfred and I spun a lap on Lick Creek meadow. I have never taken the little guy BC skiing before. I figured the skin track would be set and he would have a nice path to walk on. He loved all 6 miles (round) of it! I stopped a couple of times thinking he would want to take a break but he just kept on going right past me! He pretty much ran the entire way back, being happy and friendly with the other trail users, wagging his tail all the way to the truck. If you have ever met my lazy Basset Hound you would be as surprised as I am. This trip I was awarded with great views of the northern Gallatins. 
My archaic splitboard set-up: This is like generation one of the splitboard scene. Destined for the museum. 
There was some crazy fog stuck in the valley from an inversion. What looks like snow is actually this creamy smooth fog.  I dont know if my pic captured it. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mt.Ellis Pow Pow

After the snowless winterless winter we had last year, a snowfall event like we had overnight must be taken advantage of. Therefore Nick and I got an early start and skinned up Mt.Ellis. We broke trail the whole way. It wasnt just through the new snow but the entire snowpack! The horrible horrible structure of the snowpack made us sink essentially to the ground with each step. It was 12+" of new snow but our skin track was a tunnel twice that thick. We dug a pit at 8k' and got some of the worst results I have ever experienced; CT8 Q2 (= GIANT RED FLAG for those of you who dont know what that means). There was no need for a propagation test because I could just kick the snow with my ski and produce soft slab avys and/or 30+' spider cracks. Needless to say we didnt ski the classic burn but we still got some great snowy turns. My camera lived long enough for one photo.
Nick trailblazing somewhere near the top. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Potential New Ice route in Hyalite

I got the idea to walk up this hillside while climbing Slight of Hand. I thought I could see some ice poking through the snow that might be worth a visit. So Wednesday morning I cruised up to the East Fork and went for a little walk by myself. I turned right where you normally go left for Slight of Hand and quickly came upon a pitch of easy WI2 ~30m tall and solo'd it. I bushwhacked around in the trees and alders at the top looking for old anchors but I didnt find any. Above pitch 1 is a gully and the obvious source of water for the ice. A short walk up the gully, still wearing my crampons, I encountered another pitch of WI2 ~40m long! This one is less desirable and full of alders and branches; I might go clean it out but Im not sure about the ethics of cleaning shrubbery for route exposure in Hyalite. I believe its ok but I want to make sure. I removed my spikes at the top of P2 and continued up the gully incredibly anxious about what I might find. And my goodness did I find something! Completely hidden in a little slot canyon at ~8k ft I found the money pitch. It has 3 variations to the top; WI5, WI4 and WI3 all 60m long! Pure ice! I couldnt believe it! If this is a first ascent, its a spectacular find! Since nobody knew where I was and I didnt want to solo the WI5 variation (the biggest best line up there) I headed back to the truck all smiles. I could have solod the easier stuff but just incase it is/was an FA, I wanted to do it in the best style. I returned the next day with Sam and lead the WI5 curtain without issue and made it to work in time for an 11:30am meeting. I returned for a third day in a row, this time with Devin and his buddy from C.Falls John, to try and push the route higher. I spied some ice even higher up that I thought could be a fourth pitch so Devin, John and I climbed the WI3 variation to the top and walked up the hill a ways. We found ice but nothing worthy. We lapped the WI5 curtain before I had to take off. They went to Slight of Hand and I went to town to get ready to DJ the speed comp at the ice fest that night. DJing a world cup event was a pretty special thing for my young DJ career!
Why getting up early is always worth it. 
Sunrise over Hyalite Reservoir.
My DJ booth for the 2015 Bozeman Ice Fest Speed Climbing Competition.

Pitch one; a couple of laps would clear that snow and make for a great easy top rope climb. 
A bad pic of the bottom half of P2
Another bad pic, this time of the upper half of P2
Getting close to P3.

The right side of P3, WI4 on the left and WI3 on the right.
Theres the WI5 curtain.

That rainbow colored ice on top was the hint that got me to walk all the way up here. So glad I did!

Its not a slot canyon, more like a hallway. Sam and I on the return from the send of the WI5 section.
Photos from Devin: Me leading the right side of P3.

We set up a TR over the spicy section.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hyalite Ice: Slight of Hand

Sam and I got out to Hyalite again because its just so good! We did a repeat of Slight of Hand. This time conditions were a little spicier than last year but I put on my tough guy face and got us to the top. I had to lay down and catch my breath for a minute before I could be vocally (verbally?) joyous. Again, we had intentions of continuing up the gully to climb Cave Falls but alas, we turned around. We'll get the link-up one of these years.
Looking down at the reservoir where I hear the ice fishing was awesome.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hyalite Ice: Solstice 1 and 2

Im a big fan of going to new places. I would like to say I thrive on the unknown. Its fun and liberating knowing you are prepared to handle whatever you encounter. Solstice is a two pitch route relatively high on the mountain that requires rock and ice pro, endurance and objective hazard awareness; kind of the next level for me. I have been scouting the climb all season or actually, its been catching my eye all season. Sam and I got up early and with less than 2 hours of walking/trail blazing we found it. Its an obscure climb for Hyalite. I had never met anyone that climbed it until we were loitering on the Twin Falls trail deciding where to turn off when Bud M. showed up and pointed us in the right direction. The first pitch has ice throughout but its too thin to place screws so I brought some cams along. 3 run-out cams later I got to ice thick enough to accept a screw and up to the top I went. The climb isnt graded that hard, WI4, but it was one of the best pitches I have ever lead, rock or ice. We wallowed through heinously deep snow for maybe 100 yards to reach the second little pitch. It was worth all the effort. A nice easy yellow WI3 flow was a great cap to the day. I made Sam jump-in-with-both-feet and learn-quick-or-die on this one!

The cave behind the curtain of the upper pitch.
Did I mention we were way up on Elephant mountain?

Luckily for Sam, gaper gaps are common with ice helmets!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hyalite Ice: Dribbles with Colombia Falls Crew

An old friend and new friend were chasing ice up Hyalite so I thought I would lend a hand. I met Devin and Chris at the Grotto Falls TH and off to the Dribbles we went. It was fun walking down the trail and pointing out dozens of climbs to excited and eager eyes. They wanted something big and it doesnt get any bigger in Hyalite than the Dribbles. There was already one slow moving party on the route so I just tackled some of the tougher lines climber's left of them. They, a group of two, were already done cleaning the first pitch when we started and we topped out ahead of them. Devin and Chris hadnt climbed in a group of 3 before and I was telling them that 3 can be just as efficient as two if you know the system. And we proved it. They had to run back to C.Falls so we didt get to climb anything else that day but I spent a couple of hours with a bow saw cutting downfall off the trail from the Godzilla wind storm we had earlier. Probably the nicest weather/day I have had in Hyalite so far this year.

Pitch 1. I held the sharp end for the whole climb.
The drippy belay at top P1, base P2.
The bottleneck on P2.

I dont know if this was a pose or not; you dont need a full arm swing to penetrate ice. 
P3 the money pitch.
A pano of (L to R) Divide Peak, Maid, Palace, Elephant (Blackmore might be in there too)