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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hyalite Ice: Treasure Hunter

Matt, Sam and I had big plans for a Horsetail Falls redemption climb but the damn road was impassable. We had to park at the Pallisade Falls TH, about 2 miles from the Emerald Lake TH. Horsetail is already an hour + walk so we changed gears. I thought Treasure Hunter might be a good consolation but little did I/we know how little snow it takes to blanket the first two pitches of the climb! We burrowed through belly deep snow just to get to pitch 1 which, to our dismay, was pretty much totally covered. I lead the pitch by trudging through the deep snow which had insulated the ice and melted it; it was running water on rock for most of it. Pitch 2 is only WI2 so we unroped and solo'd through it. The third pitch (the money pitch) is a couple hundred yards up the mountain and I opted out of the snow slog to get to it. Nobody put up much of a fight so we walked back to the base of P1 and all of us solo'd it just for fun. We got back to my truck just in time to watch the 'Hyalite Rodeo.' The 'Hyalite Rodeo' is a term used to describe all the gumby drivers that end up in the ditch. It gets particularly bad when there is a bunch of snow. We were the second vehicle up the road with out any issue getting to Pallisade Falls but we only made it 10' up the Emerald Lake road before I got stuck and we backtracked to the parking lot and decided to walk. I knew (and was making bets with everyone) that people were going to be stuck on the way out and we should allow some time to help get them out. It was pretty funny to watch and impeccable timing on our part. We started driving out and quickly came upon the first stuck vehicle which, by the time I got out my shovel and offered assistance, became unstuck. So the car train moved a little further down the road to the next stuck vehicle which they got unstuck by the time I got the shovel out. The car train continued to move slowly out, plucking car after car out of the ditch. There must have been at least ten cars driving out/backing out by the time we got to the main fork road. We never actually had to shovel or tow! I wanted to let everyone know that there was a Subaru Outback at the TH but decided that would be pouring salt on the wound so I just kept my mouth shut.
P1 60M before we climbed it.

P1 after we wallowed up it.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Bridger Ice: The Cottonmouth

My roommate and I didnt have much going on and it was super cold so I thought it would be great timing for the Cottonmouth. The Cottonmouth is a warm spring in the Bridgers that needs really cold temps to be any fun. We got out there and it was fat at the bottom and intermittently fat at the top. Meagan was just there for the hike and I was just there to free solo it. I got most of the way up it only to find snow covered rock, no ice in one section. If I would have been on a rope, I wouldnt have thought twice about climbing through the bare section back to the ice but it just wasnt worth it. I climbed all over the bottom section until I felt the pump and we headed out.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hyalite Ice: Scouting Mission to no avail

I had a strong suspicion of where some unclimbed ice might be found up the East Fork so I went investigating. I found little 3-5' flows and lots of pretty views but thats about it.
There is no ice in that central draw but the next major one to the left is Horsetail Falls. Barely visible. I was looking for ice on my side of the valley.
I almost topped out on the East ridge of the Emerald Lake trail.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hyalite Ice: Curtains and Over Easy

Some friends of mine from Columbia Falls came to town for the ice fest and they wanted some ice mileage so I took them up to the Winter Dance area. There was 5 of us so we divided and conquered. Cady and I set up a rope over Curtains WI4 while Devin, Chris and Chris(? we picked up a straggler in the parking lot) worked on Over Easy WI3. It was snowing and windy and the spindrift that started pouring down the climbs was unprecedented for me. You couldnt even look up! You just had to blindly swing above your head and hope it was good. It was so bad that we decided to leave before Cady got a chance to climb Over Easy. Lesson learned this day: I had built a V-thread at the top of Curtains for an anchor meanwhile Chris built an equalized anchor out of screws. Both bomber. Both totally safe. But when I climbed Over Easy so I could build the V-thread and rappel, I encountered some trouble. One of the screws being used for the anchor was the 21cm screw, the screw I planned on using to build the V-thread. When I removed the screw, it was clogged with frozen ice. (Ice screws are hollow FYI) I tried to chip out the ice for a long time, getting spin-drifted on the entire time. You cant start a screw if its full of ice. You just cant. So I had to yell down to the crew to tie the next largest screw they had to the rope so that I could pull it up and use it. I guess maybe we should have seen that coming? (No pic of Over Easy)
Winter Dance is the ice on the cliff and Curtains is poking out of the top of the trees.
Before I lead it.
After I lead it (Curtains)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hyalite Ice: New Route on Unnamed Wall; Irresponsible Science Men M7

Kyler P spotted a new drip forming on the Unnamed Wall and being the prolific climber/mixed climber/route developer that he is, a new route was born. Its immediately right of the Thrill is Gone. New routes in Hyalite are rare so when there is a new one, you drop everything and make it happen. Soooo we both called in sick on Monday and spent the day in single digit temps cleaning and bolting it. We climbed Itchy and Scratchy to set up the rope which was a new climb for me. We didnt have time to climb it that day so we called in sick again on Friday and sent it. I did not lead it nor did I send the crux cleanly. With a hang-dog I was able to get through it. Kyler (obviously?) red pointed it. Its definitely the steepest 'ice' route that I have ever climbed. It starts under a roof with a steinpull where you can get your feet way up high and reach some bomber cracks to sink your tools in so you can pull over the roof. After the roof, you are 2-3 bolts up. Following the roof is semi low-angled rock with lots of mini-micro frozen moss patches which are super fun to climb on. 4 bolts later (7 total now) you get to the new ice runnel and a couple of run out stubbies get you to the top. About 35M. It was extremely fun to get to be a part of that climb just because of the history of that wall and all the people that have ever climbed it. I dont think anyone expected that there would ever be any more new routes there but voila. Kyler actually put up a new mixed line on the Unnamed Wall last year too! Another cool thing about this climb is that we found it and climbed it during Ice Fest week, just like my 3 pitch ice route Treasure Hunter in the East Fork last year. Early December seems to be a good time to think outside the box! Since we missed a couple days of work we might call it Irresponsible Science Men. Or maybe G3 or Mummy 5 just to f$%^ with people. Its more Kyler's call than mine.

Itchy and Scratchy
KP sussing out the moves through the roof. It sticks out about 5'. Thats the Thrill is Gone just to the left.

You can barely make out the upper ice of the route.
Actual first ascent pic of Kyler on lead. 

Kyler post triumph!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hyalite Ice: Flanders Field

Sam and I went looking for the Ice Miser and High Crimes and Misdemeanors but ended up following a bootpack to Flanders Field. The folks that put in the bootpack informed us of our position which really caught me off-guard. We were barely an hour from the car. I thought Flanders Field was at least two hours from the car! Well, it was in and I lead the WI4+ route to the end of my 70M rope. The guidebook says its hard but it climbed more like WI3 and it must be 80M long. The top is pretty arbitrary.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ice Scouting and Hotspringing

With some free time because of the holidays and a little cold weather, I thought it prudent to start ice hunting. I had my girlfriend's dirt bike in my truck so on my way back from Townsend, I took a little ride up in to the mountains to get a close look at one (mtn) in particular. One tiny ribbon of ice but plenty of wet streaks so Ill be keeping tabs once per month until she comes in. Saturday Megan, Manfred and I took a drive over the continental divide to scout another area I have had in mind for some time now. No ice but soooo freakin much potential that I will also be driving over there once per month to investigate. [Im being obscure on purpose because Im a selfish climber. I dont particularly like teasing my climbing readers but I try hard to find first ascents and I dont feel like I have to give them away. Once things have been climbed, then I release the beta. So they are not permanent secrets, just temporary. Dont hate.] We stopped at a rustic hotspring on the way back and surprisingly we were to be the only ones there! Sunday found Manfred and I up the E fork of Hyalite looking for ice and cleaning out some Alder bushes from Treasure Hunter. Treasure Hunter is definitely forming and this cold forecast is going to push it in to 'in' shape. Slight of Hand is getting close as well as Killer Pillar and The Big Sleep. Comet and Asteroid are in, not High Crimes and Misdemeanors though (if thats the route to the left of Comet Alley?). Didnt drive up to Grotto. Plenty of dumbass drivers in the ditch and I didnt dare go up there. Almost comical but nerve-racking at the same time; one of them could slide in to me. There is an EASY solution for even the two wheel drive cars heading up there; SLOW DOWN! I always bring all the necessary equipment to get myself un-stuck but I use it more to help other people than to help myself. I will always stop and help but dont be surprised if Im not thrilled about spending extra time in the cold getting unprepared people out of the ditch.

The Jefferson

I started a little fire because its fun.

Pitch 1. Approach like you're going to Slight of Hand but turn right at bridge instead of left. Cross creek and go uphill a short ways.
The Big Sleep on the left and Killer Pillar lower right.
Thats the most ice I have ever seen on that rock. Hopefully it grows to the ground! Looks a lot like the Moratorium.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Turkey Day Whitetail

One of the longer running traditions in my family has been the Thanksgiving morning deer hunt. I grew up in a house bordered by BLM land and now my parents have a house in Townsend so prime hunting right off the door step has always been a available. I would say that 50% of the time we are successful. Maybe more. We got our hands dirty this year. My dad/bird dog flushed this little buck right to me. I thought I was going to have to shoot him point blank off-the-hip! Luckily he was in full rut and had his nose to the ground so he walked right by and I got him at ~18yds! We needed a Whitetail for sausage because we turned my bull in to hamburger and assorted steaks. After we got my buck tagged, cleaned and loaded, we got the shotguns out and flushed a few pheasants. They proved to be a little more wiley than the whitetails. Had plenty to give thanks for this year.

Thats me. My dad took this pic from the deer.
Had to get a pic of him with the Big Belts and my trusty rifle.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

One Helluva Warm-up! Sphinx ice in November

With regards to the Sphinx, its become personal. Come late fall, ice climbing starts creeping over my brain like the ice does to the rocks. The Lowe Route aka the Lowe Direct is one of the longest alpine ice routes in the lower 48 and was originally climbed bottom to top on-sight by one of my idols, Alex Lowe and his wife Jen. Its climbs at WI3 or WI5 depending on the presence or absence of the WI5 pitch. Its about 7 pitches long and almost 2k' of gain, pretty much all of it in your crampons. The TH is about 2 hours from Bozeman, the hike to the saddle is 4-5 miles (I have seen both)/ a 2 hour hike, then about an hour to the base of the climb. Not a half-day outing. I think this was my 6th attempt at this route with my 4th partner. I met Matt at the Hideaway a little over a week ago (had never climbed with him obviously) and asked him if he wanted to give it a go with me and he jumped right on board. Most of my more regular partners know what kind of effort that climb requires so they're never too eager to hike all the way out there. People that dont exactly know what they are getting themselves in to usually make for great optimistic, enthusiastic partners and Matt was just that. I kinda needed someone that hadnt been out there before. We got a fairly late start which wasnt all bad; we didnt have to be the first people walking up that Grizzly-laden trail in the dark! We were roped up and climbing by noon, I think. I got to lead every pitch as Matt is somewhat new to ice climbing, atleast leading anyway. The first pitch turned out to be the hardest of the day. In my experience, the first pitch of the day is always the hardest. So here we are at the first pitch of the day as well as the first pitch of the season! The ice was good, but very thin and I had to girth hitch one screw and use all of my stubbies. Two low angle ice/snow shelf pitches brought us up to the 4th pitch and the last real ice pitch of the Lowe Direct. This 4th pitch was another WI3 but with plenty of ice. We solo'd the 5th pitch past the WI5 pitch so we could get on the last major ice lead of the day before it was dark. We were moving pretty slowly. Ill catch some flack for not climbing the hardest pitch of the route but we were dam near under headlamps already with a couple more pitches to go. Even though I didnt climb it, I know I can. Its super short and the WI5 part is less than 10' long, probably close to 6' (in the conditions we had = fat). I can imagine its a spicy nacho earlier in the season. I belayed Matt up the last real ice pitch in total darkness. After that, we simul-climbed under headlamps all the way up to the plateau, it was 7pm. The weather on the North face had been perfect all day but higher up it was very windy and snow was blowing around in blizzard-like fury. The sluff pouring down the upper part of the climb kept things exciting (hoods up chins down!). I somehow missed the flat part of the summit plateau and walked right up to the summit ridge where I noticed the summit cairn. "Well now I know where we are." We had planned on no summit, hasta la vista baby, but the low visibility fooled me. I had summited the mountain 2 or 3 times prior so I knew the way down. We got back to the car by 10 and gleefully chatted about the climb over a PBR. Thanks Matt!
We started just lookers left of the low trees and finished in the left most ice of the upper 3 major flows.
P1 right flow.
Looking down at Matt on one of the middle pitches (2 or 3).
P4 or the last real ice pitch of the Lowe Direct.
Looking up at the upper Lowe Route.
The WI5 pitch and the WI3 above it. Shortly after this pic was headlamp territory.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A weekend camping and climbing on Boulder River

Cady, Manfred, Winifred (hedgehog) and I spent the weekend climbing at Natural Bridge and Falls State Park and exploring the endless Boulder River. Sam met up with us for some climbing in the Foyer and the three of us climbed every south facing route there (6 routes). I had an injury to my right hand that rendered me useless for rope gunning and didnt think I was even going to get to climb but Sam put the rope up for us on each one and I was able to tough it out. Fun easy day of climbing. Afterwards we bounced up the road with the Gypsy Wagon all the way to Hells Canyon to camp. Empty campground. Sunday we unloaded Cadys motorcycle and rode tandem up to the Box Canyon Ranger station with intentions of going up to Independence, an old ghost town, but the road got too rough for two people on a little dirt bike. Found some amazing roadside boulders/bouldering potential though.

The Foyer is that slot below the chockstone boulder upper right.
These are big, bigger than they look.

For instance....

Betcha theres some ice up there.
That super moon or whatever its called was pretty sweet to see.