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Friday, January 22, 2016

Ice Climbing Road Trip (6of6): Back to ERB for Hellroaring Falls

With high 40-50* temps in the forecast, there was no need to stay in Cody. We knew there was ice in ERB plus its on the way home so it was a pretty easy decision to leave. We got there Thursday with enough time to run up to Hellroaring Falls and make sure it was in. We farted around on some beaver ponds and got to watch an incredible sunset over MTs biggest mountains. Friday morning was T-shirt weather but we went climbing anyway. Hellroaring Falls was drastically different than all the other climbs we had done on this trip; it had signs of being climbed! Ice gets easier to climb the more traffic it sees. I think its WI3. I lead it easily but slowly knowing it was the last ice of the trip. We spent 9 days on the road and we climbed ice every day but one. We had to make one stop to refill a propane tank (that I thought was full) and our PBR stash but other than that, we were extremely self-sufficient. No problems with the truck. No problems with the camper. No problems with Johnny Law. No injuries. No bickering. A VERY successful trip for the books. Thanks Devin! (99% of the photos courtesy of Devin)

I posted up in that chair and didnt move for a long, long time. 
Hellroaring Falls.

Pond Hockey!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ice Climbing Road Trip (5of6): Cody; Broken Hearts

The forecast decided to freeze for us Wednesday night so we got up early hoping to take advantage of the cold(er) temps and climb the classic of classics, a super-classic if you will, Broken Hearts. The name of the climb was a little too fitting. Devin lead P1 and neither of us had any desire to climb the slush pile that was P2. So Devin, how many road sodas we got left?.......
Me below P1 with P2 showing above. Grey ice = wet ice FYI
Broken Hearts is nooked in that right to left as-you-go-up-the-gully gully. P5 can be seen on the upper cliff band. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ice Climbing Road Trip (4of6): Cody; Main Vein (and The Ghosts and Bozo's Revenge)

After the California Ice effort, a break day was needed so we slept in Sunday and took our sweet time getting to Cody (which is surprisingly close to ERB). Driving in, I could tell it had been warm. This was my 3rd trip to the South Fork and it looked a lot like last year: bleak. However, last year I learned where there might be ice when conditions are warm or thin. Monday morning Devin and I set out for the Ghosts way way up Deer Creek. I knew where the climbs were from last year (though we did not climb them) and we got there without too much trouble. Finding the Ghosts is one thing, descending down to them is another. They are located in a slot canyon with very few access points. I went down a class 5 gully a few hundred feet only to get cliffed-out and had to slog back up to the trail. It was Devin's turn to try the next most probable descent gully and he encountered the same thing, an impasse. By the time he had cat scratched back up to the trail we were 3 hours into the hike and neither of us had taken off our packs yet. We agreed that the next gully had to be the right one but there was no way we were going to go all the way back down there AGAIN and climb back up to the trail AGAIN so we tucked our tails and hiked back to the trailhead. The road sodas went down particularly quick this day. We drove around the rest of the afternoon with binoculars and decided that the Main Vein looked like it was completely in and made plans to climb it the next day (Tuesday). We got lucky, it was in. We solo'd all the approach ice and did the climb in two pitches; I got the first and Devin got the money/crux second pitch (WI3). Since the forecast was not cooperating for ice climbing (but great camping weather for being in the middle of the mountains in winter!) we poured through the guidebooks looking for the shady and early-season climbs figuring they would be the least affected by the warm temps. Bozo's Revenge (WI3) claimed to be the ice box climb of the South Fork so naturally, we ended up there Wednesday morning. It was my turn to lead and I sent it fairly quickly. It was no ice box though; more like a cold shower. Devin, the photographer, left his camera in the truck for this one so we dont have any pics.
The approach to the Ghosts starts with atleast 1000' of switchbacks.
According to the guidebooks, you are supposed to steer very clear of these guys because they "will run until they die" and Im sure that some do however these guys hardly batted an eye.  
Looking down a portion of the South Fork of the Shoshone River.

Thats Deer Creek down to my left.
Slogger WI4
The Ghosts
[Place Caption Here]
Still there on the return trip.

Gearing up for the Main Vein
Me on P1
P2. Note the giant white rock dike to the left of the climb; its namesake.
Me on rappel.
Me following.

This is technically the 1st pitch but it rarely forms. We rapped over it instead of attempting to downclimb the luge-run that we hiked up.
The middle of winter in the mountains for ya.
Time to sharpen the spikes!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ice Climbing Road Trip (3of6): California Ice

The scouting and climbing that we did on Thursday showed us that conditions were a little warm for E.Rosebud. The forecast had Friday night getting nice and cold which we deemed worth the wait. So after a 'break' day at Rock Creek Falls and an alpine start on Saturday, we found ourselves approaching California Ice. We put our crampons on after only 1hr15min and were at the base of the headwall pitches in only 2hr15 min.s! The guide books suggest allowing atleast 4 hours for the approach! I would like to think we were in pretty good shape, and we were, but the lack of snow and the scouting (I think) sped things up a ton. We dumped the packs out and started racking-up when Devin noticed that he left his half of the draws and screws at camp! But, to Devin's credit, that didnt stop us. We just committed to running it out (large gaps between protection). He had the first and longest lead and did an awesome job of getting us way up the headwall, definitely running it out into high-consequence-fall terrain. We noticed the flow was wet from the base but it wasnt until I was cleaning (removing the screws) the first pitch that I realized how saturated the ice really was. I wish I would have taken a picture of Devin at the belay: my ropes lost their 'dry' properties long ago and he had two 70m ropes of solid ice draped over his anchor chain! From this belay on the far climber's right side of the flow, we were able to escape the shower from above. At this point, I was feeling anxious because the ice was so wet and we were down half a rack but the commitment to get to this point kept me going. Plus Devin was counting on me. I climbed out from the belay, maybe 12-15ft and looked up at the last headwall pitch for a long time. The water was pouring off the top and falling straight down on me and I could barely open my eyes when looking up. I have climbed harder and more technical pitches but my gut was screaming "no" so I down climbed back to the belay and called it off. I dont get shut down very often and I second guessed myself for a while but making it home in one piece is rule number 1. I offered the pitch to Devin but he wanted nothing to do with it. And I dont blame him after the heady lead he just did. We reviewed numerous photos of the climb back at camp and came to the conclusion that the ice was in thin shape. All the pics we found were of folks climbing the far climber's left side up a system of steps. We could see the rock that would create the benches had there been ice formed. Oh well. That climb will always be there and I cant wait to go back for round 2.
The first 6 pics are actually from Thursday scout day.
ERB Lake
Notice the ominous weather? It was like that the entire time we were there and it never got nasty.
California Ice from the trail. 

The Gypsy Wagon under the 3 Sisters after we moved it down from the TH.
The Eastern most edge of Froze to Death Plateau in the sunshine.
Clear ice with running water underneath is fun to watch.

Looking down some of the approach gully.
Getting closer.

Me cleaning the last screw before the belay.
"Contemplation Ledge" I called it. I stood there in the shower for a long time trying to work up the courage to just climb through it but alas, no go.
Time to go down.
1000s of feet of gully approach ice.
Couloir anyone? Definitely going back in the spring to check this guy out! Thats got to be over 2k'!

A selfie from the headwall belay.