The temps have been cold and ice is forming once again. Unfortunately it hasn't been cold for long enough in Missoula to form up the local ice to climbable conditions. So Jeff and I decided we'd start the season off full steam ahead. Glacier National Park!
Climbing in Glacier is always a major adventure no matter how you break it up. Fortunately over the years, we have become more savvy and learned how to make the experience more pleasurable. That's not to say we don't get our asses kicked still. It just doesn't sting as bad.
The road was still open to Avalanche lake so we thought we'd take advantage of the conditions and climb there. The approach to Avalanche starts out with an easy two miles on a nice trail then becomes one of the most awful bush wackes one could imagine. Unfortunately or fortunately, how ever you would like to look at it, we seem to forget about the latter portion of the approach.
6:00am the alarm went off. We woke in the bed of Jeff's pick-up to wind howling outside. A Starbucks frapaccino, some pop tarts, and we were off. When we reached the lake, we were meet with horizontal snow. The wind was blowing about 30 and gusting to 45. The day appeared to be over as quickly as it began, but we decided we ought to hike to the other side of the lake before making any decisions. One foot in front of the other and before I knew it we were rounding the crag ice and heading up the slopes to ice. Now our favorite part...the bush whack! After crawling over bushes, that's right, over not through, we reached the final drainage/terrain trap below the ice. We ditched our trekking poles for ice tools and started climbing. The occasional whomp of the snow pack kept us on our toes. Once at the base of the ice, we could begin having fun.
Looking up at the climb (The Pig)
The climbing was great. Nice ice conditions that accepted our picks and screw with minimal plating. The route took two rope-stretcher pitches to put us on top. It turned out to be a very fun warm-up route. The day wasn't over yet though. We still needed to get the hell out of the there.
Looking down from the ice
The goal is always to try and make it to the lake by dark. Of course it never happens. A storm had settled in the cirque and we new it would be getting dark early. Some rappels, down climbing, and nerve racking snow travel put us back at our trekking poles. A few hundred meters down the slope and we lost our precious light. Head lamps on, we continued to bush whack and stumble down the rocky slopes. Trying not to break our legs in the horrible terrain, we made quick progress. After many falls and a few branches thwacked us across the faces, we found ourselves at the lake and on easy ground. Ipods were turned on and the death march began. Twelve hours after leaving the car, we caught sight of it again.
We had a wonderful first day out. The climb wasn't anything difficult, but there is never a give-me in the GNP. No matter how savvy and efficient we can be, that place always kicks our ass!