Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Backcountry is Ready

Spent the last few days at Lolo Pass back country skiing. The recent warm temps allowed the snow pack to settle forming a nice base to hide logs and stumps. Today was so good might just have to go back tomorrow for some more...




Friday, December 26, 2008

Skunked on Christmas Eve

Patrick and I loaded up his snowmobile and headed for St. Mary peak in the Bitterroot mountains south of town, for what we hoped would be a nice day of skiing. The parking lot is around 7,000ft and the summit around 9,000ft, so we figured on finding plenty of snow. Unfortunately there is only about two feet in the mountains now.

We spent about three hours skinning up to a nice access point into the north bowl. The terrain was steep and loaded so conditions were horrible at best...

Needless to say we followed our tracks back to the snowmobile.


The lake where the avalanche stopped

The trees up there have been tortured by the wind making for some nice pics.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mission Mountains

Sunday, the planets must have aligned or something, cause Shapiro and I had a day off together. Temps were forecaste to be moderate (12f) so we planned to climb at Mission Falls. As were drove there, bank signs read -4f so I began to question the forecast. Some down-fall prevented us from reaching the parking lot so our 2 mile approach was annoyingly extended. Temps remained cold and neither Jeff or I could keep our toes and fingers warm. Despite the misery, we kept laughing as we slogged up the horrible trail.

When we got our first glimpse of the ice, we were amazed that there wasn't more. Not that there wasn't a lot, we just thought that with the recent below zero temps there would be more. No worried though, there was plenty to climb.

Still cold, we decided to boulder around and check stuff out to warm up. After quite some time we realized it was just too cold to properly warm up. We were both "over it" and the idea of sitting at the bar next to a fire enjoying some food and drinks was much more appealing. We had slogged all the way out there so with our last bits of motivation decided to climb. Basically so we could say we did.

The plan was to climb as quick as possible so we could begin our progress towards the bar. The cold brittle ice shut me down though. Screws were tough to place and tool placements had to be thoughtfully chosen. The occasional shotgun sounding crack of the ice as it accepted my place on it, mentally slowed my progress. Eventually I made it up and quickly put Jeff on belay. After an intimate visit with the "screamy barfys" Jeff topped out and we were on our way.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ice Season Begins!

Normally I start off the season cragging, easing my way back into ice climbing mode. This season however, has been unseasonably warm except in the high country. With no local ice around, I called my buddy Justin Woods in Whitefish and plans were made to climb in Glacier National Park. Kyle Sharfe would join us so we headed up to Whitefish Thursday night to prepare for Friday's climb.

North Face of Mt. Edwards (faint red line showing the route)

Kyle starting the 1st pitch

After four hours of sleep, the alarm went off at 3 o'clock. We jumped in the car and headed for the park. Some coffee and powdered doughnuts comforted me while I thought of the huge undertaking we were about to embark on. The plan was to climb "six pack of beer" then continue to the summit of Mt. Edwards. Its about 15oo ft of ice followed by 1500 ft of snow and rock. The route has only been climbed twice before, each time taking 2 days. Considering this along with the limited day light, we would be pushing it.

Justin and Kyle climbing pitch 3

Kyle Sharfe

We reached the base around 7:30 - 8:00 after 5 miles of approaching. In order to save time, we soloed the first 400 ft then roped up. The ice was in great condition so we continued on without hesitation. The ground fell away below us and at around 12:30, we topped out on the ice climb proper.

Justin Woods

Self portrait w/Justin

At this point the weather was looking stormy and we had to decide whether to rappel the route or continue up looking for an escape off the East face. Making the summit during day light was out of the question and fear of waking up to feet of new snow made the idea of bivying unappealing. We decided rather than rappelling though the dark we would continue up and find another way off.

Justin beginning the hike out

We found a nice snow/ice ribbon to climb through the upper face and eventually came to a ledge system that granted us access to the East ridge. We guessed correct. The ledge continued around the East face allowing for an easy walk off.

The East face turned out to be a horrible wind slab, but being our only way off, we were forced to deal with it. Eventually we made it down without any problems. With the last rays of light, we packed up and began our 9 mile hike out.