Monday, December 7, 2009

More Winter Dance Pictures

Here are some more pics courtesy of Sam Magro. This series shows me climbing pitch 2.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter Dance Again

When Jeff and I had to bail off Winter Dance last week, I was left with the burning desire to try again. We had a similar experience on a route in Canada years ago, but without the opportunity to try again, we tortured ourselves with what-if's. I didn't want to go through that again, so knowing I had more time off coming up, I looked for anyone available to climb.

Ben Brunsvold called me and had left a message that he would be in Bozeman on his way to Jackson. He was looking for someone to climb with. Perfect! Ben has less experience than me, but great energy and is always into an adventure. He was up for it.

Winter Dance

It was Wednesday, 6:15am, and we just started hiking by headlamp. Kris Erickson had told me that it takes him 12 hours car to car, so I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time. After 1.75 hours of hiking up the ridge, we reached the base. Ben and I quickly organized the gear and then he started up the first pitch. Ben climbed quickly and it wasn't long before I started following.

As I neared Ben, "Fuck!" echoed through the canyon. I looked over to the ridge and saw three Bozeman guys. We had beat them to it. None of us ever imagined that two different parties would be gunning for this route on the same day. And a Wednesday of all days. Too bad I thought and headed up the next pitch.

Pitch 3 (WI6+/7-)

This attempt was better than last time. I made it through the crux, but still had to hang twice. I uncomfortable hung from the belay bolts and watched Ben follow the pitch. While Ben climbed I kept looking at the next pitch trying to figure out how I was going to approach it.

I had never attempted a WI6+/7- pitch before. I knew it would be difficult, but figured I would place as much gear as possible to make it as safe as I could make it. As it turned out, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. A series of difficult/awkward sections followed by rests. Eventually I reached the belay and set an anchor.

Starting pitch 4

Ben and I eyed the last pitch best we could. I was tired and offered him the lead, but he wisely declined. A short WI5+ pitch was all that stood between us and success. Ben put me on belay and drove my picks into the ice. The climbing started out trickier than I expected and I was also feeling more tired than expected. "Too late now, I'm committed." I turned the corner and saw a slight grove in the ice I could work my way up. Desperately trying to recover energy, the foot and tool placements got better. Eventually I rounded the top and recognized that I had just realized my goal, I had just climbed Winter Dance.

Nearing the top

With a few well earned hoots and hollers, Ben and I began rappelling. We reached the car with daylight to burn in just under 11 hours and found two cold beers waiting for us.
Climbing pictures courtesy of John Meyer

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winter Dance

Finally, after so many years, we went for it. I have had the image of this ice climb in my head since I began ice climbing nine years ago. Big, mysterious, and difficult, it towers above the entire drainage; Winter Dance.

First climbed in '97 by Alex Lowe and Jim Earl, it has since seen only a number of ascents. In 2007 White Magro freed the bolt ladder allowing the climb to go entirely free; M8, WI 6+.

Winter Dance

Tuesday night, Jeff and I were preparing for a trip to Glacier National Park. A last minute Internet check changed our minds. A post on a climbing forum said that Winter Dance was in great shape and the weather was looking good for Wednesday. Bozeman it was!

Staring pitch 1

We left Missoula at 3:00am hoping to start hiking by day break. It was a long shot to try day tripping this climb from Missoula, but worth a shot. It was 10:00am when we reached the base after 2.5 hours of hiking. We racked the gear and Jeff headed up the first pitch. It turned out to be much trickier than either of us had expected. By the time I reached Jeff it was noon. With 3 hard pitches left an only about 4.5 hours of day light remaining, we knew we had been too slow.

Jeff reaching the 1st belay

Myself mid-way, pitch 2

There was no need to bail immediately with the time we had, so we decided to at least climb the next pitch. This was the bolt ladder White had freed at M8. The bolts are close and safe so its worth trying to free. I hung in the opening roof to figure out the move, but eventually worked my way through it. The climbing eases a bit but I was forced to rest again at the next bulge. From there it was to the anchor. From this position, I was directly next to the ice and could take a good look at it. It appeared very tricky but manageable. Unfortunately this was our high point.

Myself reaching the 2nd anchors

The sun began to bake the ice making Jeff and I uneasy about our position. We rapped off with hopes of returning soon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blodget Day

Last Sunday Jeff and I thought it could be fun to climb Shoshone in Blodget canyon. It's been cold out, but the ice hasn't fully formed yet. Rather than sit around on our butts, we figure we ought to go rock climbing.

The temps actually turned out to be quite pleasant. A slight breeze forced us to keep jackets on, but for the most part, we were warm.

It was nice to be climbing with Jeff again. We hadn't climbed together in a long time and even though Shoshone isn't a challenge, it was still a fun adventure in winter conditions.

We finished the climb with plenty of day light remaining and slowly made our way back to the trail. Snow covered rock made travel kind of tricky, but we managed to reach the car just at sunset.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pre-season Work

Temps are becoming cold here and despite my resistance to winter, I'm starting to get skiing and ice climbing on the brain.

Wednesday, some friends planned on going to the Boulder Point fire lookout cabin to make sure it was winter ready. We needed to get some fire wood together and make sure it was sealed up good. When we got there, it was obvious that the forest service had done some work to the structure and it was looking great. The West Fork Ski Club had also done a great job throughout the summer keeping the place clean. Also to our surprise, somebody had already done the hard work of getting fire wood together. There really wasn't much for us to do but enjoy the lookout and drink some beer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Playing the Tourist Role

Last weekend Sage and I had planned on going to Chico Hot Springs, but as the time neared, we hadn't gotten off the waiting list....plan B. We didn't really have a plan B so we threw some clothing in the car and left town. Our only plan...hike to Holland Lake falls. The hike was nice, but then what? We thought it could be fun to bar hop our way to Whitefish and hike around Glacier Sunday. Only the finest poe-dunk bars were on our agenda. Big Fork and Whitefish provided mild entertainment, but it was the "Blue Moon" in Columbia Falls that took the number one spot. A real Montana cultural experience. I can't spoil the experience for anyone, so just check it out.

The next day in Glacier was nice. Not too many people and as always beautiful scenery despite less than perfect weather.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to Cali

Once again I was back in California visiting Brad. After my trip in January, I told myself it would have to become an annual trip. I think it will become much more than that. With the abundance of recreational opportunities combined with amazing weather, I can't help but want to spend much more time down there.

As expected the fun began the moment I stepped off the train. Brad dropped me off with some friends at a local brewery while he sailed and we enjoyed some drinks before heading to their camp site on the beach for dinner. We dined and drank well while enjoying the sunset and surf crashing onto the beach.

Most of the week we followed a routine of getting up early, checking the surf report, then headed to what we thought the best break would be. The days of surfing were usually broken by a beach run or lounging around while we waited for the tide to head out so we could get back in the water.

Sunset from Pine Mtn

Camp at Pine
Over the weekend Brad took me up to Pine Mtn behind Ventura for a night of camping and two days of bouldering. We nearly had the entire place to ourselves and even thought Pine is far from the coast, we were high enough to get a view of the ocean.

Our camp site

Enjoying a beer
With my remaining time there, Brad and I spent more time surfing and climbing. And or coarse sampling great wine. With the more time I spend down there, the more I can see myself living there. Maybe just a bunch of trips will satisfy that craving...

Bouldering at Pine

Bouldering behind Santa Barbara

Looking down on Santa Barbara

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tarkio with the Camera

I mounted the camera same as my last flight, but this time I wanted to try using a flash. I set the camera to spot meter and adjusted it to meter off the back ground. I wanted to catch the scenery with out over exposing. The problem with this is that it would most likely silhouette me. To compensate for that, I thought using a "fill flash" would work nicely. That way I could capture the background as well as the foreground. I think it worked. The images turned out better than the one that I previously posted. Oh yeah, evening lighting helps too.

Aperture priority, ISO 400, F18, Flash -3.0, Auto WB, Spot meter

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Different Perspective

Friday I skipped out of work early and caught the guys for an afternoon flight. I mounted my camera off the corner of the control frame. Unfortunately the lens I have isn't wide enough and the mount isn't quite long enough. Time to get my wide angle lens repaired as well as build some new mounts.

Passing over the "M"

Over the LZ

The base leg of my approach

On final

Shapiro on final