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

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