Sunday, January 17, 2010


Last week Justin Woods and I headed to Glacier trying to climb a rarely traveled ice route. We were looking at a line on Mount Cannon, which like all route on the mountain, is heavily threatened by avalanches. Conditions seemed ok and since we wouldn't be stepping foot on the avy slopes, we figure what's the chance of a natural release.

We skied the 8 mile approach and made a small mistake getting to the climb. After 5 and a half hours, we were at the base of the route. It was late in the day, but we still had time to climb. We soloed the first step, then roped up. Justin lead the first pitch which was poorly protected, but incredibly fun. The route was so aesthetic that we decided to keep climbing, planning to leave ourselves with just enough light to get down. The next pitch was equally fun, but left us at a position that we couldn't access trees to rappel from. This meant one more pitch.

As I was following, the sun really began to shine and I started to enjoy the "warmth" (12F) and beautiful scenery. I was looking up at rolling ice contrasted against a dark blue sky, when a wave a white began pouring over the cliff band. Momentary panic grabbed me, but I found a safe position as the snow rushed by me. Just sluff, nothing big. I started climbing again. For a moment, I though I heard a roar, weird. Then I felt the force of it. I was on the right side of a bottle neck as the snow began pounding me. I could hear it roaring, and feel the surges of force. I thought if it got any stronger, I would be ripped from the ice. Then it stopped.

I screamed to Justin, but nothing. I quickly scrambled the remainder of the pitch and found him at the base of the next ice flow. He yelled at me to escape out right and then followed once I had a belay. Turned out he was belaying from the ice and could do nothing when the small slide came except curl up and take it.

That was enough for us. We were over it! Three rappels later and we were on the ground. The sun was setting and no more sluffs were sliding off the mountain. Only 8 miles left between us and a cold beer.

Justin back at the base

Sunset over McDonald Lake

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