Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bozeman Ice

4:30am Tuesday morning, my alarm clock started blaring. Jeff and I had made plan to day-trip Hyalite canyon for ice climbing. Hyalite is near Bozeman, 3 hours away, so a long drive plus a full day of climbing, meant leaving Missoula around 5:30am. Lots of coffee got us ready for the day. Ben told us of a climb we should try, so we headed straight for it. When we reached the base, another party was already there. They were extremely nice, so we just coordinated our climbs.

Me climbing Airborne Ranger

There were two climbs to try; Cleopatra's Needle (WI4+/5) and Airborne Ranger (WI6). All of us were there to climb both, but the other party started on Cleo's first. This meant straight to the business for us. A short pitch lead us to a cave to belay in. Then we looked up at the pillar. It was steep and chandeliery. We were both very intimidated, but there was a weakness up it. We took turns himming and hawwing about it and before I new it, I was climbing. A look became an attempt.

Jeff steeping out for a look

Temps were about 10 degrees so the ice was brittle. The beginning was delicate, but the ice got better the higher I got. Eventually the tool placements got good as did the screws. Unfortunately at this point I was getting very pumped. Smart climbing allowed me to reach the top without blowing it. Jeff came up, took the lead, and got us to the top.

We rapped off, but still had some daylight. With the remaining time, we climbed Cleo's. That maxed out our daylight. We got down and packed up just as darkness reached us. An enjoyable dark walk got us back to the car and the beginning of our journey home.

Jeff taking a look at Airborne Ranger

Lolo Pass Skiing

Monday morning I awoke to 8" of new snow on the driveway. Jeff, Ben and I had planned to climb, but conditions looked too good not to ski instead. After a few quick calls are plans were changed. We headed to Lolo Pass for a convenient backcountry option. The temps were cold and the snow was soft. We spent the day touring around working our legs and getting fresh powder turns.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More Ice Cragging

Tuesday, Jeff and I headed back to the Mission Mountains for another day of cragging. With recent warm temps, we figured the road would be in better shape, but weren't sure what condition the ice was in. Monday had rained hard, but we thought there was enough ice to withstand it. The road and trail turned out to be in great shape, but the sight of the ice was disappointing. Much of what was there the previous Friday had either melted away or fell down.

A closer look revealed that everything that was still standing was running with water. Our motivation faded away even further. We were there to climb though, and had hiked the 2 miles in. We could deal with getting wet and cold for at least one climb.

Shapiro checking out the line

I harnessed some screws and started up. A dry line appeared on the far left side of the ice, but it was difficult to assess from the ground. As I climbed, everything looked dry. At least where I was. On either side of me was running water. I worked my way up the ice getting wet only for a moment. The route was fun, but seemed to be the only dry line in the area. We rapped off and called it quits.

Cooler temps have reached Missoula now, so hopefully the ice will start to fill in again.

The route (just left of center)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mission Falls

Friday Justin Woods, Jeff Shapiro, and myself put in the effort and broke trail to Mission Falls. The adventure began on the road where deep snow conditions had shut down all previous attempts to reach the trailhead. With a very skilled yet reckless looking approach, Justin rallied his rig without a doubt in his mind we would make it to the trailhead. After charging the road like 16 year old punks driving in the snow for the first time, we reached the trailhead.

Jeff and I racking up

We packed up and hit the trail. Trail breaking was slow in the knee to thigh deep snow, but we pushed on to the climbs. First sight of the ice revealed everything was formed. With plans on getting milage in, we headed for the Whispering Ice area.

Jeff on Whispering Center

Jeff lead up Whispering Center which was in great steep conditions. After that, we moved over to Whispering Left which had a nice curtain touching down. Another lap on steep ice and we were done. The day was coming to an end and we still had to hike out.

Myself starting up Whispering Left

Headlamps showed the way and we enjoyed the dark peaceful walk out. The return trip down the road was mellow and shortly after, we were on our way for a burger and a beer.

Starting the curtain on Whispering Left

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finley Creek Ice

Sunday, Jesse Selwyn and I headed for Finely Creek to see what kind of ice we could get on. Temps had been great for ice formation and we were expecting good conditions. The road conditions however were less than desirable. As I approached the final stretch to the trail head, I could see people had already been skiing and hiking from this point. I put the rig in 4 low and started up. The snow was cold and weightless, causing slick conditions. I barely made the first hill and the struggle only continued. We eventually made the lower parking calling it good.

Jesse and I began the short approach and when the ice came into sight, we were thrilled. Everything was formed. We could climb anything we felt like. We hit all the mixed climbing and then ended with a nice classic. Everything went well. Although we did get a rope stuck once and had to re-climb the pitch to free it. (some old pics © peter anderson)

Mule Palace


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Back to Glacier

The weather had finally appeared to be stable long enough for Jeff and I to take a look in Glacier National Park for ice. Previous trip this year had been shut down by cold temps and poor avalanche conditions. This time thing seemed to look ok, not perfect, but doable.

We got to the Park, packed up and headed in. To our amazement, we saw what appeared to be very fresh grizzly bear tracks on the trail. We were a little alarmed but didn't put to much thought into it. As we continued up, the tracks were there the entire way.

We finally got a little concerned when we knew we would be spending the next two days in the same basin as the bear. The likelihood of having an encounter is so slim we decided not to worry.

Snow continued to fall all night and we could occasionally hear the snow pack settling out. We knew avy conditions would be bad, but figured we might as well ski tour around and do some testing to check snow stability.

We skinned half way up to Mt. Edwards and dug a pit. The snow pack held some old rain crust layers and when Jeff applied weight to the block, it failed immediately. We got back on our skies and got the heck out of there.

With snow conditions too unsafe to reach the ice or ski, we just toured around the basin, broke camp and headed home. Despite poor conditions, we still had a great time. It is always better to go take a look then to make decisions from the couch.