Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Backwoods Montucky Ice

Exploring the potential for new ice lines is always fun and yesterday Justin Woods and I were doing just that. Justin had recently checked out a remote climbing location deep into the middle of nowhere. His description of the area had me intrigued so rather than climbing the same old ice, I headed to Whitefish.

We left town after what is becoming our typical "Alpine start", casual wake up time followed with breakfast at the White Buffalo. Hard to beat that. Getting there was chill, an hour drive and a five minute walk. After driving back roads into nowhere land, we reached our destination. It is a small lake with a slot canyon on the far side.

The canyon was cool. Very atypical for Montana. It is very narrow, maybe 4 feet across at its tightest point and around 100' deep. Unfortunately there isn't too much ice. The canyon is covered in smears and one big flow in the back, which is what everyone climbs. What is exciting is the potential for "farming" ice. If we can redirect the water flow, then we could have a winter wonderland of ice.

Justin and I climbed the classic flow, then set up a TR on a thin smear. The smear was awesome. Incredibly delicate tool placements and huge moves in-between. I honestly don't know how I didn't fall off. Unfortunately, the rock wall around the ice is without a single crack and the ice is way too thin to place an ice screw. The only way to protect it would be with bolts. We are going to wait until next year so we can get an idea of the character of the ice. If the climb forms again in the same manner, we will bolt it, otherwise there is no reason to damage then rock.

The slot canyon

The thin smear we climbed (center)

The main ice flow

Justin topping out

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grosvenor Video

Here is a link to the video I put together and showed at the local climbing gym the other night for those of you who weren't able to make it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Back in the Park

After a long wait, schedules and weather finally matched up. Wednesday, Jeff and I, along with Justin Woods started up the oh so familiar trail to Snyder Lakes basin in hopes of climbing a big ice line. A 4:30am wake up call on top of only a few hours of sleep led to a slow start. Coffee barely seemed to effect our exhaustion and before we knew it, we were at the trial head.

Within a few minutes of charging top the trail, Justin became ill. The lack of sleep combined with over exertion started to take it toll. After a projectile moment, Justin had to throw in the towel and head back. Jeff and I shouldered the remaining gear and continued up.

The Snyder basin was terribly cold when we arrived there. It was late in the morning now and all hopes of climbing something big were gone. We shifted our attention to the Brainstem Wall which is on the south face of Mt. Brown. It's a 60m cliff band they is littered with ice and mixed lines. And oh yeah, it's in the sun! We continued up the approach slope and into the sun. The warmth was a welcomed feeling, but unfortunately it was causing ice to fall. Conditions weren't appropriate to climb so we opted for some ice bouldering.

A short while later, clouds rolled in dropping the temps and stopping the ice fall. Conditions now looked good to climb so we started racking up. Jeff had spotted a nice weakness through the rock band above us that neither him or I had ever noticed before. It was an off-width crack/corner system with the occasional piece of ice spilling out. It looked fun and was unclimbed so why not give it a go.

I had the first pitch which was more awkward than difficult. Some icy rock steps followed by an iced up corned, topped by some rock move gave way to a suitable belay. The next pitch would get us to the top and be the business of the route. Jeff delicately stemmed up above me flowing over the rock inch by inch. Eventually he left my sight and I could only listen to his progression. The character of the pitch was revealed when I followed. Corners, wide cracks, thin cracks, ice, roofs, and thin to poor gear. On second, the climbing was pure fun, but on lead must have been an exhausting mental exercise. Jeff climbed brilliantly and topped us out on another new route in the GNP.

Jeff follow the 1st pitch

Jeff beginning the business