Monday, December 28, 2009

Hyak Sno Park - 12.27.09

The original plan was to ski with Ken at Cabin Creek. After Ken had to bail, we headed to Cabin Creek to find icy conditions (expected) and poor grooming (not expected.) We attempted to do a short loop, but without a track, our skis kept slipping out and there was also a couple on snowshoes who had dogs without leashes. (I almost ran into one.) So we headed back to the car after the short loop figuring the flatness of the john Wayne Trail would serve us better. And I knew it was groomed the previous day. When we arrived at the parking lot the groomer arrived, but we didn't wait to see what he would do, so we still took the ten minute drive back to Hyak.

Although the sledding hill was closed, the Sno Park was jammed with cars and city folk attempting to find a slope to slide on. We got on the trail and got going. Shortly after leaving the parking lot the crowds subside. Being an old railroad grade the trail is super flat. But this was nice to work on form and getting into a rhythm. Since it is by the lake, it was actually pretty sunny which was also nice. Of course, we had a tremendous headwind during one stretch and I was wishing I didn't have any exposed skin.

We worked our way along the lake and decided to go to the dam on the eastern end. Once there we had a snack and started back. It was a longer trip than we anticipated, and we were already a touch tired before heading back. (We estimate our round trip to be around 13 miles.) Jennifer got a head start as I wanted to check out the dam a little more. I caught her back on the trail and we continued out. We eventually saw Gabriel and a friend and we chatted a bit before continuing to the car.

Never did I have such difficulty walking after skiing. After taking the skis off I hobbled to the car trying to remember how to propel myself without skis. We packed up and were on our way.

This was a trip that was more fun than I expected. A nice sunny day and a fairly scenic ski. Skiing some of the other Sno Park locations is similar to jogging Green Lake. They are courses, and you do a lap or two. The scenery doesn't really change (mostly trees) and you don't really get anywhere. This trail was great for getting into a rhythm and seeing some scenery and getting someplace. You can actually take the trail all the way to the next Sno Park if you so desire as well.

Pics are here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Leavenworth Ice - 12.24.09

Jennifer was supposed to work Christmas and Christmas Eve, so I was trying to find something to do. I successfully wrangled Ryan and Dylan to be followers and climb an ice line up Icicle Canyon. I was hoping that the recent warm weather didn't destroy it, and we would be rewarded with an early Christmas present to ourselves.

We took a casual start and arrived in Leavenworth around 10am. The beauty of this route is the "ten minute" approach. So we readied ourselves at the car and hiked into the woods. The route was easy to find having done the trail to Condor Buttress earlier this year.

The route in Spring

Within ten minutes of hiking we were at the first step of the route. Since it was a bit steep, we opted to hike past it and start at the second step. So we roped up and started with the second step. The second step had an easier line on the right, and a steeper line on the left. Since it was the first lead of the day, and I wasn't sure how strong the ice was, we kept to the right side. After the step there was quite a bit of flat stream so I set a belay and brought Dylan up who then brought Ryan up. We unroped and hiked up the stream bed a distance before reaching the next step. While this step was a solid WI2, it was short and we decided to solo it as we knew there was more hiking above it.

While the climbing so far was generally easy, the ice conditions were quite variable. As I suspected, the wet warm trend from earlier in the week left the ice poorly bonded to the rock in some areas. A section of the first step had a hollow 3' square area surrounded by well bonded ice. This next step that also had areas of poor ice as well, but fortunately I used the pick holes from a soloist (who had passed us) so as not to damage the ice further when I went up.

Some more hiking through a now brushy and less open creek bed got us to the next step. This is where the real climbing starts. From the base of this next step, I thought I could make it to the base of the final step in one rope length. But once at the top of this step, there was a little more distance before another penultimate step. So I led to the base of that step and brought the guys up. I then led out on the penultimate step which was really fun. There was a bit of snow on the ice and there were some hollow sections, but I was able to sink screws in it fairly well including a 19 cm screw. Once at the top of that step I was in the basin below the final step and proceeded to the ice to build an anchor. Unfortunately, the ice on the final step was thin and I couldn't sink screws well. (I was out of shorties.) I had to use 21cm screws not fully sunk as the anchor.

I brought Ryan up and he belayed Dylan up. We discussed the final pitch when we were met with another soloist. We chatted with him a bit. (Turns out the other soloist was his buddy.) And then we let him go ahead of us. The left side of the final step starts with about 12' of 85° ice. It has been climbed as it had pick marks. The right side had also been climbed usually on the far right. I decided to take something right up the middle where I knew there would be pro (wrong) and it was a bit steeper than the right side.

I started up heading toward an icy rib that looked like it offered good protection. Unfortunately, it would not take a screw all the way and I had to tie it off. The stance also was not great for placing the screw and I really worked my calves while placing it. Just past the screw the ice was tympanic and did not feel comfortable, but this passed. A little further up and I found a rest stance, so I placed another screw in shallow ice. My calves were really getting worked and I decided instead of heading a bit to my left for a short step, that it was time to head straight for the top. I worked quickly and methodically through the final bit of the pitch and was on flat ground heading for a large Ponderosa. Once there, I made it my anchor and brought Dylan up. He belayed Ryan up while I sought out the descent or a possible continuation.

Most parties stop where we did and descend. This is the option we choose after the bits of ice above our location didn't seem to offer any great climbing (that we could do.) So we headed down, following the trail of footprints in the snow. Most of the descent was fine to do in bare boots, but there were a few icy sections that would have been nice to do in crampons. Not sure it would have benefited to leave them on the whole descent, but Ryan did and he didn't complain.

This was fun route, but the climbing really starts farther up and the first few steps are warm ups. Due to the short approach and the length of the non technical portions, it is an easy day trip. (Car to car for us was around six hours.) The ice wasn't in the best condition, and was hacked out in a few places as well. (Very different from how we found The Goatee.) The climbing on the upper three pitches was great, and I'd go back to do this again.

My pics are here.
(Dylan took pics, but I haven't seen them.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Erling Stordahl - 12.21.09

Jennifer and I went out again for some Nordic turns. The weather was colder and wetter than on Saturday but we persisted, hoping it would be drier once we were on the east side of the crest. It was moderately drier, and we left the car in a light rain/mist to check out the trails.

We paid extra for these level of trail grooming?

While it appears the main snowmobile road was groomed. When we got off it and headed toward Trollhaugen the grooming wasn't quite right. It appears they did attempt to groom, but only made one pass and that bare boots and four wheeled vehicles destroyed it somewhat. Past Trollhaugen the grooming effort was more obvious, but still wasn't up to par. We reached the same point in the woods we had last time and proceeded to follow other skiers tracks in the woods which returned us to the "groomed" section after a short loop.

Skiers tracks in the woods

We started heading back to the car on a different set of skiers tracks and then took a turn to make our trip a little longer. (At this point the rain was changing to a wintry mix.) After a bit of fun easy terrain, we got to a hill. I was inclined to turn around and call it quits when a family came down the hill. I asked the teenage girl what was that way and she responded with "fun hills." So I asked Jennifer is she wanted to turn around or continue, and we decided on continuing.

We climbed up a hill for a bit and then were on rolling terrain before tackling a larger hill. Then we had the task of descending the large hill which neither of us were up to. If it was groomed we would have had better success, but Jennifer took off her skis and walked it. While I sidestepped parts and tried to snowplow other sections. After a few falls we were back on more level terrain that we knew where we were. At this point is was full on snowing and we just headed back to the car.

Happier now the snow is falling.

This was a good workout with the uphills, but I'm still not ready for those types of downhills without grooming on skinny skis. Not sure why the grooming was so bad and incomplete. There was certainly enough snow for it. I'm guessing the grooming won't be right there until January.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cabin Creek - 12.19.09

Jennifer and I got out for some Nordic skiing on the groomed trails of Cabin Creek Sno Park. The weather was miserable for our endeavour because it was above freezing and raining constantly. (More of a mist, but everything was wet.) Of course, this is still better than track skiing with icy snow, so it wasn't all bad. Not to mention it seemed to keep the crowds away. Usually if you show up in that parking lot when we did (Noon?) it is way full. It was interesting to get out on the skinny skis. The more I ski on my backcountry skis, the more I find the skinny skis scary.

The Road

We did an out and back on the road to warm up and then got on the intermediate loops for the fun. I fell once on a downhill, and Jennifer fell twice. But we weren't injured and the snow was soft and wet so was good cushioning. The trails and grooming aren't quite there yet as some of the track disappears into the ditches on the side of the trail at various times. There was also a fair amount of cones and dirt in the track which I think should be covered by another snowfall or two. It was nice to get out and although it didn't feel like that much of a workout, my legs are a little sore today.

Coming down one of the short hills

Friday, December 18, 2009

Year End - Best of 2009 - Recap

Once again, I'm posting this before the end of the year. Things tend to wind down in November and December. And with the trend of not being able to find willing partners continuing, this blog entry started getting written up early. So usually Winter is not in full swing, and the warmer weather activities are no longer available in the PNW. Perhaps in a future year I'll take a November trip to Joshua Tree or Red Rocks to keep the climbing going.

Unlike last year, this year does not have a stand out. So I'll write a few things down and perhaps by the end of a bunch of paragraphs I'll have a winner. Perhaps one of the reasons there is no clear pick at this time is that I got to do a lot of amazing outings this year. Heck, the hike Jennifer and I took to the Mer de Glace in Chamonix could easily place high in the list. Or for that matter the whole trip to France. But I am going to exclude the France trip which would win for other reasons and keep the contenders to outings in the backcountry or outdoors. I'm going to start by listing some highlights and we'll see what happens.

First, I'd like to say that the Mount Adams ski trip was my favorite ski trip ever, so it would have to be in the running. I couldn't see doing the easy route without being on skis. And it was worth it. The skiing was some of the best I've ever done as well. It was nice to summit another Cascades volcano (five total for me now.) Even with the horrible AMS I had, the trip is still a contender.

While not a specific climb, my trip with Julie to Squamish was possibly the best rock climbing trip I have ever had. We climbed multiple four star routes and I had a great friend to share it with. We also climbed about 35 pitches which is probably the most I've climbed in a four day span. And while climbing routes like Diedre and Calculus Crack were fantastic, I cannot say definitively they were the top highlight of my year.

And while on the topic of climbing multiple four star routes, my trip to Peshastin with Julie is equally as memorable as the one to Squamish. While it was a backup plan, we had a great time and climbed well on multiple four star routes. Thinking about the trip makes me eager to return to Peshastin again. Although with Winter here, it will have to wait until Spring.

Another topic to talk about is all the goals I accomplished from my objectives. While the trips may not have been memorable or super enjoyable while doing them, they hold a special place with me because they were objectives I set out to do and accomplished them. They would include my ski trips of Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, my climbs of Prusik Peak and South Early Winter Spire, and my scramble of Three Fingers.

An unexpected highlight would be the climb of Mount Rainier. (Thanks Josh) A couple of the guys pressured me into doing it earlier in the year, and while I also was once again afflicted with AMS, (unlike my previous Mount Rainier summit) it was an enjoyable trip which renewed my love affair with the mountain. I think I may attempt to climb Mount Rainier by a different route each year.

And while it may be more memorable for the epic Steve and I had, Forbidden was a nice trip as well. However, as I stated last year it is difficult to remove the emotions from the climb. Although I had a great time with Steve and he is a great partner, there were many moments burned in my memory of fear and doubt that may overcome this climb's position as being the best of the year. (And I guess technically the best should also have a better success story as climbing in better style.)

Another possibility is the late comer Chair Peak. I had been itching to get another Snoqualmie Pass summit, and this fit the bill with a fun and not too hard route. It probably receives a higher placing due to its recent occurrence, but it was pretty special just the same.

Now with the main contenders on the table, it is time to make a decision. And the winner is: Me! Having so many great trips to choose from really makes me the winner. But, in all seriousness, I think the Mount Adams ski was the top trip of the year. While the AMS was a drawback, it showed me how susceptible I could be to that ailment. The rest of the trip was great!. Although we did the climb in 12 hours, we didn't have to come out by headlamp and that always leaves a positive impression that you had done things correctly. Also, it is possibly the longest ski run I have done and I skied it well. This was a major accomplishment considering I have only been skiing for two years.

Here's to hoping I have a bumper crop to choose from next year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Goatee - 12.14.09

Steve and I got out to climb some ice before the weather turned warmer. While the weather wasn't supposed to warm significantly until Wednesday, precip was in the forecast from Sunday on. And this meant possible burials of lower angle ice by snow. We headed out the Leavenworth where we knew there would be cold temps and less precipitation. (And more options for ice.)

Our original intent was to climb Hubba Hubba. But with the recent snowfall and the thin looking first 15', we decided in the car not to climb it and to head for a new route, The Goatee. This route has seen lots of traffic since its first ascent on December 5th. This is probably due to the moderate nature of the climb. The first ascentionists did the climb in three 70m pitches with the first two pitches being WI2 and the third being WI3. And there was a walk off as a bonus. (Although it appears reading the thread that many people had trouble with the walk off.)

We left the car at 10:30am for the long hike up the Snow Creek Trail. We spotted the route a little farther after we expected to, and continued a bit further to make sure we had the correct path up in the snow. After a few minutes of hiking we returned to the location where tracks left the trail assured that this was the correct way to the route. With recent snow coverage (including the few centimeters that fell the night before) the footing was difficult going up. We were watched by a few goats around the time we made it to the climb.

We actually skipped the first step. (bummer) And we started climbing just above it where I led out on a full rope length. This stretch could easily be simulclimbed all the way to the base of the WI3 pitch. Instead, we belayed it and I led it putting in three screws and then bringing Steve up. After Steve came up, he ran up the flat section for a rope length putting in one screw before setting up a belay at the bottom of the steep section. The ice conditions were great. There was a little slush on top from 2cms of snow from the previous night. The ice underneath it was plastic and took pics well.

In about an hour we were both under the crux pitch and we decided that I would lead up it part way and then set a belay so Steve could lead the rest to finish the climb. Due to our late start Steve suggested taking the easier ramp on the right side of the route. I wanted to get on something harder, and went nearly straight up where there were a few convenient ledges for me to set screws. The climbing was difficult. Not so much because of the steepness, but because of my difficulty to swing the tools and keep them parallel. At one point one of my tools pulled from the ice, but both of my feet and other tool stuck. It was a scary moment for both me and Steve. This section also dinner plated a bit and I took a few chunks of ice to the face during the lower steep section. After completing around half of the steep section I moved right and set up a belay. I had numerous difficulties with screws on this pitch because two I had tried to place earlier had ice plugs which I could not remove. And this pitch required one handed screw placements. The other reason for difficulties I am not sure, but I eventually sunk two 22cm screws for the anchor and started to bring Steve up.

Steve came up to my position after cutting his lip on ice he broke off during the pitch. We quickly re-racked gear and he was off to finish the steep section. He placed three screws during the final steeps and then after going out of sight on lower angle terrain he had me take him off belay. (It just was not possible to belay someone that quickly especially with the iced up rope.) After running the rope to the end he set a belay and brought me up.

We were one short step away from the walk off. But Steve encouraged me to go one step further thinking we could still walk off from that position. I hurried up the two steps and set a screw to belay Steve up to my position with a hip belay. (Our tube belay devices were practically useless with the iced up rope.) We assessed the situation and determined we would belay our "walk off" because we were too high and the terrain a bit sketchy with loose snow over rock.

Steve led out a bit and slung a bush and then disappeared out of sight. He put me on belay. As I was holstering my ice tools, I somehow managed to drop a screw down one step below me. I quickly rappelled off the screw anchor I had and then soloed back up the step after retrieving the dropped screw. I then tore down the anchor and started the mixed climbing over to Steve's location. This variation on the walk off really wasted time, and while Steve attempted to coil the frozen rope, I set about trying to find the true walk off. I followed foot prints in the snow until they started going too far skier's right (At least I thought.) Then we saw foot prints going back to the left and followed them. After a short distance I realized they were goat prints and not human, but opted to keep following them as I could see they would get us passed the first step.

By this time Steve was almost right behind me and we came to another step where it appears the goat stopped and realized it couldn't find a way down and turned around. We continued on the goat tracks to a gully and made our way through some bushes on the steep gully where Steve accidentally left behind a biner with three screws on it. Fortunately at this time I was behind him and picked it up. It was getting dark and these things would be more difficult to see in the coming moments. But shortly after coming out of the gully, we had rejoined the base of the route. Once we recognized our footprints from the morning, we stopped to put our gear away and put on our headlamps. This would keep us from accidentally dropping any more gear, and at this point we needed the headlamps to see our way out. It was also around this time that it started to snow harder as we made our way back down to the trail.

The hike out was uneventful. And Steve and I had discussed that neither of us had ever come out on that trail under daylight. We made quick time back to the car and were off back home.

This was a fun outing that would have went smoother had we got and earlier start. Now knowing the route, I would recommend belaying the first step (sometimes called a WI2+) and then simul climbing up to the base of the steep pitch. If we had more time, Steve and I were intrigued by the ice continuing up the gully for what looked like a few more fun steps. It was a nice and enjoyable climb and the best ice I have been on this season. I am hoping to see more like that before the end of winter. But for now, the snow is falling and it is time to get back on the skis.

Pics are here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chair Peak - Northeast Buttress - 12.12.09

Elevation Gain: 3000'
~4 miles RT (Not including our little off route excursion.)
Left car: 5:30 am
Summit: ~2:30 pm
Back at car: 6:30 pm
13 hours car to car

I was finally able to make this happen. Although truthfully I had little to do with the planning of this trip. After a few failed (as in not even leave town) attempts of Chair, Scott had contacted me about climbing it on Saturday. Steve was unavailable, and I snapped at the chance. This was actually nice because it meant that I did not have to do the planning. And Scott's plans were in line with what I wanted to do. (A climb of the North Face of Chair.)

We met at the very early time of 4:15am at the Mercer Island P&R. We arrived in the parking lot with one car ahead of us and they left behind us as they awaited their friends (from another car) to gear up. We hit the trail under headlamp at 5:30am. The snow was very firm and Peter started with crampons on. It wasn't long before Eric caved in and put some on. I lasted only a bit longer before I decided it would be easier as well. Before we left the woods, all four of us were on crampons. While it made for surer footing, and faster movement, but it was noticeable to me at least that it required more energy. Also, using crampons on relatively flat terrain hurts my feet.

In what seemed like short time we were already heading uphill from the Source Lake basin. This is where the law of diminishing returns applies to alpine starts.* Peter was the only one who had climbed the peak previously and he suggested we were too far left. I stated that going right would lead us to Snow Lake but the north face did run down to Snow Lake, so perhaps that was correct. We checked the map by headlamp occasionally and wound up at what is probably the very toe of the buttress near Snow Lake. Unfortunately, we didn't like where we were and had to backtrack to get back on course. By this time the sun was up and we could see our objective. We were also able to see that the other party of four had passed us.

We were moving slowly but Scott was still full of energy. He arrived on the ridge before us, and went to check out the north face. He came back saying it was thin and thought that the Northeast Buttress was a good plan even if it meant waiting for the other party of four ahead of us. So we geared up and ate while waiting for the other party to get under way. While we waited, we got pelted with snow from the first party above and two other parties arrived behind us.

There are at least three variations to the first pitch of the route. I'll describe them in the conditions we saw them in. The right variation which follows the summer rock route was very thin ice and snow on rock. The party that went ahead of us placed mostly pitons to protect it. It had a steeper section but most of it was lower angle. The middle variation went up some steep snow to a thin ice slab and then to a steeper step of thicker ice. The left variation which we took crossed a rock rib and then got on some ~60° ice that was good climbing. Since we were there to climb ice, that is why we chose that variation.

After some equipment issues, Peter was the first of our group to lead off. When he went out of site after crossing the rock rib about a half rope length up he was stationary for a while. (When I arrived at the belay I found it was because he was having a crampon malfunction.) He continued up and eventually I was on my way. Followed closely by Scott. The first pitch climbing was enjoyable. The ice was firm and took picks well and soon I was on the snow slope above.

I arrived at the belay and exchanged the rack for a steep snow slog to the next belay. The snow had a sun crust and below that was sugar snow. (At this point I believe we have moved from the NE buttress proper to the East Face Variation.) Footing wasn't great, but it mostly held. If you were kicking new steps into the slope (I was trying to use existing steps) you would shower everyone below you with chunks of the crust cascading down. During my lead Peter took a piece of ice from another party to the cheek and left him with a battle scar. Protection on this pitch was limited. I moved mostly from rock to rock to gain protection. This included my first placing of a piton on lead. Then I ran it out to the next belay.

A good rock anchor was already occupied by the party ahead of us so I had to look elsewhere. We were planning on taking this ice step to the left, so I moved leftward in hopes of building an anchor out of ice screws. The ice I had to use was perforated with at least a dozen existing screw holes. I placed a screw in a new location higher than all existing holes, and then I placed another lower in an existing hole. Since the ice was thin, I had to tie off both of the 16cm screws. I brought up Peter and he began the next pitch.

We were taking the easiest option on this pitch which was a hacked out section of lower angle ice just to the left of a pillar. Peter climbed it well and was soon on the snow slope above. Later, I was yelling that he was running out of rope. Then the rope tightened. I could not hear him due to all the parties around trying to communicate. Fortunately he knew to build an anchor and I did eventually hear him yell I was on belay. This possibly gave me little confidence in climbing the next ice step which I had difficulty with. Partially for not being able to find pick placements, but also because it was a bit awkward. I cleared the ice step with no issues and reached the snow slope above where Peter was belaying me off a picket and an ice ax. (Yipe!) When I got to a rock that he had placed a few cams in, I made that a belay and belayed him to a few small trees so he could belay me up the slope proper.

I continued from that position up a bit more where the slope narrowed on a bit of an arete and reached the false summit. I gave Peter a belay up and we basked in the sun. (The first time I had been in the sun since the start of the second pitch.) The wind in the summit area was strong and it was difficult to eat and organize gear. We waited quite a while before Scott and Eric joined us. Then we all ran over to the summit. Once back we geared up to get down.

Truthfully in the conditions we had we could have down climbed the first gully. But since we had two ropes, we rappelled the gully. The lower gully does not look easy to down climb and required another double rope rappel to gain the bottom. Unfortunately it was off a wonky anchor. Once done with the second rappel, we down climbed the slope below it before it opened into the basin and we were able to hike out. During our descent we shared our rope with a party of two who arrived near the summit after us. This lengthened our descent, and we were using headlamps by the end of the second rap. We then slowly worked our way back to Source Lake and out to the parking lot.

Overall this was a great trip. The weather forecast of afternoon snow never occurred, and we had mostly clear skies during the day. (There were some low clouds on the peak early on and then when we were leaving.) Conditions were good and we all had a great time. My only complaint is that I did not get to lead any of the harder pitches. We all had a fun time and were moderately delayed by other parties. Next time I'll go back and try the north face. While I do not think we did the NE buttress proper, it was an enjoyable climb and exactly what I was looking for. And I think having those options on the route make it what it is, choose your own adventure.

My pics are here.
Scott's pics are here.

*The law of diminishing returns as applied to alpine starts:
While I am a fan of the alpine start, I notice that too many times the start is too early. This can be gauged by the pre-dawn mishaps that occur and possible late day issues. If you wake too early, party members may not get enough sleep and that affects performance throughout the day and may even cause mistakes. Although my hunch is that leaving too early causes everyone to be slower and ultimately you wind up returning at the same time as if you had left later. Another issue is navigation by headlamp. If you know the route, then this is not really an issue. Or if it is a well beaten path or trail, it may not also be an issue. But we had difficulty navigating in the dark and it did cost us the ability to be first on route. So timing is everything to get the most out of your alpine start investment. Too early and you risk mistakes. Too late and you risk success.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alpental IV - 12.09.09

Adam and I went to do some ice cragging at Alpental Falls. After viewing the falls Monday with Steve, I figured they would fatten up enough for us to give them a go on Wednesday. However, we did want to get on them early as they saw full sun in the heat of the day and that seemed dangerous. We left Seattle around 7am and were in the Alpental parking lot in about an hour.

Another single digit start in the parking lot and after the ten minute hike we noticed that the sun was already hitting Alpental IV on the far left. But after assessing Alpental I-III, we decided that IV was our best bet. But since there was a fair amount of running water behind the ice, we opted to head up through the trees to set up a top rope and climb the pitch. Once above the first pitch, we saw the rest of the falls above us. They looked to be in better shape and I told Adam I'd lead the first bit as it looked we could walk off climber's left if things got a little thin or scary.

I started up trying to climb the fatter sections with less running water. With 19cm screws being my shortest, I was tying off screws because I could not bury them to the head. After the first step, I set up a two screw belay in great ice in a shady corner and brought Adam up. Being on top rope, he was able to take a sportier line than I did. We discussed the next section, and away I went on the next lead.

The next pitch started with a lower angle ramp up to a step with two pillars. The left pillar looked fatter, but had water running under it at the top of the pillar where it meets the rock. The right pillar was chandelier ice and had lots of water running on top of it. I decided on the ramp I would try the right pillar, but upon arrival at it I found it too sketchy to lead. I attempted to bypass this step of the right near a fallen tree. Unfortunately, above the step on the right was only snow and no ice, and it made a difficult transition. I made several attempts at various locations with no real success. Then I went back to the point where the ice transitioned to snow. I could make a step up with my left foot onto a ledge, but it was an awkward high step. I didn't feel comfortable making the move with my last screw below my feet a bit. So I manufactured a screw placement in an ice tube on the surface and placed a screw with a screamer attached. I wasn't sure it would hold, but it was the mental pro I needed to make the move. Once past the move I contemplated the next step.

Once on this step, it is possible to walk off climber's left. But there was another large pillar that I would like to climb. But I was short on screws and decided to head around it to the left to see if I could climb the shorter curtain on the left side of the step. After several attempts to get a screw in the ice without the threads showing I made the decision to head left up some snow to a tree belay. I brought Adam up to my location after he successfully climbed the right pillar.

Since the belay was above the last step, I started the next pitch by traversing the current step we were at rightward. Then up lower angled ice for almost a rope length. The ice was thin, and there were open sections with running water. I stayed left on fatter (relative) ice without getting too wet from the spray. At some point the running water to ice ratio was getting ridiculous, so I exited the trench left and found a tree to belay Adam up from.

After Adam climbed the pitch we hiked down toward our packs and found some nice lines in the woods. We left the rope there and went to eat lunch in the sun by our packs. (Despite the frigid temps, it was quite pleasant in the sun.) After eating we headed back into the woods to top rope a line we thought was nice.

The line was fun and offered the most solid ice of the day. Unfortunately, I got a pick stuck at one point and it really ruined my climb. Adam climbed it and then we packed it in for the day.

Overall, another nice trip in the mountains. I wish the ice was more formed up, but I'll take what I can get. It was nice to be leading on ice. Unfortunately, with my skills and the conditions I was not able to take bolder lines up the route. But ice is what you make it, and there are usually options on wider flows. So it was a good time. The interesting thing about the route we climbed in the woods was that it was narrow and did not offer too much variation.

My pics are here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Exploration Day - 12.07.09

This was a day I was looking forward to since Thursday. Jennifer was sick all week and I was trying not to catch it while saving energy for Monday. The plan was to go climb ice. Steve and I had loosely coordinated on Friday and the initial goal was the North Face of Chair Peak. Temps have been silly cold. (With overnight lows in Seattle in the 20°s.) During the weekend I saw that someone had climbed it on Saturday. We were on. Until it snowed Sunday. Well that wouldn't totally deflate our plans, but being on the dark side of a mountain with the high temp at sea level around freezing sounded really cold to us. That added to the high winds and possible cornices and bombs that would await us at the top of the face. (The wind chill for Monday at Snoqualmie Pass was predicted to be -11°F.) Rather than hike out there and turn around, we decided on Sunday evening to give the South Gully of Guye Peak a try. There was less of a hiking commitment and the route is wind protected.

Heading up on the road

We had a bit of a late start, and arrived in a parking area on the Oberstrasse. The outside temp was 7°. It took a bit of effort to remove our heavy coats and start moving. At least the sun was out although we were in the woods immediately off the road. Soon we got on a forest road and heading in the general direction of the Southwest Rib. We left the road near the end and headed generally east under the rib. Going was not too difficult with bare boots as the snow pack was firm except for the fresh 5" from the previous day. (Steve and I were regretting not going out to ski instead as conditions were nice for that activity.) We finally arrived at what we believed to be the gully and did some checking to confirm this. However, the gully did not have much snow above our location and we started rethinking our plan. We hiked up to the area where there was less snow (which was in the sun.) The going was not as easy as previous with the increased slope angle we eventually donned crampons. We debated a bit, and then made the decision that climbing snowy rock and a possible loose 3rd class gully didn't sound appealing to us on this day. So we turned around.

Our high point in the gully

The hike out was uneventful, but we got a good look at Chair Peak and could see cornices and thanked ourselves for the decision not to head there. We made a plan that once we got to the car we would go take a look for ice at Alpental Falls. We made the short drive and hiked up the Snow Lake Trail to the falls. Most of the ice was there, but looked a bit fragile, or had running water behind it. While there, we heard a few icicles falling. It was midday and they were in the heat of the sun. We assumed they would look better in the morning.

Checking out the ice

We hiked northwest from that location and found a few short solid patches of ice that we would be willing to top rope from trees. (We had only brought three screws for Guye, so we didn't have the capacity to lead.) Steve then searched a gully while I hacked at the ice a bit to see how durable it was. Due to the deep cold, it wasn't as plastic as I would prefer for ice climbing, but it was solid and climbable. We poked around a little more without actually climbing anything and then headed to the parking lot. I took my watch off below the falls (which were no longer in direct sunlight) to gauge the temperature. By the time we reached the parking lot it was a mere 15°. Steve and I got in the car and headed out.

On the way home we checked out some other areas that we knew ice up and investigated their feasibility for later in the week. We will see.

While not the grand goal I had originally planned, it was a fun outing. We now know where to find the gully on Guye Peak and may return when there is better snow cover. For now, I am excited to get out and climb ice while the temps are low and there is no precip in the forecast.