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.

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