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.

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