So the quest for ice begins. (Earlier this year due to La Nina.) Adam and I were thinking of getting out earlier in the week to check conditions at Alpental. Early reports were not positive, so we delayed. I was hoping to head to Leavenworth this weekend, but that plan fell through, and so a quest for ice at Alpental was planned. I was going with Rod, while Adam, Zach, Steen and Kristy were also coming separately from us.
Rod and I were one of the first cars in the lot and we geared up in what felt like weather that was too warm. We commented that we might be "taking the tools for a hike" as Washington State ice climbers will often say. We donned snowshoes, and hiked into Alpental Falls where we hiked up to the falls.
Alpental I looked in from the base. There was a bit of a boot track to it, so perhaps it was climbed in previous days. I didn't like the drum like nature of the right side as it seemed not to be bonded to the rock underneath. Right in front of me was a snow gully like feature which I told Rod I'd give a try at. So we geared up and I started climbing. When I got to the first step, I didn't feel comfortable with the thin ice, and down climbed off the route collecting my screw on the way. We decided to head up valley to see if anything else was in to climb.
Around this time our friends showed up and went past us before we regained the trail. Zach and Adam headed back to the car to get their snowshoes for the off trail travel. We joined the women near the base of Alpental IV. Rod and I inspected the possibility of climbing Alpental IV while the other group set up some top ropes in the woods. We eventually joined them as neither of us wanted to lead any of the falls. Way too much running water.
So we all got to top rope three short lines in the woods. A fairly thick line on the right, a mixed (mostly rock) line in the middle, and a mixed (mostly ice/snow) line on the left. After we all tired out and started to get cold we took the top ropes down.
This outing went about how I would have expected it to go. I was happy to use my (new to me) tools and go leashless for the first time. Surprisingly, I did not over grip. But I was very concerned about dropping them as I have yet to build my umbilical. The freedom of going leashless was wonderful, and I was surprised that it did not take much for me. Perhaps because I haven't climbed ice in a while, I forgot about relying on the leashes. I look forward to more leashless climbing.
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