Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2013 Alpine Mix

The 2013 Alpine climbing season gets off to a good start of long days on Long's.  The Smear turned out to have too much Fear and we did only the approach pitch before agreeing to bail.

A run up Alexander's Chimney made for a nice moderate day on my first climb with Erik Wellborn.

Four to Field's was an enjoyable outing with Gordon, Martin, Billy and myself.  Rope work is trickier, belay stances crowdier, but it's always nice having more climbing mates about.

Spindrift avalanche scours the lower East Face of Long's obscuring the Smear of Fear

Erik Wellborn following up snow-packed gully on Alexander's Chimney.  Erik has a storied history of world-class climbs, it was a pleasure to finally tie into a rope with him!

With snow falling and the periodic white-out of spindrift avalanches, even the approach pitch to the
Smear was challenging. 

Day 2, better weather reveals the thin partially delaminated first pitch of the Smear of Fear.   Test swings on the lower ice did not provide much confidence, easily shattering large plates in the cold conditions.  

80 feet of relatively unprotected climbing on the 80 degree terrain is reflected in Gordon's enthusiasm!

Stanley the Crazy Czech, after flying up the Smear, runs out half a rope length on Crazy Train

Assault on the East Face!

Billy getting it done in style on the steep ice crux of Field's Chimney.  His hardest ice lead to date!

Steve leading up the 3rd pitch on Field's.  The upper overhang being saved for another day

Billy and I on the hike out from Field's Chimney, photo courtesy of Martin.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bad Moon Rising

The Front Range mixed ice season has gotten off to a rather wobbly start.  Ever since my return from Canada things have seemed a bit off.  And it was not to long after my return that the first sharp blow came.  My good friend and climbing mate Chris Mason had taken a near life-ending tumble on the North Chimney of Long's Peak.  It was his first go at the casual route on the Diamond and he was more than prepared having recently lead most of the pitches up 'Birds of Fire' on Chiefshead.  As best we can tell, he took a direct hit from rockfall while simul-climbing and fell unconscious until the rope went tight.  He is on the long road to recovery, thankful that he will have another chance.

Then came the rain...setting records all along the Front Range.  Our streams and creeks became raging waterways.  Homes in Boulder, Lyons, Longmont and numerous mountain towns were destroyed or damaged by the onslaught.  Major highways accessing the Estes Park Valley were washed away.  Boulder Canyon, Eldorado Springs and Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park all shut down and inaccessible.

Blow number three...our friends in Washington D.C. refused to raise the debt ceiling and pushed non-essential government services into shut down.

Despite these setbacks, the climbing life goes on...and the adventures continue...

Billy and I made our first foray up to the Mt. Evans cirque to check out some possible mixed lines as our warm-up for the season.

The climbing was all dry tooling, with the ice smears only thin dribbles.  I don't believe this gully has a name but it yielded 3 easy pitches of M3-4 and with a short scramble put us on the 14,264' summit of Mt. Evans.  On the hike out we noted the top out of at least three interesting gullies starting from the upper Chicago Lake, which we believe are known climbs and might make a nice future outing.

Billy works his way up the broken terrain.

Me on the summit.

On the 29th of September Martin and I headed South to Pike's Peak.  The classic 'Total Abandon' routinely comes into condition this time of year.  Even with an early start we were the 2nd climbing party in line waiting for the Pike's Road gate to open at 7:30am.  Reaching the base of the climb as the 1st group started gave us a little siesta time.  Martin bravely started up the 1st pitch as the first group's second began following the 2nd pitch.  Martin took a couple direct hits from ice falling above, one pineapple sized chunck hitting him square in the pack!  A good reason to wear a pack?

I took the rope for the 2nd pitch up the chandeliered chimney.  Not too strenuous if you just 'put your back into it'.  Screws went in, but airy ice isn't very nice.  WI4

After topping the curtain I lead up to an awkward iced corner that required some delicate stemming moves to overcome.  Martin attacked this corner with the direct approach.  M5

The last pitch looked fairly straight-forward, but required more dry-tooling over solid chockstones.  M4-5.  This ended with an easy snow climb to the walk off ledges.

Martin takes his posed top-out stance.

And me, with fantastic weather
rewarding us after leaving the
shadows behind.

And yesterday, Oct. 1st, I hear that the Smear of Fear is IN and being climbed.  But the Park is now officially closed due to political bickering.  And finally one small note of wisdom, don't forget to double-bag your pooh, I'm just saying...