Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ahhh Hot Dog!

"Hot Dog"

Well I just got into town today 
To find my girl who's gone away 
She took the Greyhound at the General Store 
I searched myself I searched the town 
When I finally did sit down 
I find myself no wiser than before

Led Zeppelin

The object of our obsession, rising into the spindrift mists of the North Face of Notchtop,
ahhhh, it's just Hot Doggies! 
A well-compacted snow trail quickly brought Billy and me to the snow slopes below the North Face of Notchtop.  We had come to give ourselves a go on the Park classic Hot Doggies.  I had followed the 70+ foot pillar a year earlier on a frigid February day with Gordon.

Feb 2012
Nov 2013

Hot Doggies has been given as high a difficulty rating as Grade 6 ice by Jack Roberts.  The Pillar was first climbed by Alex Lowe, Erick Winkleman and Jeff Lowe

It's the difficulty of that "unbelievable stuff" that drops his colleagues' jaws. At the tender age of 22 he cramponed his way up Hot Doggies, a radical new line of rock and ice in Rocky Mountain National Park รน a feat that inspired climber Jeff Lowe (another example of the weird plenitude of mountaineering Lowes; also no relation to Alex) to introduce a new "M" (for mixed) difficulty rating- Bruce Barcot (Outside Mag)

Comparing my own experiences and the ice conditions of 2012 and 2013, I'd call it a solid Grade 5 pillar.  Feb 2012 yielded it's own unique conditions; bulletproof, brittle, steep with full winter weather adding to the grade.  Nov 2013 conditions were much different in many ways.  Melting in the early morning sun, the route was crumbly down low (single points slicing through the ice), but soft in the middle.  The route was just as steep, but one had to contend with funky, hollow, and fragile ice.  Climbing below a free hanging 'dagger' and the constant stream of water falling from above added it's challenges.

Our first view of route sitting below and left of Notchtop
We chose to approach the route via the Grade 4+ ice sheet below and right of Hot Doggies seen on the top picture.

Billy leading on the Steeps
Stemming to cure the pump
Billy finished the pitch in excellent style and brought me up to his tree belay. I led up some easy ice and across a bench to below Hot Doggies.  No excuses now!

Here goes nothin' (photo by B. Clapp)
A little over-hanging here (photo by B. Clapp)
Short rest just ahead
As I started up the next section I noticed I was running a bit low on ice screws with only a stubby and a 19cm remaining.  A little more runout than I would prefer, I stopped halfway up the free hanger, put in a V-thread, and backcleaned the screw behind me.
The free hanger on the left, though fragile, allowed a nice stem (photo by B. Clapp)
Ringing the water out of my saturated gloves I could see my hands were blue from the leather die.  I quickly brought Billy up to the belay.

Billy is drenched like a wet rat as he tops out
Walking out after another great day
Billy had his hardest lead to date, as did I.  I look forward to returning to the area soon for further ice adventures

Another project?
And yet more??

Climbing into Darkness

The rains of Fall 2013 continue to deliver rare works of frozen masterpieces.  The G-man and I enjoyed a reprieve from our usual long slog to Long's for a pleasant hike to the south side of Loch Vale and the Thatchtop-Powell buttress.
Necrophilia vanishing before our eyes

With a full compliment of gear I started up the sublimating face.  This was my consolation for backing away from the Smear of Fear.  Here was a climb I could deal with; thin ice, but decent rock protection and only short runouts.

Geared out (photo by G. Laurens)
Driving through Necro (photo by G. Laurens)
Eyeing the Necromancer (photo by G. Laurens)

Gordon following the sexual deviant
Approaching the thin line of the Necromancer
Only smears remain of the Necromancer 'Pillar'

Pulling hard through the crux
Gordon continued past the belay and on to the start of the buttress bench.  With some easy scrambling we made our way to the Deep Freeze approach ice in the next gully to the left.

Gordon leading the approach ice with anticipation building to what we will find
Deep Freeze as big as it gets!  No free hangers here.
On the Pillar (photo G. Laurens)
Moving through the middle (photo G. Laurens)

Steep ice approaching the crux

Precision swings on thin ice

Sunset at the top of Deep Freeze

A clawed hand appears from the Darkness!

Thankfully it's attached to Gordon.
A rap down Deep Freeze pillar, the approach ice, some scrambling in the dark, and a long rap down Necrophilia brought us back to the base and the usual apres climb gear sort.  A great day in the mountains...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Field's Chimney to Broadway

On Saturday November 2nd, Gordon and I got a really early start headed for the Long's Cirque and Field's Chimney.  We were passed by a couple guys headed of course to Field's Chimney as well.  With no reason to rush now that we were 2nd in line, we took an easy pace that put me at the base 3:45 after leaving the Long's Trail Head.

Donning extra clothing for the exposed hike out of the trees

After waiting until the 1st party was well above the 1st pitch, Gordon started up the chimney.  The leading party kept the ice fall to a minimum.  I quickly followed the pitch and started leading up the 2nd.

The guys above were nice enough to catch this shot of the WI4 section

Gordon following P2
The lead party rapped from just above the ice of P3 and we continued on.

Gordon setting up for the crux move
The final stem and hook before pulling over
I following the tricky roof and continued up the next 300' of varied terrain.  Quite an interesting pitch with easy to funky M5 rock, ice pockets and frozen turf.  We simuled the last 100'.

Gordon arrives on Broadway
Looking over to the Window and the new route Window Pain
Gordon traversing to the Broadway Raps
Gordon starts the 1st of 3 raps to the upper snow field
A long hike out in the dark made for a full day of adventure!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Sword of Damocles

Erik suggested we take a look at an ice climb called the Sword of Damocles.  I vaguely remember hearing about the climb before, but knew nothing about it.  Online research didn't give me much information.  Jack Robert's guidebook mentions the climb and has a sketch, but thats about it.

I was also curious about the name.  Did find some good information there.  Here is a 'modern-pop culture' explanation of the Sword.  Damocles was basically a brown-noser to his boss Dionysius II of Syracuse.  This Dionysius character was not a pleasant ruler and didn't take lightly to smoke being blown up his arse.  Damocles was laying it on thick one afternoon when Dionysius called his bluff and suggested he play Eddie Murphy in a little 'Trading Places' skit.  Of course Damocles was all over this idea not realising he was being 'royally punked'.  As Damocles relaxes on the throne soaking in the riches around him, he happens to look up.  Dionysius mischeviously had a huge sword hung over the throne tied with only a single strand of hair from a horses tail.  As we'd expect, Damocles didn't approve of this arrangement and begged for the King to let him return to his pion status.  The moral being that with treasure and power, danger and stress are ever present.  Or even more concise, one cannot have contentment where fear constantly resides.  Not sure how this applies to ice climbing, but I suppose you can come up with some comparison.

Damocles not impressed with the King's symbolism

As an ice climb it was never desparate, but certainly challenging.  I assume a dagger may form up on the route, but wasn't there this day.
Tedious gear placements, including driving 3 pins with a Nomic hammer.  The 'Cold-Thistle' hammer-mod broke

Erik commits to the crux move over the funky M6ish wall

Erik following 2nd pitch

Erik tops the short plastic wall to the anchors
Still waiting on Erik's shots of me leading the central WI5- flow