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.
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 ù 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