Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Deep Freeze Direct

Close the doors, put out the light
You know they won't be home tonight
The snow falls hard and don't you know
The winds of Thor are blowing cold
They're wearing steel that's bright and true
They carry news that must get through

They choose the path where no-one goes
They hold no quarter,
They hold no quarter.

-No Quarter by Led Zeppelin

The Deep Freeze gully hiding it's jewel

The Lyrics of No Quarter had to be inspired by Rocky Mountain National Park alpine climbs.  Darkness, heavy snow and arctic winds are the typical winter conditions found as we search for those obscure paths where no-one goes.  My good friend Dick Stone was recently feeling the pull and enthusiastically agreed with my suggestion of Deep Freeze as a worthy objective.

With the traditional early start we marched up towards Loch Vale.  Wearing the steel that's bright and true, in this case Black Diamond Stinger's, I made my way into the cleft of Deep Freeze.  The climbing was not terribly difficult, but certainly bizarre.  Dry tooling the east wall and soft steps across a snow mushroom put me in a perfect belay position at a large chockstone.  We hauled the single pack up to the chockstone directly, as there was not room for it in the narrow chimney.

Looking into the void from the first belay as Dick dry tools to the level of the snow mushroom

Past the snow mushroom, Dick prepares for the long reach towards the chockstone
No good shot of the start of the second pitch, but Dick, pretty much off the couch, lead up the awkward chockstone and continued into the rising snow-covered rockslab gully with surprising dexterity.  With dual point crampons and leashed straight tools Dick made short work of the steep cruxes that followed.  Gear was somewhat scarce but I couldn't hear any wining from above, only a quick comment of 'looks a little thin here.'  Stopping to excavate around a snow mushroom, Dick was rewarded with the slings of a hidden anchor.  Who knew what they were attached to, but clipping them gave him the confidence to quickly move on and finish the odd runnout pitch.

Dick completing the short steep approach ice, the hidden jewel just around the corner

Leaving the lower gully behind us we simul-climbed the upper Deep Freeze gully leading to the steep approach ice.  Dick took us into the Deep Freeze ampitheater finding the brittle cold ice easier to climb than to protect.  I took the lead on the stepped out pillar.  The climbing was easier than the first time I'd been up it, but I was a bit knackered so it was still an even battle.

Dick finishing the thin steep section of the Deep Freeze pillar

Dick pulling the ropes after his rap from the pillar
We made the rap out of the gully and scrambled to the top of the Necro raps as the sun was fading away.  The wind kept blowing throughout our descent and pushed us hard from behind as we recrossed Loch Vale heading back to the trailhead.  The gusts had to have been close to 50mph as we struggled to keep from loosing our footing on the frozen lake.  The well-packed snow trails quickly brought us back down the roughly 3 mile journey to the awaiting car.  

A long day, darkness, snow, wind, cold and a place hardly no one visits.  It was another grand day in the park... and a reminder that RMNP gives No Quarter...

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