Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hunting Squid on the Winter Solstice

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;
 whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;
 whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses,
 and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet;
 and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me,
 that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street,
 and methodically knocking people's hats off—then,
 I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
 This is my substitute for pistol and ball.
 With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword;
 I quietly take to the ship.

-Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The sun bleached ice of the rarely formed Squid

The words of Captain Ahab are often the thoughts I find myself having, but instead of the ship, I am drawn quietly to the ice.  On this day of the Winter Solstice 2013 Gordon and I were fortunate enough to find the Squid and it's neighbor Tentacles in marginally climbable condition.

I had often thought about climbing the Squid but always felt a certain trepidation for the infamous steep ice route.  My fears and apprehension were quickly put to rest as I started up the line.  Although the ice was rotting on the surface, good screws could be found in the solid runnels behind.  And though the route was straight on vertical, good stems and occaisional secure hooks could be found.

Starting up the fore-shortened route

Good stemming to be had

Decent stances to place protection

Topping out the main flow of the Squid
Gordon followed the line and finished the short upper pillar to the tree anchor.  We rapped the route and discussed which line to climb next; Calamari or Tentacles.  Calamari was a bit overripe, rotted and looking precarious.  I think we missed it by a week.  However, Tentacles, though also a little rotted, looked doable.

Gordon setting up his camera for the time-lapse

Gordon starts up the mixed route Tentacles

Insecure thin ice required careful protection
Onto the hollow pillars
The right side proved to be better ice, but steep

The final steep pillar, a pulled tool and a nice save
The route looked to continue up a dry crack to a ledge system that likely reached the upper cliff band, but time was running short.  Gordon put in an anchor and lowered off, giving me a toprope as I seconded and cleaned the pitch.  I would have liked to have tried the final dry tooling, but didn't want to be scratching around in the dark, so I put in a couple nuts and rapped to the base.  

For the shortest day of the year, and in RMNP, it was rather easy-going.  Cold temps at 10F, but little wind and a short approach of under 2 hours made for a nice outing.  We each got a lead on routes that were new to us and the hike back was quick.  My appetite temporarily satiated, I could now return to the world of men...

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