Friday, December 26, 2008

The Hillside Pillars

Ry, Lynn, Hugh, and I all woke up late and made a hungover assault on the Hillside Pillars. Well first we had to push Hugh's car which had gotten stuck in his driveway, but after that detour we still made it to Hatcher Pass by 1pm, plenty of time!

The snow was knee deep but so fluffy and pleasant at the same time. The climbs looked similar to the way they had a month ago. The left one was thinner at the bottom, but had gotten thick at the top, the rock chimneys is still bare of ice.

Me Leading the Left Pillar
Photo by: Lynn Peterson

Hugh is a die hard skier, and I don't think I have ever been out climbing with him before. It was fun to have him along, plus as a newbie he is a great ego boost,"that's the hardest route i've ever done" : ) Super good day out with friends!

Me, Lynn, and Hugh

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Skiing in Ram Valley

It was cold in the shade as we skinned up into Ram Valley. Its rare to see other people back there, even though it is a beautiful place. Once the sun came out the temperature rose about 20 degrees.

The Sun Finally Cresting the Mountains

Hugh can break trail faster than I can follow him, it always feels like a race trying to keep up, but it sure is nice to have a skin track! We skinned up the ridge across from Raina Peak, that connects to Accumulus mountain. We made one run down into Ram valley, via a super fun couloir.

Ryan and Hugh on the Ridge

Hugh in the Sun

Then we skinned back up to the ridge again and sat in the sun and watched the shadows reclaim the valley. With the sun gone, we dropped down toward Eagle River valley via a chute that we have hiked up in the summer. It went stellar for the first 1,500 feet and then it was combat skiing through alders and around trees.

Me Heading Down to Eagle River Valley

An amazing day out in the mountains.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Road to Nowhere

I have to admit that after doing the Mitre I was feeling a little bit worked. The combination of that and waking to freezing temperatures, led to Ry and I taking a wood chopping, card playing, leisure type cabin day.

But the next day when we woke up refreshed, it had also warmed up by 20 degrees. We headed up the valley in a similar fashion to the day before.

Ryan Skiing up the Valley

The Road to Nowhere is a beautiful climb pasted to a steep rocky wall. Its on the right hand side of the picture below.

Road to Nowhere

Its amazing how much different a climb can look once your standing directly underneath it. John had pretty accurately described the first pitch as looking like a 70 foot grade two, and it really did. But the perspective quickly changed once the climbing started, it ended up being about 250 feet and grade 4ish...I simul climbed with Ry as he topped out and was looking for an was a really long pitch.

Ryan Leading the First Pitch

The second pitch looked even shorter and less worthy than the first, but I was again surprised by the fun grade 3ish conditions and a pitch that was about 180 feet long.

Ryan Coming up the Second Pitch

The third pitch looked super grey and thin,and the threesome that was on it the day before reportedly used up a lot of the available ice. We were happy with our two pitches, and beautful view of the Eklutna Glacier, the Mitre Mite, and big mountains, so we made a v-thread and made it back to the cabin before dark.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Mitre Mite

Its too cold to go outside today, officially below zero, so I'm trying to catch up on some blogging. My computer has been out of action for over a week now,and its driving me crazy. I can use Ry's computer, but it doesn't have picasa, so its more effort to resize pics and upload them....if its not easy, it just doesn't get done sometimes. But I got to climb the Mitre and it was pretty exciting.

The ski up to the Mitre takes about an hour from the hut. Or thats about how long it took Ry and I, he didn't have skins for his approach skis, and the scales weren't quite adequate for the task...there was a bit of sliding and cursing going on. Meanwhile I was enjoying the beautiful scenery...

Beautiful Sunlit Bold Peak

Me with Road to Nowhere on the Right
Photo by Ryan Campbell

The Mitre Might is truly a mighty big climb. The scale of it took us by surprise every rope stretching pitch. We roshed at the bottom, and I won the first pitch. It was wonderful, the dry blue ice just ate my picks, and 230 feet flew by. Radios were really nice on this climb, because we kept running out of rope.

The second pitch is usually grade two ice, but this year is was a two foot snow wallow. Lucky for me this was Ry's pitch. He tried to finangle my third pitch, but I told him it wasn't my fault his pitch had snow on it. The third pitch was amazing. I took a wet, sustained line, it was never dead vertical, but just a touch less for a while. Another 220 foot pitch of Pure fun.

The Mitre Might

Ry got to lead the fourth pitch which was similar to the second pitch, but a little less deep, and shorter. I tried to say that technically the fifth pitch should be mine, but this time he was having none of it. He had wallowed enough and was ready to lead a pitch.

Ry Approaching the Fifth Pitch

We started the fifth pitch at about 3:30, and at this time of year, it gave us an hour to potentially finish the route before dark....but then Ry hit a patch of hard ice and suddenly a ice tool was hurtling through the air toward me, it landed right at my feet and I stepped on it to prevent further travel. Going leash-less carries some risks, and this was the first time Ry had dropped his tool. Luckily he had just placed a screw and was able to lower off and retrieve his tool. Now it was getting a little dark, but Ry finished the pitch in fine style by headlamp, and I joined him in the dark. Five V-threads later we were back at the base, and skied back to the hut.

Road to Nowhere

The whole time we were on the Mitre, Tanya, Jon and Ryan were on Road to Nowhere, it was awesome to watch them climb. In the picture above Tonya is leading the first pitch, she is on the lower right, and John and Ryan are standing together below her.

I have wanted to climb the Mitre might for many years. Ryan and I even endured hauling climbing gear over the Eklutna traverse in hopes of doing the Mitre beforehand. Two years ago I skied into the hut, breaking trail through two feet of snow, it took hours to get out there. And then it continued to snow, avalanches roared down steep faces and gullies not just once in a while, but every few minutes. Not really the sounds or sights an ice climber wants to observe around the routes. I had a meltdown, so disheartening was the disappointment, after all the anticipation and effort, all I could do was cry. It was a bit embarrassing, but I guess we all need moments in our lives that we will never live down.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Heading out to Serenity Falls Hut

Snow machines are the way to travel out to the Serenity Falls Hut. We loaded so much gear, food, and necessities into the sled that John towed behind the machine. What takes 3-4 hours to ski or walk took a half hour on the machine.

John and I and a Pile of Gear
Photo by Ryan Campbell

Ryan Being Towed in the Sled

It was pretty cold out there the first couple of nights. Luckily John took the chainsaw so we had plenty of wood.

Ryan Chopping Wood

The hut out there is awesome. It isn't very efficient for holding heat, but the tall windows sure are pretty to look out of.

Inside the Serenity Falls Hut

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Echo Bend Eagle River

It was freezing out as Lynn and I left the Eagle River Nature Center. The trees in the valley were coated with a thick layer of frost. Quickly the hair sticking out from our hats became as frosted as the trees.

Lynn's Frostiness

We were going to try and do three ring circus, but it looked more like a snow wallow than an ice climb. Spruce Pitch is always a good back up plan, so we made a trench thru waist deep snow there instead.

Lynn Leading Spruce Pitch

To the left of Spruce Pitch is another climb that rarely touches down, and it was thin and steep.

Lynn Climbing Steep Ice

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cornbiscuit Turnagain Pass

Turnagain Pass is awesome right now!

Skinning Up

Pretty Powder Filled Mountains

Ryan Skinning Up

The days are short right now, we left at the crack of noon, and barely managed 2 runs before dark.

Little Foo

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eklutna Canyon

I finished my last final at 11, by 11:30 I had decided to go climbing, and by 12 I was out the door and on my way to Eklutna Canyon. It had been over a month since I had been to the Canyon and I was surprised by all the changes.

Bobby Jo and Rapheal Walking Along the Elklutna River


Lucky for me, Rapheal and Bobbi Jo rallied fast and we met at the Canyon around 1. Ripple was in big and beautiful, so we climbed it. Since daylight was fading fast we decided to toprope the steeper side of Ripple and laps on it.

Rapheal, Bobbi Jo and Me


Once its dark thats pretty much it, no more need to rush, we got out our headlamps and ran laps in the dark.

Rapheal Climbing

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Caribou Creek

Every time I go to Caribou I'm reminded how long of a day it really is. I can safely say that with the drive it takes 8 hours just to get to and from the climbs. At this time of the year that means you start in the dark, end in the dark, and hopefully were on route for the short amount of daylight available. But its totally worth it, so I do it every year.

Something happened to the way the water flows above Cantellya this year, and it spilled over to a whole new rock face. Its huge, steep and sick, I just wasn't feeling sassy enough to tackle it, so I led the lefter line on the standard first pitch. Even the easy looking line felt wicked steep.
Sometimes its hard for me to suck it up and take the hard proud line, I always wish I did when I'm back on the ground, but usually content to be a scaredy cat while I'm climbing. Sometimes its hard to find the balance between pushing my boundaries, scaring myself shitless, or it being too easy. Maybe I'm just not into the groove yet, but steep ice still feels really hard right now. Its frustrating to have climbed for so many seasons, and feel nervous about a pitch I've led before. Although I think every time I've led this particular pitch its always been challenging. Caribou creek is always a humbling adventure for me, whether I epic or not.

Cantellya on Steroids


Me Approaching the Base of Cantellya
Photo By: Doug Jewell

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One thing I am grateful for is fantastic climbing partners. Lynn, Doug and I were so on top of it Saturday morning, we left Anchorage by 7:30am. Plus cheerful company on freezing belay ledges really makes the day go better.

Lynn, Me, and Doug


Doug and Lynn roshed for the second pitch and Doug won. Although the ice wasn't particularly steep, it was horribly cantankerous, and Doug had to battle with microwave size ice bulges breaking off, and somewhere in there snapped a pick. I wanted to stand on my pedestal and preach about black diamonds amazingly fragile B rated pick, but he broke a T rated one, so I can't now. He borrowed my tools and went back up, ran out of screws, debated a v thread, but in the end picked up a screw from lower down, and finished the pitch. Its good to see others push themselves and succeed.

Doug Leading the Second Pitch


Lynn and I got to the top right about as it was getting dark, and since my headlamp was in my pack far far away, I was grateful.

The Car

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gotta Love the Highway

If you can get past the traffic running 10 feet away from the belay, climbing on the highway can be really good. Roadside Attraction and Candy Land are my two favorite places to climb off the road, and I was delighted to find both of them climbable.

Lynn Rappelling Down Roadside Attraction


Outside of being a super fun climb, the cool thing about Roadside Attraction is you can literally walk across the road, be in the car and driving within five minutes. So thats what we did.

Lynn Leading the First Pitch of Candy Land.


The first pitch of Candy land is pretty lean towards the top, so we climbed way left and then walked up on the bench to the second pitch. Again the top outs were pretty spicy with lots of rock and water. But still super fun climbing, and well worth a day out. We got four stellar pitches in with minimal postholing on a beautiful day.

Candy Land


Obligatory Top Out Shot

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Turnagain Pass

Back in Anchorage it was still dumping snow, so it only seemed right to go skiing. As we drove down the Seward Highway to Girdwood the clouds were down to the ground and the wind was whipping the snow across the road. I questioned whether we should even go outside, much less skiing, but optimism in the car prevailed and we continued down the road.

Lynn and Doug in Front of Tin Can


We figured that we would just ski the trees, but the farther we went up the better the visibility got, and then the whole mountain was in a big beautiful suckerhole.

Lynn Skinning up


Doug and Berkely


Other Skiers Skinning

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I made one run down from the top, and I think it was easily the best run of the season. It was knee to thigh deep, butter cream smooth, and the light was perfect. I twisted my ankle last week pretty good on Avalon falls, and its just not ready for skiing yet, so I took the one run and ran!