Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Hundred Below in Boulder Creek

I've wanted to go climb up in Boulder creek for years. Finally the stars aligned and Tonya, Jon, Bill and I all had time off and wanted to go. I am still the super lame one without a snow machine, but I'm working on it.

Jon and Bill headed in on Thursday to set up the arctic oven and get a little climbing in. Tonya and I left Anchorage at 7am on Friday, parked at Puritin creek by 9ish and were headed for snow machine troubles by 9:30. It started off with Tonya taking one for the team and riding her huge hog of a snow machine and towing the sled, instead of her nice light easy to drive one...Maybe the big machine could sense the hate because straight out of the parking lot it started making a clicking/thwack noise.

Within ten minutes her snow machine ski was stuck up in an alder branch (no pics, bummer!). Once we got it unstuck we had to drive it through sugar snow up and around and couldn't get it to turn. We are definitely not big strong men. I had to stand on the ski while I pushed the gas while Tonya used all her meager body weight to try and get the machine lean into the turn. We got out. Then Tonya's beast started to alarm, it was a check oil light, we stopped again tried to be mechanical. We could see nothing obvious and when she restarted the alarm was gone...1 minute later it goes off again. Closer inspection reveals an oil leak...awesome. We ditched the big machine where it was, and took off determined to find the real trail. A loop through the woods and a lost sled later we were no closer to our goal. After two sled runways and turnaround we finally got it right, found the trail and were on our way into Boulder creek.

Camp with the Big Bubbler in the background.


Bill and Jon were super motivated to leave the tent and go climb, although after the snow machine ride I thought the tent was a great idea. But I, against my better judgment and careful climbing criteria headed out to go climb. I think it was seriously -20 and it was blowing up to 20mph. My REI thermometer was bottomed out. I had on 3 puff coats, and 4 bottom layers I looked like a fat sumo wrestler.

There was a small step of ice before the climb that was super mellow, when Bill placed screws for the anchor he unleashed a water spout...guess who was climbing below getting soaked....Tonya. When she arrived at the base of the Big Bubbler she was crusted in ice and trying to haul up frozen cable looking ropes. Just not her day.


Bill Leading the left and Jon leading the right, looks warm but it was all an illusion!

First Pitch


At the top of the first pitch the shade now dominated the route and it felt like someone mean was kicking piles of snow on us. Cold temps combined with spindrift, yuck. If Bill had even slightly mentioned a retreat I would have been immediately on board, and I was more than a little jealous of Tonya and Jon's decision to bail. It was a little over the top ridiculous up there with spindrift in seriously -20 temps. Instead I said, "I finally warmed up, do you want to lead block pitches?" We finished the route and rappelled in the dark.

The next morning no one was fired up to go climb. We snow machined out to two pillars that looked amazing. It was just too cold. Water was running off the top of the route and falling as frozen drops 10 feet down. It was impressive. With no regrets we headed back to trail head.

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