Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Caribou Creek: A Whole New Approach

I hadn't been to the end of Caribou creek all winter and really wanted to check out the land slide that took out the climb Double Take. Billmier had the grand idea to ice skate back there. It was probably not ideal conditions, but it was definitely more entertaining than walking on ice.

Billmier Skating Past the Sublimation Wall


I was pretty proud of me and Bill when we got to the base of Robopick, saw it melting in the sun, wanting to climb it, but not even going through the the huge rock fall debate like we have the last 2 years, its already been confirmed, rocks fall off that wall down the route when its warm and sunny.

So we went back to the new wall of ice to the lookers right of the old Double Take. There were so many lines to choose from, all in the sun, all looked fun. I won the rosh, and got to lead a stellar soft, perfectly angled pitch of ice.

Billmier Rappelling the New Route Above the Landslide


Bill won the next rosh for the first pitch of Rhythm and Blues, I was bummed I really wanted that one. The pitch above is usually brittle and cantankerous, and this day was no exception. The difference in ice quality from the sunny to the shady side is stark, I much prefer soft and easy.

Rhythm and Blues (I think?)


The mild gradient back down Caribou Creek made for some fast ice skating. The climbing pack definitely upset the balance, and I went down twice at a complete standstill.

There was still a lot of light left in the day when we were walking past Kids Corner, so it was hard to pass up. My pack felt heavy and my mojo to low for a solo on the first pitch so Bill belayed me, but from there we soloed side by side and were at the top in well under an hour.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Turnagain Arm Trail

Sometimes its nice to just wear running shoes and go play in the woods.

Turnagain Arm


George Anne and Me


George Anne's New Rack

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kids Corner: Leisure of Spring Sunshine

My buddy Rapheal knows how to take his time with things, and is adamant about me not rushing up when we go ice climbing together. This ascent of Kid's Corner gets first place for the most leisurely ascent, we broke it into 5 pitches and sat in patches of sunshine the whole way up, we took climbing to a whole new level of slow and enjoyed every step along the way.




Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sheep Creek Climbing

Ryan and I met up with Makenzie, an awesome valdez local, and headed back up to Sheep Creek. We weren't really sure how long the route we wanted to climb was since it disappeared up the folds of a rock coloir, but the initial pitch looked cruiser.

Posted by Picasa

True to the nature of Valdez things are one again bigger than they look. Four hundred feet of ice later on "the first pitch" I pulled over the last bulge. From here it was a steep 300 ft snow slope to the base of the next step.


A full 200 foot pitch of fun climbing took us to the base of another small step that unfortunately we couldn't see above. This is when the occasional trickle of melting snow and ice became a full on small avalanche that flew by me and Ryan but some pieces hit Makenzie below.

Mackenzie at the Top of the Third Pitch


There wasn't much debate on whether we should bail after that. While Ryan belayed Mackenzie I set the V-thread. I wish I could have seen over that last little step, because I know there is a lot more ice up there. Next time.


The conditions necessary to make this approach and routes feasible are a low snow year, but enough snow to fill in the holes in the creek, cloudy days where it doesn't snow, or early starts before the sun warms up enough to cause rock and snow avalanches. These things don't often all come together in Valdez!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sheep Creek Exploration

I have wanted to go explore the end of Sheep Creek ever since I read about it in BT's Ice Pixies guidebook. The avalanche potential out there is scary. Its automatically not an option if there has been recent snow. Conditions this spring are about perfect with wind scraped mountains and a high pressure system in place.

Sheep Creek with Secret Journey and Tsuri Gane on the Left


When Ryan and I were back here last December we got shut down by a large pool of water and sub zero temps, this time the pool wasn't even visible. Huge avalanche deposits filled the river and we walked up and down them cognizant of how much snow was underneath our feet, reinforcement for why I will never come here when its snowing.


The amount of ice in the back half of this canyon is mind boggling. I could spend my next 10 Valdez trips here and still have more to do. Long, Long, Long routes. I was racking up at the base of a beautiful line in the pic below, listening to the tinkle of ice and snow roll down the route, then a rock came down. I've had bad experiences with rockfall in Sheep creek, I just couldn't rationalize making the same mistake again, even though I really wanted to. When you see one rock, and the route is still in the sun, chances are high that there will be many more to follow. I just couldn't do it.

Ryan with the Route We Wanted to Climb

Posted by Picasa

We ended up trying to get farther back into the canyon, I always feel pulled to see what is around the next corner. After a few alder escapades and a cliff at the end, our need to go on was extinguished, so we turned around and dropped a line down the steep ice in the pic below.

Ouray Ice Park in Valdez

Posted by Picasa

It was about 50 unrelenting feet of dead vertical ice. I've never gotten the screaming barfies so bad. The pain was ridiculous as my fingers regained circulation, surely this is a sign pointing toward the absurdity of me ice climbing? An amazing day out nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Awesome Pillar

I met Bill at Hicks creek just as the sun was coming up. We loaded my pack on Bill's snowmachine and headed down the Matanuska river toward the Awesome Valley. It was a cold ride, when we departed the machine 9 miles later I was ready to ski and generate some heat. Conditions on the creek were amazing compared to last year, although Bill managed to find a weak spot.


It took us about 2.5 hours to ski to the base of the gully where the route is. The snow alternated between chest deep body shoveling and hard wind slab. We collapsed at least three slopes, the whumpfs were loud and disconcerting, but there was not enough energy to create a slide, so we kept going.

The Awesome Pillar


I had told Bill straight up the day before that I had no interest in leading this route, but would love to climb it. It spanked me hard last year and I barely made it up, the memory of its steepness is still strong in my mind.

The nicest line on the route unfortunately would require a snorkel to get up. The remaining options involved cold cranky ice with large cauliflowers. Bill gave it a good go, making the climbing look easy, the gear however was the problem. Even after extensive excavation the screws were hitting air.


When Bill decided to bail, I was right behind him, after I took out his crappy screws I was surprised he hadn't called it earlier. We took a couple laps from his high point and called it a day.

Posted by Picasa

The ski track was fast and fun on the way out, a beautiful canyon, and cool place to spend the day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Climbing Ripple with the Rain Dog

Raina and I go back a long time, we have been friends since junior high, went to high school and college together. We both started ice climbing around the same time, although Raina saw the light and switched to ski bumming after a few years...whereas I kept climbing. Its been at least 2 years since we've climbed together and I was reminded why Raina was once my favorite climbing partner. It was so fun to chit chat and climb.

Raina and I


Raina Rappelling Ripple



Posted by Picasa