Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Dreamy Day Floating: Sunburst

Almost all I have to say about this day is that if I could ski powder like that every day I might never climb that felt blasphemous to type...but it was SO good!

Leaving the Car!


The light at the beginning of the day was slightly flat, but by the last run it was fantastic...unfortunately bad pics do no justice....

Creamy, Beautiful Powder Turns


Ry and Josh in Turnagain Pass


Ry Skinning up Sunburst

Posted by Picasa

If I didn't dislike skiing in the dark so much it probably would have been a lot harder to leave...four amazing runs, each better than the preceding one until I got the last run in the widest, best light, open section, of brilliant powder...I wish I could color my words with the enthusiam I feel just remembering the day....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lots of Pitches: ERV

I'm always shocked at how long this climb takes, every year I'm convinced that its only a 4 hour route...but it just keeps going and going. This year it was a bit thinner and pitches that are usually bulbous and cruiser, were thinner and had hollow bells of ice that I felt like I was going to fall kept things more interesting that's for sure!

The First Step


Ry Coming Up


This is the second year in a row that Ry has won the rosh for this pitch...a little annoying, but I told him I get it next year no matter what the rosh is....such a fun line.

The Biggest Pitch


More Moderate Ice

Posted by Picasa

I felt a little rushed because I was trying to make it back to town by 5 so I could have dinner with a friend...We topped out at 4 and I knew we would be a little late, but didn't anticipate a 2 hr descent. I started to traverse across a windslab about 300 feet wide, about 20 feet in the whole thing, "whumpfed" and settled, I quickly scurried back to the tundra...Ry went up higher where it thinned out and about 10 feet in set off an avalanche, the whole slope collapsed and slid, Ry luckily realized what was happening and got back to the side before things got crazy. Since it had slid to the ground it made traversing the slope much easier...we got into our gully and started down...then it got dark, then there were 1000's of devils clubs mixed with alders, then there was a cliff to rappel, and finally at 6ish we popped out on the road and I almost layed down and hugged it with joy. Avalanches, alders, devils club, cliffs in the dark is not my favorite way to end the day, plus there was no way I was going to have time to make dinner...felt like such a loser calling to cancel on my year though I'll read this and remember that it really takes about 6-7 hrs to top out with minimal breaks, and its at least a 2 hour descent : )

Slide Show!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Three Ring Circus: Eagle River

The trail was slick and I flew down it on my skis, thankful I had brought them out...Its a good day when my beat up approach skis actually glide on the snow. Temps were pushing 32, and it felt balmy compared to last week. The river looked iffy at rapids camp, so I ditched the skis and headed back on the main trail to echo bend. Crossing the river across from the climbs was no problem, the sub zero temps last week made the river ice thick and stable.

Hollow icicle looked thinner than usual, I still haven't topped out on that route...its just to freaking creepy every time I try.

Hollow Icicle


I love three ring circus. Super moderate, long, and in the mountains, I think that is all I really need to be happy. The ice was thick on the main pitches, and the mellow bits in between were much more exciting with only a couple inches of ice and water to look at.

Three Ring Circus

Posted by Picasa

Top Out Self Portrait


The river was super solid and I walked back to rapids camp on it without difficulty, from there another zippy ski back to the car....a lovely day out.

Eagle River


Slide Show

Its hard to decide what to do when I want to go ice climbing but am lacking a partner...usually I throw my rope, 2 screws, and v-thread tool in my pack for "just in case"....I know soloing isn't the most brilliant idea out there....but it really is a lot of fun on moderate ice routes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Bigger than it Looks: Gravel Creek Pillar

Bill emailed me a picture of the gravel creek pillar last week, it looked mean and beautiful, I thought Bill could lead it for sure. He told me that it was a 2 hour approach from the yurt, I said maybe I would come up the night before and we could leave super early, and a plan was made.

The Gravel Creek Pillar
"In all its early season glory"
photo by: Bill Billmier

Posted by Picasa

The Pretty Approach


I'm always astounded at how different climbs look at different angles, it truly is a reoccuring theme of amazement in my life. The picture of the pillar above looks gnarly. By the time I was standing underneath the climb looking up it looked about 100 feet tall, 50 feet of that mellow grade 2 ice....

Me Being Deliberate
Photo: Bill Billmier


It felt steeper and longer than it looked from the ground. Sometimes that happens just because I'm leading, and sometimes like this day, it really is a long pitch. The feet on this climb were amazing, huge ledgy steps and wide stems, but the ice felt steep, about the hardest I want right now. It went good, but I had to concentrate : )

Bill lead the upper pitch and it was super fun. The ice was bone dry, a sharp contrast to the rain shower on the pitch before.

Upper Pitch

Posted by Picasa

A fantastic day out.

Top Out Shot



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Making Some Turns Again: Hatcher Pass

It was so sunny on our drive up to Hatcher Pass, the car was warm and I just expected it to be nice outside. I froze. It was so cold. Why do I live here? Oh yeah, because of this....

Ryan and Our Line


It looked like there was a lot of snow in the mountains especially with early season conditions in mind. But a lot of things that are usually really good right now just didn't seem ready. Ry and I drove to the top parking lot and spied this gully full of snow. It was rocky at the top but at least 1,000 feet of good turns with NO rocks after that...I love skiing untracked powder.

Ry and I on Top of the Ridge

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pack Raft Assisted Ice Climbing: Hillside Pillars

I have to admit that I felt pretty funny when I called Bill and told him that the pillars were in but there was no way that I was going to cross the river on foot...but I suggested a packraft....seeing how Bill crosses the mat river by packraft to get to his house, I knew he wouldn't laugh at me....he just said Ok....The river is really deep right now because the channel is narrowing from the shelf ice forming and the rocks becoming surrounded by ice....instead of blowing up both boats we just used Bills and he made two trips, one for the packs and one for me.

Bill the Ferry Man


I thought both of the pillars looked a little dodgy, so when Bill asked me if I had a preference, I said that we should just let the rosh decide....I won the left, Bill the right. The left was thickish at the bottom, thin in the middle, and no ice at the top...I placed my first specter!! There is no way it would of held a fall, but it was still good mental pro.

Me on the Left Pillar


The right pillar where Bill climbed up was kind of a hollow bell, it was so pretty to see the water running behind just a few inches of ice....

Ninja Bill, Can You Spot Him?

Posted by Picasa

I think it probably snowed 6 inches in the 3-4 hours we were up was NUKING!! So after we did the routes we bailed quickly....feels funny to be in a huge avalanche gully during a snow storm...

Slide Show!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ripple I Love You!

I went out to Eklutna Canyon as part of a recon day....and to my surprise there was another person in the parking lot with the same idea. His name was John and he had a rope and full rack, we decided to explore together. I took the secret trail, humped a tree and made it across the side fork. TJ Swann is not in at all, Champimple was dry, but Ripple was great...I got to lead the pitch...and was happy to have a was protectable, and had the standard early season wet unconsolidated rocky top out...

Ripple Early Season

Posted by Picasa

It was a good day out.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

And A Little More: Nabesna

On day three it had finally turned cold. I spent at least a minute doing the sniff test to see how hard my nostrils were sticking together to guestimate the temperature....I'm pretty sure without the windchill it was a solid 0 degrees ...which is my cut off for ice climbing in the first place..Lucky for us we had an hour hike to get to the bottom of the route, I was down to two layers of wool and a houdini, by the time we got back to the big cleft.

Me Coming Up the Canyon
Photo by: Bill Billmier


The Approach Pitch
Photo by: Bill Billmier

Posted by Picasa

The top of the pitch had not one drop of running water on it, and it was brutal steep. When Bill tapped on it, scary noises put thoughts of total pillar collapse in my head...I probably wasn't super encouraging, "looks like shit", "I don't want to climb it on toprope" things like that....somethings just aren't meant to be climbed on certain days...

A Very Cantankerous Wing and A Prayer


A Wing and A Prayer


Slide Show

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kid's Corner Times Two: Nabesna

Day two dawned with soft grey clouds and whimsically falling snow...we parked and headed back up behind Jack Creek. This time we went for the largest cleft in the mountains on the lookers left. It was a pretty spectacular rock feature, especially with steep jagged daggers of ice looming high above. Again it took us about an hour to get to the bottom of the route(s).

Bill Walking up the Super Cleft


There is this climb back up there called "A Wing and a Prayer" and I think that is a very descriptive title....I pretty much took one look at it and in my mind there was no way it was happening....I'd love to lead it some day, but this day was not the one!! Maybe at the end of the season....maybe... instead we went up route that I have no idea of its name but was super mellow similar to Kids Corner in Caribou creek..

Top of One of Many Steps


I tried a new technique that Bill wanted to use, doing short pitches and doing blocks of pitches instead of swapping leads. I could see the possibility's of using such a method...the climbing was again deep in a narrow cleft, I love routes like this, they are super aesthetic to me.

Going up Pitches


When we got to the top we decided to go for the walk off again. Bill wanted to traverse across a slope, but I was disorientated and wanted to go to the ridge above. It ended up being almost a perfect loop around the entire mountain. Outside of the extremely slippery talus slope it was a fantastic way to get a feel for the whole mountain.

The Beautiful Walk Off

Posted by Picasa

Slide Show!

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Day of Ice Climbing: Nabesna

I've been to Nabesna once before about 10 years ago, and my memory of the place had definitely faded, so much so that it was almost like being there for the first time again. As Bill and I drove down the road, the light was good and we immediately saw the big streak of ice coming down the mountain behind Jack Creek. It doesn't look as huge in the pic below, but on the right side of the pic you can see a huge gash and a small streak of white above the pine trees.

The Mountain Behind Jack Creek


The Ice Streak

Posted by Picasa

We pulled over, looked through the binoculars, and decided to go check it out. The walking was almost great through a couple of inches of snow on top of either spongy tussocks or slippery rocks, the bushes were marginal and it took us about an hour to get to the base of our route.

Heading up the Drainage


Bill won the rosh for the first pitch. This pitch was super fun, and the first time I had swung my tools since last April. I always feel a bit off the first couple outings of the season.

Bill on the first pitch


Outside of a small mixed section that topped out into a loose talus field this climb was a perfect series of moderate ice steps. The thing I liked the best was the steep, narrow walls and the funky rock textures, it was truly beautiful up there. All in all it was five pitches, and we got to walk off the top.

Bill on the Last Pitch

Posted by Picasa

More Pics in the Slideshow!

Note to self: Don't throw pack over small cliffs. I think the route is called Spring Fling. The Sportsman Paradise Lodge is warm and awesome.