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Found 8 results

  1. Trip: Broken Top - Oh to be young and dumb - Crater Trip Date: 02/16/1985 Trip Report: For fun I thought I would post a trip report that happened 35 years ago. A friend recently sent me scanned versions of his slides so I thought I would post them up with the story. We were both in college at OSU, me finishing my undergrad, and Andy finishing his masters. My girlfriend had an invite to spend the weekend skiing at Mt. Bachelor so we decided to go along and climb Broken Top as neither of us had been on it before. So that Friday night we left Corn Valley for Bend, she dumped us off at the end of the road that evening and we skied in a ways and camped. The next morning we skied in into the Broken Top crater. Andy and I discussed various ways to gain the rim. We finally decided on a route up but not one that I was to my liking as I wanted to take a less direct but I felt safer route. But I deferred to Andy as he was more experienced than me. At this point I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Mt Bachelor in the background. Hmm, 30" crown and well we are still on top. I think walking down is the preferred option. Hmm, nice debris field and damn near wall to wall. WTF were we thinking??? The dot in the middle of the debris field is me putting my skis back on. Epilogue: As our ski tracks are visible, we had nearly gained the ridge when we set off the avalanche. We were both on the same cut when the ground went out from under us and we dropped a couple of feet to the bed surface. Both of us just stood there and watched as the avalanche ripped down the crater. Had either of us been caught we would have been dead. Not withstanding the fact that back then few people had transceivers or could we afford them as students. I saw Andy a few years ago when he gave me these images. He admitted that his decision making that day was not the best. Oh to be young and dumb. Gear Notes: A functioning brain Approach Notes: Go long from Mt. Bachelor
  2. Trip: Mt Rainier - Central Mowich Face (IV, AI2, 60 degrees) Trip Date: 07/13/2019 Trip Report: @nkimmes and I climbed the Central Mowich Face on Rainier July 13 - 14, 2019. We left the skis at home for once and sent it in a two day push from Mowich Lake to White River. Approach from the Mowich Lake campground was straight forward for the early miles. The trails winds up through wooded hills toward spray creek and eventually gains a large, open alpine landscape. The trees gave way to alpine brush and small talus that undulated with the movement of glaciers long gone. After a fairly long cross country section we reached the benign Flett Glacier. This permanent snowfield is situated low on the flanks of the mountain under Echo and Observation Rocks. Our path took us between them, close to the east side of Observation. Visibility was not good. Low hanging clouds roiled over the rocks and the landscape around us. The glacier seceded to loose volcanic rock. Our footsteps sank with each stride to gain Ptarmigan Ridge. This point marked the end of the easy terrain. From this point we knew that previous parties had found a fairly heinous down climb/scramble over steep, loose rock to the glacier below. Some beta also indicated that there might be a permanent snowfield. Ultimately we decided to drop off the side of the ridge at just over 8200 ft. It was loose as promised, but overall the slope was not treacherous. Eventually we did run into a snowfield that made downhill travel a bit easier until we reached the outer edge of the North Mowich Glacier at 7200 ft. We roped up for the first time and travelled through a beautiful jigsaw of monster crevasses. We took a direct line toward the base of the route, instead of circumventing the core of the glacier out toward the Edmund Headwall as described in the guidebook. One crevasse was crossed by down climbing the wall on one side to access a depressed, knife edge bridge about ten feet below the lip of the crevasse. We tiptoed across and climbed back up the other side. After 12 hours on the move we reached a rock band at 10,200' above the double bergshrund guarding the route. We pitched the tent, melted snow and attempted to drink sand filled water and made funny videos condemning Jet Boil for being shit in the wind. Sleep did not come easy. The wind had picked up substantially and after a brief 30 minutes in my sleeping bag, heard a large crash from up high on the mountain. Seconds later, from the darkness of the tent, my heart sunk as a massive boulder plummeted past our perch to the glacier below. Sleep didn't come at all. The alarm went off at 1am and we started up at 3am. Conditions were perfect. We rolled out of the tent to clear skies, no wind and cruiser neve except for a small vein of AI2 near the top, at the start of the grade IV variation that leads out onto a ramp above the EH instead of traversing left through the rock band at the top of the CMF. We felt secure and free solo'd the entire 3000' face to 13,200'. From there it was slow going as we slogged through high wind up Liberty Cap and over the plateau to summit on Columbia Crest. After an involuntary nap looking out over the top of the DC, we traversed the mountain with a descent dow the Emmons Glacier. It had been a big trip. We were wrecked and stoked that it had gone so smooth, especially since i was supposed to catch a flight to Boston the next day. Cheers! The route as seen from the road to Mowich Lake. The early part of the North Mowich Glacier after the descent from Ptarmigan Ridge. Monster crevasses that could eat a semi-truck. 10,200' bivy sunset was something else. @nkimmes on the main face as the horizon started to get light. Perfect other than my crampon kept falling off. Near the top of the face at the AI2 vein. No words necessary. Stoked! Summit! Gear Notes: Pickets, couple screws Approach Notes: Mowich Lake TH
  3. Trip: Cabinet Mountains - Multiple Trip Date: 03/21/2020 Trip Report: I just wanted to share some photos and descriptions from the last couple ice seasons in the Cabinet Mountains. Anyone who got the 2019 AAJ or Alpinist 64 might have already seen pictures of the area. There have been a handful of Spokane area climbers putting up routes over the last couple seasons. All the climbing has been done out of Granite Lake which is near Libby, MT in the Cabinet Mountains. The climbing is quite varied, from single pitch WI3 to 1000ft hard ice and mixed routes. The area has been divided up into 3 big areas….A Peak, The Thunderdome, and Three Tiers. A picture is worth a thousand words so I will just resort to numerous pictures instead of more text……let the stoke begin for next season!! Looking across Granite Lake with A Peak towering 4000 feet above. The Thunderdome is the large sub dome in the center of the picture. The Thunderdome!! Some of the best ice routes anywhere around. Scott Coldiron and Matt Cornell on the first ascent of Mad Max, WI5+ (8 pitches). Nate Kenney climbing a steep skinny pillar called War Boys, WI5+. Scott Coldiron climbing a crazy pitch called Underworld, WI3. This route is 20m long and entirely inside an ice cave 500 feet up the Thunderdome! Another view of the spectacular A Peak and the upper wall of the Thunderdome. The big ice in the center of the wall is Road Warrior, WI5, M5 (8 pitches). Looking up the huge gash on A Peak. Scott Coldiron and Jess Roskelley put up the route Canmore Wedding Party AI5, M7, 750m, which ascends this central gash. The climb got nominated for a Piolet d'Or in 2019. Note: the large sheet of ice on the bottom rock band is still unclimbed as of 2020. Looking up the wide start to the "Blaster Routes". Blaster, WI4 is five pitches of ice while Master Blaster WI4, M5, (10 pitches) continues to the top of the Thunderdome. Looking up from the lake at the "Three Tiers". These cliffs have about 20-25 ice and mixed routes that have been done. A closer view of the the ice (during a fat season) on the center of the 2nd Tier with the 3rd Tier above. Scott Coldiron on the first ascent of Toast, WI5 on the 2nd Tier. Zach Turner leading The Dag, WI3 on the 2nd Tier......a super fun mellow corner. A shot of some of the 3rd Tier routes. Gyro Captain, WI4, goes up the ice on the right while Pig Killer, WI3, takes a line up some of the ice on the left. Multiple possibilities exist for mixed routes connecting the lower ice flows in the center up through the rock to the hanging ice above. Zach Tuner rappelling off Max's Bloodline, WI4, with the impressive routes on Thunderdome in the background. Jonathan Klaucke climbing funky ice on Cheedo, WI3-4, on the 2nd Tier. Looking across at the right hand end of the Three Tiers from the Thunderdome. The wide flow in the center is the start of Tomorrow Land, WI3+, 3 pitches, while the ice up on the right is Devil's Brownies, WI4, 2 pitches, and then farther right is Scales of Justice, WI4/5. Zach Tuner on the skinny pillar start to Splendid Angharad, WI5. The flow farther left is called Capable, WI4. Looking up the 2nd pitch of Tomorrow Land, WI3+ on the first ascent. This fat climb called Nightrider, WI4, 3 pitches, is on the far left of the Thunderdome. It is a bit longer of a hike from the lake but the route is a stellar moderate! Scott Coldiron climbing the crux 2nd pitch of Nightrider, WI4. Brian White starting up the classic Toast, WI5 on the 2nd Tier. The ice beyond him is the route Cheedo, WI3-4. Zack Turner on the sharp end during the first ascent of Grease Rat, WI4....a really fun route on the 3rd Tier. Matt Cornell working through the crux of Sarcophagus of Lies, M6. The route continues up and left until you can stem between the rock and the ice dagger above. This is a stellar line on the 3rd Tier with "quality climbing as good as Come and Get It" according to Matt. Brian White putting up a short route called Mystery Gas, WI3 on the 3rd Tier. Syd Atencio and Nate Kenney climbing up Devil's Brownies, WI4, on the Three Tiers. Granite Lake and the surrounding basin in the background. I think one of my favorite things about the climbing here is the views....it just never gets old!! Every time I walk across Granite Lake I have to pause and just look up. Hopefully this will get some people stoked about climbing up there because it is a beautiful spot with fantastic climbing. Happy to answer any beta questions or run them through Scott. Gear Notes: Ice screws......rock gear for mixed routes. Approach Notes: All climbs are best accessed from the Granite Lake trailhead. In winter it is a 9 mile hike/skin into the lake with about 2000 ft of elevation gain. Count on 4-9 hours depending on conditions. From downtown Libby, take Highway 2 east one mile to Shaugnessy road. Take a right and follow this for .7 miles before turning left onto Snowshoe road. After 1/2 mile take a right turn onto Granite Lake road. In .8 miles stay left on Granite Lake road and continue for 4 miles. This is the end of the pavement and where the snowplows stop in the winter. The Granite Lake trailhead is still another 3 miles but you will have to walk/skin/snowmobile that distance in the winter. There is usually plenty of room to park several cars just be mindful not to block the road or any of the neighbor’s driveways. From here follow the snow covered road for 3 miles to the actual Granite Lake trailhead. The road is mostly level with a few gradual climbs (400 feet of elevation gain in 3 miles). From the trailhead hike/skin the trail 6 miles up to the lake.
  4. Trip: Sperry Peak - East Face Gully Attempt Trip Date: 11/29/2019 Trip Report: Sorry I didn't post this for a few months, but basically I was scared of others going up there, turning around and seeing the massive ice flows on Sloan, and poaching our prize. But what's done is done so now I want to share what I learned from an attempt of the East Face Gully of Sperry over Thanksgiving 2019. This trip report (http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7980139) caught my attention and Sperry became the focus of my fall alpine efforts. The east face is a beautiful 3000 ft wall with just an hour approach! This gully looked absolutely sweet, like some moderate mixed/snow/ice route. This was the only report I could ever find, so it was hard to know what to expect. Fall 2019 was very dry for us. At elevations below 5000 ft, there was no snow come mid November. Then, right before Thanksgiving, it dumped about a foot down to 3000 ft and got extremely cold (highs in the 30s in the lowlands). Good for ice right? Sperry. Approach slabs on the left. Gully obvious in the middle. Daniel and I drove up to the trailhead and hiked into Wirtz Basin around sunrise. We could immediately tell we were in trouble. The 3rd to 4th class approach slabs looked like they were covered in thin verglass and fresh powder. We started up them, but decided we wouldn't be soloing them (Daniel was pretty new to ice climbing at this point) so we tried going through the dense trees to the right. This was impossible, running into steep cliffs and powder on no base. We bailed back to the slabs. Typical climbing in the approach slabs. We broke out the rope and I led up the right side of the slabs on WI1-2 R where sometimes your crampons would bust through to the rock. It was very insecure, albeit easy. Just not what Hyalite prepares you for. I belayed Daniel off a small bush and then we scrambled up higher. Then to the right there was a little WI3 near vertical step for 20-30 ft that might have taken 6 cm screws. I now realize this was the "little icy step" Jim referred to in his trip report. Damn, those guys were tough. Another veggie belay brought Daniel up. The next section involved climbing atop branches while getting soaked in powder. Then we traversed across more 3rd class slabs covered in fresh powder in crampons. My crampons were brand new and suffered dearly. Finally, we were staring up the gut at the gully, around 4000 ft. It was near noon and the strong sun was causing snow to constantly cascade down the gully. It looked absolutely icy and beautiful! Certainly one of the most beautiful gullies I've ever seen, but we were too late to continue. The powder would have been heinious. We stopped here. But the ice looked so good! Sloan, with the lines already forming. We rapped off trees back down to the valley floor. We took a walk further up Wirtz Basin and admired the incredible geometric features of Sperry. It is truly one of the underrated great mountains of the North Cascades. There were all of these cutting edge mixed ice routes that went 1000 ft up the SE face in the deep chimneys and cuts, but then they just petered out into nothing. There were even some chimneys like hundreds of feet deep and perfectly angular. I could just imagine Colin Haley deep in the darkness, climbing some great new route. I'd love to come back in the summer and climb one of the huge 2000 ft rock routes Beckey mentions that never get climbed anymore. I think the east face gully could be a great summer scramble, 3000 ft of scrambling with basically no approach. This is an incredible mountain. This looks like an incredible route. We'll be back! Inspiring SE side of Sperry. I've seen another mountain like it. Serious ice potential further up the valley. Cool easier ice potential up on Morning Star. Great north face of Sperry. Wonder if that route has seen a repeat? North face Big Four. Lessons learned: * this is a tricky route to nail in proper conditions. If that low snow hadn't fallen, the approach slabs would've been dry (like they were for Jim), but would the gully had been filled in? Probably not this year. We needed more snowfall above 4000 ft. Or if just a bunch of snow falls to 3000 ft and consolidates, but you can still drive to the trailhead, that'd work also. Or just climb this route in mid winter consolidated conditions with a sled access. * The approach slabs are really the only way to go. Don't try to go around. * those old timers are tough mothertruckers. Gear Notes: A few screws, some rock gear. Approach Notes: Short, probably one hour if you can drive to the trailhead. But the slabs can be cruxy...
  5. Trip: Mt. Hood - Yocum Ridge Solo Trip Date: 03/21/2020 Trip Report: "It's not my imagination, I've got a gun at my back!" -Revenge, Black Flag Yocum Ridge is the first route I ever thought about climbing. I remember looking at the striking line from the bus stop in my elementary school. Even though I knew nothing about climbing at the time, the sheer beauty of the route captivated me. As I have accumulated some knowledge about climbing, I learned the route wouldn't go down so easy. Something about the jagged ridgeline dulled by rime gives Yocum a special sense of beauty. Today I set out to realize a childhood fantasy of mine. 3:00 and I'm starting the slog up the mountain. My morale is already low because I forgot my headphones. This damn climb is going to make me absorb the sounds of nature! Two hours or so of walking takes me up to Illumination Saddle. Here I lay eyes on the silhouette of Yocum ridge by headlamp. Nerves turn to excitement as the clock strikes 5:00. The glacier crossing was easier than I expected thanks to all the action the route has seen over the past few weeks. The footprints take me to a headwall a little to the right of where the guidebook says to go. The squeaking and ringing of my ice tools puts me into a trance. After about 150 feet of steep-ish climbing, I gain the ridge. Yocum starts off with a tease. An easy and welcoming rime stepped staircase obscures the rest of the ridge from view. I'll play your game. When the first gendarme comes into view, I have to fight thoughts of doubt coming into my head. At first sight, the rime covered sentinel looks steep and unforgiving at every point. The closer I get however, the clearer the line becomes. My cold helmet feels like a gun against the back of my head. I know it's time. I start to the right of a cave and quickly cut left. The ice feels solid and I flow through a steeper gully. 30 meters or so in, I arrive at the crux. Solid snow and ice turn to dead vertical swiss cheese. Through delicate movement and prayer, I fire through the crux. Each stick felt like a weak handshake. The section required commitment to tools placed in an unknown mixture of snow/ice with dubious feet. Finally, I reach the top of the first gendarme. My blood pressure drops slightly as I soak in the beauty of the bladed ridge that lies in front. Here I am extremely grateful for the groups before me who did the heavy rime clearing and bollard building. From the bollard at the end of the gendarme, I downclimb while on rappel to traverse across an exposed section to a big ledge. This beta worked well for me and seemed to alleviate problems some other groups were having. As I started the traverse pitch to the second gendarme, I felt something fall out of my pocket. I turn my head just in time to see my phone fly down the snow slopes and disappear into the glacier below. Perhaps my phone was the sacrifice the route required. Better phone than blood. Then, like clockwork, a raven swoops by me and perches itself on the tip of the first gendarme. We stare at each other for a minute and I thank him for allowing me to experience this route today. I know that I'm just a guest in the mountains. From here on I felt as if I had permission to continue my journey, hopefully my dues were already paid. The ridge widened the further I traversed down it. Passing the second gendarme was the most secure I felt since getting on route. More slogging took me to another bollard (this time with tat!) off of the third gendarme. I chose to rap north to avoid more thin ridge fuckery. Walking along the steep snow slopes took more energy than I thought. My calves burned and cursed me for bringing two single ropes to rap with. More training I guess. Even though some exposure was still present, I began to meditate with the route. Every swing, foot placement, and movement just felt right. As crawled back over to west side, the sun reared its ugly face, and I began to sweat my ass off. I followed more good tracks around to the right of the final buttress. The last buttress is like a fortress full of impassible walls and sneaky gullies. The first gully I started up took me about 150 feet and ended with impassible rime towers. I downclimbed and again, moved right. Here I could see tracks going to Leuthold from Yocum Ridge. Now I knew I was no longer under the gun. One of the rightmost gullies brought success. I tormented my calves up a few hundred more feet until I topped out the buttress at around 12:30. From the top of the buttress, one final ridge traverse took me to the Queen's Chair. 6 year old Landon would be proud. Looking down the ridge I could see all the minute details that made this route special. Negotiating the route was digging into the alpine bag of tricks and executing. I chose not to tag the summit because I wanted to search the base of the route for my phone (spoiler alert: the phone disappeared into a different dimension). Hiking down Leuthold gave me time to absorb the mountain more. Striking blue accents on rime towers, weird ice formations on the glacier, and the forest just miles away all presented themselves. Days like this make me question the future. I'm sure one day I'll find something that will bring me peace. I often think about Mark Twight saying that climbing can be "too much but never enough." Yocum Ridge was one of, if not the best alpine routes I have experienced. Although it wasn't technically difficult, the sheer volume of spectacular movement truly makes this one of a kind. On the way down I wept. For some reason this route had a different impact on me. Maybe it was the feeling of complete peace and isolation, maybe it was the sheer beauty of it all. Maybe I'm just emotional. I stumbled into the Timberline at around 4:00 and unlocked my car. With the clicking of the lock, my reality had become just a memory. Gear Notes: Basically a sport climb Approach Notes: Attack the ridge at about 8800ft
  6. Trip: Mt Baker - Coleman Glacier Headwall Trip Date: 03/18/2020 Trip Report: I’ve come to expect three things when climbing with Peter. First, we won’t wake up too early. Second, our packs will be light. And third, we will move fast and take almost no breaks. With those thoughts in mind, I was looking forward to getting up on Baker with him. We started climbing together years ago with next to no experience and have grown a lot climbing together. We had a wide variety of ideas of things to do and while heading up and seeing the Coleman Glacier Headwall, we decided that’s what we would do. We left Bellingham bright and early at 7:30. As we drove the road, we never saw that classic sign that says to stop driving there so we just drove all the way to the parking lot on compacted snow. We left the car around 9:30 and we were soon skinning up grouse creek. We didn’t stop until the saddle into the heliotrope area, both feeling a little sluggish. We followed a skin track across the traverse and dropped down onto the Football field. We skated across this flat and dropped another hundred feet onto the Coleman Glacier. Here, we put skins back on and scoped our route. We found our way through the broken glacier without much trouble and soon we were standing at the base of the Coleman Glacier Headwall. From this angle, it looked small and easy, but we both knew it was a pretty big undertaking. Last spring we bailed off it after a lot of rock fell and in the process of skiing down, I fell and cut my thumb pretty bad. This time, we were hoping for things to go better. We switched out skis for crampons and poles for axes below the face. There was a sizable debris pile we wanted to stay clear of so we transitioned further back. We started up the headwall around 12:30 and quickly ran into trouble. It looked like crossing the bergschrund was going to be tricky but when we got to it, it looked almost impossible. Significantly more involved than last year. We ended up doing a pitch where I traversed out left, over a snow bridge, up a vertical snow bulge, and onto vertical glacier ice. From here, I got a screw and traversed right off the glacial ice and onto water ice. One more snow bridge took me to more serac where I belayed Peter. Fro here, he stayed on belay and tested one more snow bridge that stood between us and the main funnel of the route. It held him so he untied, coiled the rope and took off to catch up. We tried to move quickly through this main debris funnel, as it was here was saw big rocks come down last year that scared us off. Today, I had seen a fist-sized rock or two come down. We got through that constriction on a little bit of AI2 and traversed left, out of the majority of overhead hazard. After this we had about an hour of steep snow, kind of crusty, that brought us to another sketchy crack. After a short belay across that, we continued up and left. As we approached the last steep pitch we ran into a lot of smaller cracks with thin snow bridges between us and that last steep roll to the top. Peter put me on belay as I started poking my nose around the cracks, looking for a way through. I punched an arm or a leg through into air a few times. Eventually, I found a snow finger than I literally crawled across and a big step took me on to the upper face as the finger shifted under my feet. Now I was on the upper but still needed to find a belay for Peter. We had taken to one person testing crossings on belay and then coiling the rope. But this one was bad enough to warrant a belay. I found an exposed rock and cut a bollard around it in the rime. It seemed like an ok anchor but I wasn’t about to hang on it so I sat on my front points and told Peter to not fall in. Peter got over the crack and up to me. We were in an awkward spot so I untied and Peter continued, tagging the rope. Another relentless 55-degree slope took us on to the summit plateau. It was almost 4 and we had no interest in crossing the flat to climb another 15ft so we took a quick break, finished our food and water, slapped the skis on the feet and dropped down onto the Roman Headwall. We got about 10 very high quality turns on wind buff before hitting the rime. It’s been windy and the rime on the headwall is fist-sized and doesn’t ski great (it doesn’t really ski at all). We didn’t take our skis off, instead, we rattled our teeth and tried to stay upright. Once we got down to where w dropped right toward the glacier, the snow improved a lot. It was great wind-affected cold snow. We skied fast toward the col to enter grouse creek. From that col the snow became very good and just got better and better. We had a blast until the trees where the snow got soft. We got back to the car around 5:30. A few thoughts on the route: This is a pretty full-on route, despite that, it wasn’t terribly fun to climb. Peter and I agreed that none of the climbing on the route was particularly fun and there was a sense of unease the entire time as well. I’m glad to have climbed it, the day overall was very fun, especially since there was no wind and no clouds. We brought a 30m double and three screws and a 30m thin dyneema line. This rack worked well for how we did the route. Here is the line we took (have you checked out FATMAPS??) Polish looking pretty fat.CH looking very difficult right now Gear Notes: 3 screws, some skinny 30m ropes Approach Notes: Grouse creek is great right now.
  7. Via dei Ragni: Grade VI, 95deg snow/rime/ice, M4, 1000m Scribe/Photos/Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Google Street View: Cerro Torre Summit 360 Panorama We’ve had a picture of Cerro Torre on our desktops, phone wallpapers, and posters above our bed for the past 5 years. It was the reason we took up ice climbing in the first place. In February 2016, we made our first attempt on this route, hoping to at least get a glimpse of the scale of the mountain and understand what it took to climb it. The weather was too hot by then for the climb, and after three days, our high point was below the hard technical climbing. Previous trip report: The road to El Chaltén The Fitz Roy Massif These past two months were our fourth (and longest) climbing trip to the Chaltén Massif, and sixth year of watching the Patagonian weather patterns. We wanted to return to attempt Cerro Torre again, but the next two seasons were not possible because of bad weather. Last year, at the beginning of February, we saw a fantastic weather window, and the stars aligned. We flew down to Patagonia in a 9-day magical whirlwind of constant movement, and summited Fitz Roy via the Franco-Argentina route. While on the summit of Fitz Roy, looking down at the surreal summits of the Torre, we were determined more than ever to come back the following season. Day 1. We arrived in El Chaltén on New Years Eve, the last day of a 4-day weather window (brecha)…we missed it! Since then, January was filled with short stints (8-12hrs) of good weather in the mountains, and the arrival of a 6-day mega window in early February sent an electric buzz throughout town. We were a couple of bats out of hell with our 40lbs packs each as we set towards Laguna Torre. The plan was to pass through the Niponino base camp in the Torre Valley and bivouac at the higher Noruegos (Norwegian) bivouac, which would put us closer to Col Standhardt (the next day’s objective)…the passageway to the West Face of Cerro Torre where the Via dei Ragni route begins. Our bivy site at Noruegos Day 2. From the Noruegos bivy site high on the slopes of the Torre Valley, we traversed near the base of the Torres, under the celebrated SE Ridge (perhaps the greatest climb in the world) and also the 1959 Maestri line to the triangular snowfield where so much history and controversy took place. From the East, all of the Torres stand impossibly steep and impassable. To get to the Ragni route on the West side, we would climb up and over the Col Standhardt where an implausible car-sized chockstone sits interminably between the col’s steep walls. From the col, one gets the first glimpse of the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap (Hielo Continental), a massive expanse of ice 200mi long. On a rare, clear day such as this day, we could see green Chilean fjords across the Ice Cap between large, snowy volcanos. A Lighthouse Several rappels deposited us down to the Circo de los Altares (Cirque of the Alters), an impressive crescent of white-capped peaks and toothed spires. From there we headed up another glacial ramp on Cerro Torre’s West Face to a high camp, 150m below the Col de la Esperanza (Col of Hope), first reached by Walter Bonatti in 1958 who hoped that this col would one day blaze a path to the summit. It wasn’t until 1974 that a team of Italians from the Ragni di Lecco (thus the name “Via dei Ragni”) completed Bonatti’s vision. Circo de los Altares Steep snow climbing and easy mixed terrain led us towards the camp at Col de la Esperanza, the camp we hadn’t reached on our last attempt. As we hiked past our previous high point, our hearts soared. This time around, the climbing felt much easier with 4 more years of climbing experience under our belts. Day 3. This day was a rest day of sorts. To set ourselves up for success on summit day, we were moving to the highest camp a few hundred meters up: El Elmo (“Helmet”), a prominent plateau below the steep, technical climbing. Those who were faster and stronger than us had gone straight to the highest camp the day before and were now going to do the hard work of battle-axing the bullet-hard blue ice and cleaning the cotton candy mushrooms of the summit. As we came over the Col of Hope, we entered an otherworldly expanse of mangled rime towers and precarious exposure. These deformed blobs of ice towers with icicle branches and feathery leaves seem like something only God or Dr. Seuss could conjure. It’s something so beautiful and terrifying at the same time. We were face to face, looking up at thisbeastly Tower. A spectacular nightmare. Day 4. Summit Day! We were pretty antsy to get going on the summit push. Falling snow greeted us when our alarms went off at 2:00AM as the mountain was enveloped in a cloud. All over camp, alarms went off and were snoozed as the precipitation discouraged movement. When the stars finally came out again, we were the first to muster our strength and get to work. Walking up to the base of El Elmo in the darkness, the first overhanging rime ice mushroom of the route, we gave a sigh “ah, breakfast!” The last 10m didn’t actually have any good protection (besides maybe a horizontal picket), and it was a sequence of cutting the feet loose, campus’ing from questionable tools, and shoving knees into the soft rime to make upward progress. Once at the top of El Elmo, a crowd had formed at the base, chomping at the bit. All of camp was finally up. The snooze button had proved an epic failure of our collective, strategically staggered alarms. We all watched in awe and gave whooping shouts from this low perch as our friend, Fabi Buhl, paraglided from the summit in the wee hours of the morning, slowly swirling in front of the spectacular sunrise over Lago Viedma. He was the first ever to fly off the summit of Cerro Torre having climbed the mountain first (and not dropped off via helicopter). After El Elmo, the mixed pitches zig-zag through a maze of rock and ice up to the base of The Headwall. Two pitches of blue, overhanging, bullet-hard ice. The final pitches mount three tiers of giant rime mushrooms facing the Ice Cap. This high ridge gets pummeled by the wet, freezing storms that race around the Southern Ocean to create these crazy rime formations. The first and second rime mushrooms had formed spectacular, natural blue-ice tunnels created by vortices of wind spiraling up the ridge, clearing a path through the thick outer layer of soft rime ice. Climbing into this vertical subway tunnel for 60 meters felt like entering a portal into another world. It eventually funneled up to an elevator shaft and spat us out of a squeeze tube. For the second and third mushrooms, we attached Petzl prototype “wings” to our ice tools to make purchase in the soft, overhanging, cotton-candy rime. These wings are horizontal plates that bolt onto the picks of our ice tools like Dilophosaurus gills. The Final (Summit) Mushroom was a beast. The previous day, it had taken the other parties many hours to clear a natural half-pipe, then dig a tunnel through the steepest part for many hours. Their line then exited their manufactured tunnel out onto the overhanging summit lip. Walking up to the steepest point on Cerro Torre on a perfectly still, clear day was absolutely surreal, basking in the bright orange-red glow of the sunset. The 200 miles of the Continental Ice Cap stretched before us and the Pacific Ocean now clearly visible. Behind, on the other side of the Torre Valley, small, wispy clouds hovered over the summit of Fitz Roy. We were lucky to get perfect lighting to fly our drone around for 30 minutes alone before we headed back down to our tents at El Elmo for the night. Days 5 and 6. To get back to town, you can reverse your way up Col Standhardt (M7 shenanigans), or take one of two trekking passes along the Ice Cap. We had experience taking the Northern pass (Paso Marconi) which was now in really bad shape. We opted for the Southern pass (Paso del Viento) to try something new, and hopefully be able to turn our brains off for a few days (sadly, this was not the case). The Hielo Continental spans 50mi across and crawls 200mi north to south across Southern Patagonia. It looked so beautiful and serene from our climb. Now, face to face with this beastly crocodile, it was the stuff of horrors. Canyons after canyons of impassable crevasses, we zig-zagged our way in no logical direction under a bright, unhelpful, full moon. From the air, our tracks must have looked like the random scribbling of a toddler on a massive, blank white floor. A sun dog greeting us after our descent. Finally reaching the pass and seeing people again after such a mental test of sanity was nothing short of jubilant. A popular trek is to take the pass South to Lago Viedma: the Huemul Circuit. We were now on a delightful trekking path and could now…finally… turn our brains off and just put one foot in front of the other for a mere 14 miles back to ice cream and showers and safety. Thanks: We had good confidence in the forecast and the length of the window, but it’s still important to have daily weather updates to anticipate the inconsistencies between each day. We’re so grateful for our weathermen who sent us updates to the inReach and gave us both confidence and peace of mind each day that we spun ourselves further from civilization: Dan Berdel, Devin Monas, and Rolando Garibotti. We’d also like to thank Dave Burdick (Alpine Dave!) for his support, inspiration and beta on the route. Also thanks to the American Alpine Club Live Your Dream Grant for supporting this trip. Recommended Reading: The Tower, Kelly Cordes Patagonia Vertical, Rolando Garibotti Enduring Patagonia, Greg Crouch Gear Notes: 13 ice screws (including 3 stubbies) 1 Picket (to place horizontally in vertical rime!) small set of nuts (Wildcountry Superlight) small rack of cams (Black Diamond Ultralight cams .4-1, Metolius Mastercam 1-3) 2 Petzl Nomic Ice Tools + Petzl prototype wings (rented from Viento Oeste gear shop in town) Petzl V-link Umbilicals 2 stuff sacks (gear management in pack, and also to leave for snow anchors) The North Face Phantom 50 backpack 4 double-length Petzl Pur'anneau runners with 2 Camp 22 biners each 2 double-length Petzl Pur'anneau runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each 7 single-length Petzl Pur'anneau runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each (can’t have too many runners) Patagonia R2 Jacket Patagonia Micro Puff jacket Patagonia Macro Puff jacket Patagonia Kniferidge hardshell jacket (didn't use)...also, it's now the "Ascensionist Jacket". Mainly wore the Micro Puff for outer layer Patagonia Nano Air Pants Patagonia Softshell pants (bibs) Patagonia base layer (top+bottom) Platypus 2L soft bottle Garmin inReach Mini (love this little guy!) Petzl Dart Crampons 2x Mammut Twighlight Twin Rope (7.5mm) Petzl Sirocco helmets Petzl Sitta harness (for him) and Arc’teryx harness (for her) Metolius Feather Nut Tool (each) Mammut Smart belay device (not the Alpine Smart) 3 lockers for group: Grivel Tau K12L, Grivel Lambda HMS, Grivel Plume 2 medium fuel canisters Jetboil Sol stove Safety ‘biner (each) – Edelrid 19g caribeener, Petzl Micro Traxion, short Sterling Hollowblock, Trango Piranha knife Bivy setup – Full Length Thermarest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad, Exped Air Pillow UL, Feathered Friends Spoonbill sleeping bag MSR Advance Pro 2 Tent (amazing!) La Sportiva TX4 Approach shoes La Sportiva G2SM boots Petzl Reactik headlamps (each) + 3 extra AAA batteries + Petzl e+LITE headlamp Other things: 1 long spoon to share, chapstick to share, small Joshua Tree sun stick to share, Frog's Tung phone leash, lighter, whistle, duct tape, Thermarest repair patches, Voke tabs, Nuun, pain killers, 1L Platypus soft water bottle (for her) and 750mL HydraPak Stash (for him), warm headband, glove liners, 1 pair thick long socks (each), sunglasses, ear plugs, WRFA emergency form, small pencil, cotton handkerchief, wad of toilet paper, ID, Credit Card 1 Swix alpine pole (with snow basket) Arcteryx ball cap Adidas Sunglasses (with nose sun guard), no longer available iPhone 11 Pro (with route beta downloaded) GoPro HERO 5 Session (with helmet mount) DJI Mavic Mini Drone (remote and drone stored in USPS Tyvek bag) Dinner: 2 AlpineAire meals, 3 Near East Couscous boxes repackaged with small olive oil packets in ziplock bags, salt Day food was mostly bulky, yummy snacks: vegan jerky, dried mango, nuts, Cheese-Its, sesame sticks, Gu, nut butter, etc Approach Notes: Approached via Col Standhardt. Also possible to approach via Paso Marconi (currently in difficult/sketchy conditions) or Paso del Viento (long). We came back via Paso del Viento, but it's also possible to climb back over Col Standhardt (M7 shenanigans with old fixed ropes here and there).
  8. John Kelly has been attempting several new routes on Yukla over the past year. He already put up a new route on the Northwest face earlier in 2005 and has tried several others since. I finally got a chance to join him on an attempt at a line on the Northeast face. Our line is just barely visible under the snowfield on the far left Another better view of our route, which is just to the left of the obvious white smear under the snowfield on the left. Yukla, first climbed in 1967 via the Icicle Glacier by famed Alaskan mountaineer Art Davidson (first winter ascent of Denali and auther of the book 'Minus 148') sees little traffic due to its hearty approach and difficult access, and has probably seen less than 25 ascents, even though it is only 8 miles from the road. At a height of over 7500 feet, it is the fourth highest mountain in the western Chugach, and dominates the skyline around Eagle River. The Northwest face is one of the biggest walls in the entire Chugach, and is still, for the most part, virgin...with the exception of two or three routes. I flew back to Anchorage on Saturday, December 31st at 8 AM and was on the trail by 2 PM. We bushwacked through the tedious Icicle Drainage and finally arrived at our first bivy site in the valley at 2:30 in the morning...a great place to bring in the new year. On the way to the drainage, we met a nice girl sitting alone at the Echo Bend camp who hooked us up with some great...stuff. We really owe that girl, she made the rest of the approach go easier. We woke up the next morning in true Alaskan style, and were on the go by noon. We simulclimbed up the snow fan to the base of the virgin Northeast face and spent the next three hours chopping out an awesome bivy ledge on a 60 degree slope, 500 feet over the valley floor. All the while, small sluff avalanches continued to pour over our route-to-be. John leading pitch two. We awoke at 4:30 the next morning and were climbing well before six. It finally started getting light at 9 and we were up the first two pitches by then. John lead most of the hard pitches, which consisted of M5-M6 climbing with overhanging rock and long runouts at parts. His most amazing lead took place at the chimney, on the fifth pitch. He started at 2:45, and spent the next 2.5 hours meticulously inching his way up the virgin terrain while I belayed and shivered inside the cave. By 5:30 it was dark and John had finally lead his way up the crux and had established a belay station. After tediously following John's line and cleaning the pro, I unlodged his pack from the overhanging section and he hauled it the rest of the way up and I carefully finished the crux, wishing I could have watched him lead what he called "one of the most amazing pitches of his life," big words coming from John, who has done some big climbs in his day, to say the least, We knew we were getting close to the top of the face, where we would meet up with a lower angled snowfield which would allow us to top out and then walk off on the Icicle Glacier and then back to our high camp. I led the next pitch, which started off in a narrow hourglass below a five foot tall rock buttress that steepened to a steep snow slope, then to a 20 foot step of WI3 crumbly ice with crappy protection. I put in one snarg and a 16cm screw and continued climbing. I slowly climbed up the couloir in seemingly endless unconsolidated powder snow that dissolved whenever my hands or feet touched it, and ran down right onto John. For several hours, I went left and right, up and down, diagonal and zigzag, trying to find suitable places for some protection...but there was none. The cracks were seemingly nonexistant, all to common on the Chugach rock. I managed to get in one #3 stopper at the base of a seemingly gravity defying vertical wall of powder snow that was about 15-20 feet high and had a 5 foot tall overhanging powder mushroom on the top. I stuggled in vein for several hours, trying to find more protection and a way to surmount the powder wall. If I had had better pro in the walls, I feel I could have gotten up the wall, but I was not willing to take a lead fall on a poorly placed stopper with at least a 100 foot runout behind it. The lights of Anchorage illuminating the sky At about midnight on the 2nd, we decided to can it and retreat, figuring we were close, but still had another pitch or two to go. It was a dissapointing defeat, especially when we saw how close we were to being finished and getting our names on a new route. We spent the next 5-6 hours making a total of six rappels. I had lost my cell phone in the cave on pitch five and was convinced I would never find it again...oddly enough it was waiting for me at rappel station number four...how it stopped right there I will never know. We got back to our high camp at six in the morning, planning on walking back down to the boulder camp and sleeping there...we woke up at 10 AM with our feet sticking out of the tent and we weren't even in our sleeping bags. I still had my helmet on. We had been climbing for 24 hours straight, had both consumed less than 2 liters of water during that time, and had hardly eaten anything. For me, it was my first big experience in alpine climbing and I learned a lot. For John it was another defeat on the walls of Yukla. You can clearly see our line. It follows right up the middle, through the chimney, and then to the hourglass snow couloir. Our highpoint was just at the base of the hourglass. In different conditions, that powdersnow headwall might be easier to surmount, but conditions weren't favoring it at that time. From there it is merely a walk up. John really deserves most of the credit for the climb. He lead the hard pitches and was patient with me as I learned the ropes. If time allows, we might go back and finish the line in February. Last March, John and his friend Dan completed first ascent of the Heritage wall on Heritage Point in Eagle River, which was featured in the American Alpine Journal.
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