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Gambler’s Fallacy FA WI4+ M6+


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On Friday Feb 17th, 2023, Tom Beirne and I skinned out to Snow Lake in snowy weather. Andreea Gabor was supposed to be with us, but unfortunately she was sick, otherwise she would have been with us! I started from the car at 5:45 AM and reached the Slot Machine base around 8:20 am. We saw two other skiers out there, enjoying the fresh snow, taking the N Slopes of Chair Peak.


The line we were looking at starts to climbers right of the Slot Machine, climbing two pitches to a snow ledge that can be connected to the base of the ice climbing on Slot Machine. Tom had made an attempt on the line a couple weeks ago, in worse conditions, and he knew the first pitch had a good screw belay, albeit a hanging one.


The base of the ice climbing is up a steep snowy couloir, which we skinned up as far as we could to avoid wallowing in chest deep snow. It was snowing pretty heavily. Tom offered me any pitch but I asked Tom to lead both the first pitch and the second pitch. The second pitch was the hard mixed crux, and I didn’t want to sit a double belay on a hanging ice anchor and get cold. Instead we would both belay shorter time periods to keep moving.

Tom dug a trench up the snow to the base of the ice, traversing far left to avoid the randkluft/rimaye/moat that was about 2 feet under the snow, and pretty darn deep.


When he got to the ice, he cruised up, finding solid placements in the ice under the snow. Typical PNW, the ice was kind of funky and harder than it looked.


He build a belay with three bomber screws under the roof and brought me up. I raced up as fast as I could, knowing we were already running low in time, despite our 3:30 AM departure from Seattle. I didn’t even bother taking off my belay puffy or belay gloves. I was making tons of moves I’ve never do on lead, trusting the snicey sticks, but it was effective, I guess.



Tom took over again for the next pitch, that started with a couple inch-thick ice smear exiting the roof on the right. It looked like the next belay would be fairly close at a big tree. Tom made some mixed moves, finding the ice that was solid, but the feet kept disappearing as they fell off with the snow.


As always, it was steeper and trickier that it appeared. An apparently thick spot of ice provided bottomed-out stubby protection, and then some mixed climbing to the tree.


The tree was directly to the right, but appeared to have died in all of the places that were reachable. It had the effect of a bunch of downward sloping fragile spikes barring access and preventing upward movement, instead of providing any protection. Tom hammered in an angle, and wished we had brought the lost arrows that we discarded in the car. Then he placed a .5 and and a pink tricam followed by a magnificent knife blade piton that I was unable to retrieve (so it’s still there!). There was another mini roof to pull around, after getting some dirt sticks and weaving through the tree roots. Luckily there was a nice bit of ice pouring around to the left, and it make it possible to pull around and protect with a very tight .75.


As I was belaying in the protected roof alcove, bunches of snow, ice and dirt kept pouring down. We had radios, so I buckled down when I heard the tree was not a belay option. Then needles, twigs and branches started raining down. I was very glad I didn’t lead that pitch, despite the fact that it looked like it would be simple and icy at first glance. 


Past the tree was about 15m of deep, steep snow wallowing to the next tree belay. We were both slightly concerned about the slope stability, and wallow factor when we analyzed it from the ground, but on inspection of a side view of the slope, it looked climbable, while we also determined it is not accessible from the top, or by climbing around.

Tom finally burrowed through the snow slope to the top and I was so cold by that point, I said I might have to turn around. He also was soaked and cold at this point, so instead of wallowing across to Slot Machine (where we would have to rappel the adjacent couloir and then wallow back up to our gear cache) we decided to rappel.


We rappelled from the tree, leaving cord and a biner, and then made a naked V-Thread under the roof, making sure to pull it quickly so the rope didn’t get frozen in the wet ice.


Back on the ground, the sun poked out a teased us for the first time all day. But knowing that we were running out of time and didn’t want to ski down in the dark, we abandoned the idea of climbing my project, the ice pillar next to Steppenwolfe.

Slot Machine would have been cool to climb, although it is probably spicier than it looks.


Fantastic day out there, thanks for the full on adventure out there, in worse weather than I ever go out in. Your stoke kept us going, if not keeping us warm.


We have discussed the rating, and it is hard to rate things in WA because things are never in good conditions and probably this will not be in as good condition again. Steepness does not indicate the level of scrappy-ness or commitment you need.

We gave Gambler’s Fallacy a WI4+ M6+ (protects well) Steep snow (X, no pro, would whip the whole pitch), 65 meters, 2 pitches.




Note: Lost Arrow should replace small angle, making much better placement

(not pictured: the knifeblade I left in place. I tried to take it out, but a mini rock roof prevented hitting it up and down. Please re-hammer it to ensure it is secure before using)




Edited by Priti
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  • Priti changed the title to Gambler’s Fallacy FA WI4+ M6+

Nice write up Priti! Glad we could do something mellow for our first line together.

Recommended rack: 6-7 screws (red or yellow and 1x 22 fine), 12 alpine draws, 2KB (small&medium), 1 med LA, tricams, C4 .2-.75; double 60m ropes or single 70m might make the raps (2x). 

Conditions: This was at the end of a cold weather stretch. I had attempted the line several weeks prior (with Jason Niebler) and found the start of p2 roof to have running water under the verglas and wouldn't support body weight. So instead of pushing it, bailed in favor of the next cold cycle. The FA (this report) the verglass improved to 2-3inch thick! Perfect.

Don't push it if you find conditions thin. Per the namesake, security gets worse the higher you go, graduating from tying off stubbies to connecting the syncopated ice with KBs in blank walls and turf sticks. But I think the movement quality is pretty high with the requisite existential questioning and bottomless bag of cascade climbing tricks. The protection is decent, and the p2 whips would be clean except for the snow topout, which would be a deck to the WI2/3 below the belayer on pitch 1 and above your skis. If this is pushing the grade but you are wicked clever with pro, I'd recommend this route. Bailing is possible back to the anchor throughout, except on the snow. The 2nd roof (just before the steep snow) offers one good .75, but is a house of cards otherwise. Definitely one of the more interesting lines for this zone, and a good one for the new guard of crushers.


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  • 1 month later...
On 2/24/2023 at 10:05 AM, Blaszka said:

Nice work! One comment is the metal on metal on metal below Tom in that fifth picture. 

Post-mortem on metal-metal-metal:

Good catch! Yes, a basket hitch is definitely preferable. Only you can decide what's good enough for you. I was probably  too comfortable and didn't want to slow down to fix it.

As an homage to internet arguing, here's the flipside: avoiding triaxial loading is a best practice, but krabs are strong and overbuilt. They might seem tiny, but I haven't whipped and broken one yet (anecdotal evidence). That ice chandy will tear before a krab breaks (subjective). Since it's maritime ice, we're guessing kN here.  https://www.alpinesavvy.com/blog/lets-talk-about-off-axis-carabiner-loading

Second concern: metal on metal risk is unclipping due to radial size differences. At least this is what I've been taught with industrial fall protection doctrine. I'm sure there's a HowNot2 video on strength reduction for krab-on-krab action, but I'm willing to guess it's pretty negligible. 


The real concern here is the steep snow runout at the top. A picket for deadman, or even a grappling hook would be nice.

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