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Vail TR/Conditions Update

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…For what it’s worth to anyone in the PNW. Headed out to Vail early Sunday morning and despite getting an early start witnessed legions of climbers ascending the gullies to the base of the climbs that we had intended to climb that day, with the exception of Spiral Staircase (WI 3-4) and The Pencil (WI 3-4). The folks that developed Vail seem to have a profound aversion to public parking, but after finding a place to leave the rig on the opposite side of the highway we headed up into the ampitheater that contains The Rigid Designator, The Fang, Octopussy, Fatman and Robin, Reptile, The Thang, and a host of other routes that I will never attempt to climb so long as I live.

Anyhow, the designator was in, albeit extremely drippy and chandeliered, having apparently just touched down a few days earlier. The Fang looked like its moniker at this point, being a hollow 80 foot icicle about 18 inches wide at the base, with a regular shower pouring onto the cone at the base from within the formation. It looked as though a strong wind would knock it down at this point, but should touch down in a few days if the cold temps persist. One of the bad-ass mofo’s out there working a new mixed line behind the fang that will supposedly go at at least M10 had just finished warming up on The Designator, having placed a total of three screws on the ascent. I’ve met the guy before, and despite being a bad-ass mofo, he’s always been cool, generous, and enouraging. He offered my partner and I a chance to do a lap on his top rope, but we thanked him and declined, as we came here to lead as many of the routes as our humble abilities allowed. We marched around the corner to find a 10 man cluster-fest at the base of the Spiral Staircase, and returned to the designator to see if the top-roping offer was still valid.

It was and I came away both impressed and humbled by what the aforementioned mofo had done. The ice at the base had formed into a giant, unprotectable pine-cone type-deal that you could hook and step your way up with abandon, but forget about getting pro. The shaft itself was convoluted, chandeliered, and dripping but for the most part the ice was sticky if you chose your targets carefully. Fun on TR but a gut-wrenching nightmare on lead – at least it would be for me anyway. After finishing up we got word that the cluster-fest had dissipated and hit the Staircase around the corner. The ice was a bit thin and hacked out for my taste, but it was a nice lead to finish the day out. After swapping leads we packed up and had a 500 foot luge ride down a packed-out glissade path that twisted through the Aspen groves. Best descent ever, courtesy of the 10-man cluster. Guess they were good for something!

Anyway, the title of this thread said TR/Conditions, so here are the conditions, gratuitous as they may be for some of you.

Firehouse – InPitkin Falls – InSpiral Staircase – InThe Pencil – InRigid Designator – InThe Fang – Just about touched down. Should be in in a week or two of you’re up for it.Pumphouse Falls – In.

Looked like most of the 10 Mile canyon stuff was in, and the slopes above the routes we could see were snow covered but not loaded enough to present an extreme avalanche danger. Size it up and have at it if you feel like gambling and or the 10-man cluster is making a guest appearance at the base of your favorite climb.

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