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telemarker

[TR] Icicle Canyon: Hook/Rat Creek - Blockhouse West Face 7/14/2012

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Trip: Icicle Canyon: Hook/Rat Creek - Blockhouse West Face

 

Date: 7/14/2012

 

Trip Report:

It's been three years since I've ventured into Hook Creek. And curiously I hold little nostalgia for the drainage. At least the lower part which now has a bed of blown-down, white snags whose bleached branches collapse with a crisp snap that sends you to the ground, the sharp tip gouging your shin on the way by.

 

Chris Martin is able to bull his way through the buckbrush and snags with the momentum of a charging grizzly. It's easy now because we have fresh legs.

 

Blockhouse has been an objective of mine for a few years. The Blockhouse is the crag on the right.

bh1.jpg

 

From upper Icicle Rd., the West Face stands out as a steep white shield amongst the other craggy faces of black lichen. On 6/28/2009 Dan Cappellini, Kevin Newell and Rolf Larson climbed a route on the W. Face that looked interesting, so Chris and I decided to investigate a little further.

 

There was little information about the approach, so we chose a gully and decided to go for it. We headed up a chossy and dangerously loose gully between the Shrew and Blockhouse.

bh2.jpg

 

It started out mellow enough, but then quickly transitioned into steeper and even looser nastiness that required a rope and a delicate and tedious lead to the top out at a snag.

bh4.jpg

bh3.jpg

 

We lost some time here, but the disappointment was tempered by the feeling of not having been injured or maimed. We descended a west facing gully with a combination of tedious downclimbing and an odd rap or two.

bh5.jpg

 

Once out in the open, we followed a goat trail around the bottom of Monkey's Head over to the gully that divides Blockhouse and MH. After the beat-down approach, being below the west face was refreshing.

bh7.jpg

 

bh8.jpg

 

The intended route is easy to find, as there is an "obvious corner" and huge off-width chimney not too far up the route.

bh9.jpg

 

We racked up and Chris set off on the first pitch, which proved to be steep with good pro. However, don't be fooled into a false sense of security, as holds are still loose and must pass the "knock-knock" test before grabbing it.

bh10.jpg

 

Chris set up his belay just below a small roof. The next pitch saw me pulling through on gritty rock and flared crack. There are jugs to bail you out, but with our previous theme of loose rock, I never fully trusted anything, and hanging on to place pro was exhausting, when I slipped and hung for a bit. The rock improved a bit up higher where I belayed at the base of the incredible chimney.

bh11.jpg

 

Chris set off up this outstanding feature. The chimney generously offers the climber a perfect hand flake to aid in upward movement, and the pro is excellent to the left. 2/3 of the way up, move to right side in for a few grunt moves more to a comfy ledge at the top. Outstanding lead for Chris!

Chris climbing towards the light.

bh12.jpg

 

At this point, the alpine ambiance was being interrupted by low bass rumblings of thunder. A quick look over to Cannon Mtn. confirmed the bad news.

bh14.jpg

 

A quick meeting of the feeble minds created the decision that we would gun for the top. I took off on a fun lead on ever-improving rock, and of course a steeper offwidth crack where the camalot #5 came in handy.

bh13.jpg

 

I pulled up at a solid tree and belayed Chris up, the thunder getting closer and the situation deteriorating. Chris racked up quickly and started off. 10 feet off the belay, gentle drips of rain transitioned to a downpour. He down climbed back to the tree and we readied the rappel where a double rope rap took us back to the overhung and dry chimney. We hung out there until it mellowed but remained saturated. We set up an anchor of a few stoppers at the chimney and lowered back to the starting point and a lone goat to dry out.

bh15.jpg

 

Not wanting to schwack down Rat Creek from this point, we decided to ascend the gully that divides the north face of Monkey's head and Blockhouse. Most likely trivial in dry conditions, the now saturated lichen covering the rock kept us on edge, forcing us to rope up near the top to surmount a couple chockstones.

bh16.jpg

 

At the col between the formations, we double rope rapped to the mid-point of the gully we had originally ascended. By now it was 8pm, and we wanted to make it back to the Yellowjacket Tower trail by dark to avoid the stupid bushwack through the worst of it in lower Hook. But we weren't in such a hurry that we didn't stop to enjoy the three Tecate's that we found on the way up!

bh17.jpg

 

They had been there a while, as the labels had been bleached white. But oh did they taste good! Next time, please include a lime whoever you are.

 

We shotgunned the beer, declared them "Sabrosisimas" and beat it down, reaching YJT by dark as intended.

 

 

Edited by telemarker

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much easier to approach from a col between the blockhouse and the hook -- no raps, minimal sketch.

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much easier to approach from a col between the blockhouse and the hook -- no raps, minimal sketch.

 

We saw this on the way back down, unfortunately. Nice find Rolf and fun route, at least the pitches we managed to do before the rain.

Edited by telemarker

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I think John thrives on sketch.

 

Nice write up, and great job getting up there given the forecast

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I think John thrives on sketch.

 

Nice write up, and great job getting up there given the forecast

 

Thanks. Actually, the log crossing at the snow creek wall turn off is at my upper tolerance for sketch.

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My buddy and I left those tecates up there 2 years ago on the 4th of july after climbing the Mole. We'll remember to bring limes next time.

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My buddy and I left those tecates up there 2 years ago on the 4th of july after climbing the Mole. We'll remember to bring limes next time.

 

Well I can tell you that even after two years they were delicious. And if it's not too much trouble, maybe you could include some fresh shrimp with that lime too?

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Great write-up John. While the approach was rather hellish, the actual climb was quite good. Give me a few weeks to forget the bad stuff and let the holes in my legs heal and we'll go back to finish it!

 

My buddy and I left those tecates up there 2 years ago on the 4th of july after climbing the Mole. We'll remember to bring limes next time.

 

Well I can tell you that even after two years they were delicious. And if it's not too much trouble, maybe you could include some fresh shrimp with that lime too?

 

And I was about to start believing there was a god when we found those beers. I think it was in the top 5 of tastiest beers I've had...the timing, the refreshing taste, the coldness, all good. Made the rest of the descent tolerable. Maybe next time they can leave some percocet with them? :moondance:

 

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Whoa! Awesome trip report, Chris and John!! I cannot believe those beers where still there.

 

Great photos, John! You haven't changed at all, Chris! Can't wait to see you again! DUDE...AUGUST for sure!

 

 

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