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[TR]Sub Zero Zen in the Land of Furry White Asses

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Trip: Sub Zero Zen in the Land of Furry White Asses - South Fork, Shoshone River - Cody WY


Date: 1/28/2014


Trip Report:



Main Vein by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


There are three steps to assessing an ice pitch:


1-The Approach: “Oh God, that looks terrifying”


2-The Base: “This doesn’t look so bad”


3-Halfway Up: “Oh God, this is terrifying”


But you’ve gotten yourself treed on something that is shattering and fracturing in great, skritchy columns that cock for an inch and come to rest on a thumb sized nubbin of frozen dirt. The ice is blue-brittle, the feet imaginary, the rock you seek refuge on crumbles beneath your front points, and the cruelest irony of all: despite the Enceladusian temperatures, the sun is melting your screws out, one by one.


Not that they’d hold, anyway.


There’s nowhere to go but up, so up you go, using every trick, every cheat, every breathing technique, every appeal to an indifferent universe you can muster.


And suddenly, both crampons are crunching through low angle snice, and your self-inflicted battle with the universe’s most ubiquitous and fickle medium is over as quickly as it began. You exhale. Gravity releases a growing smile.


It's your belayer’s turn.


The first pitch of Main Vein is seldom in. It’s still hard to say whether it was in or not during our final day of climbing in the South Fork of the Shoshone River. There is a rock bypass, which reputedly offers up its own set of horrors. I suppose a pitch like that does serve a purpose – to let you know that it’s time to go home.



Carter Mountain by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


Save a brief visit from our host Matt of the Double Diamond X Ranch, we saw no one for our first two days in the South Fork of the Shoshone River. That’s not to say the place is devoid of life. It’s a frozen petting zoo of bighorns, white tail deer, elk, eagles, red tail hawks, ravens, ouzels, magpies, ducks, great horned owls, lynxes, coyotes, foxes, rabbits – I’m just naming what we saw or heard – to that add grizzlies, mountain lions, pronghorns, moose...I’ve never seen wildlife density like it anywhere. The mountains surrounding the valley are stunning – and full of ice.



Hey There, Ice Climber by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



On Second Thought, Think of the Children by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


Matt and Jeanine own and operate the Double Diamond X Ranch, our home for the week and the clearly superior alternative to staying in some dumpy motel in rotten-egg reeking Cody - an hour commute each way – if the road is clear, that is. Staying in the valley allows one to become immersed in its silence and solitude – even more so if sub zero temperatures and snow conspire the keep other ice pilgrims away.



Home at the Double Diamond X Ranch by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



High On Boulder by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


The river crossing to High On Boulder was mostly frozen; only a couple of punch through slushies. The climb itself was in excellent condition save some delicate and brittle crux ice (shown).



Cabin Fever by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


Cabin Fever, as I discovered on lead, was not quite as solid as our previous objective. I knew something was up when water spurted out of my pick strike like a struck artery – then it snapped into focus – the entire flow save some WI6 icicles to the right was only an inch thick and visibly flowing on its inside surface. It certainly wasn't going to take screws - and probably not me, either. Fortunately, I was only 15 feet up and could easily back off of it and save it for another day.


Temperatures were, indeed, low. I led with 4 merino layers, a micropuffy, and a windshirt, and was barely holding my own with that. The amphitheatre, far from protecting from the spindrift laden wind, acted as a wind scoop. Still, it’s a spectacular place and the posthole in and out provided a scenic workout.



Postholing back from Cabin Fever by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


After our experience on Cabin Fever, we were ready for a sure bet, and we got one with the wonderful, moderate butter ice on Bozo’s Revenge. It didn’t come hassle-free, however. Snice and sub zero temperatures provided challenges that the climbing itself did not.



Snicing up to Bozo's Revenge by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



Bozo's Revenge by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



Post-Bozo's Revenge Saunter by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



Untitled by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


I should mention our vehicle – the Snow Shark, complete with a full set of Craigslist acquired I’Zen Studs and world’s dimmest low beams. That thing really ate up the snowy roads, though, even if it had to burn a bunker’s worth of fuel doing it.



Snowshark Sighting by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



The Special Love I Have For You (crux section, Main Vein) by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



Sunday Afternoon by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



Cold Crescent by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


For me, the South Fork was as much about its beauty and solitude as the climbing. I fell in love with the place. A frightening final climb effectively pushed me out of that nest, but I have a feeling I’ll return - winter and summer, for the rest of my life. After Cody, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to tolerate the tourististan that is Canmore, but to each his or her own, I reckon.



Parting Shot - South Fork of the Shoshone River by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr


After a tough drive, DougD and his gracious wife Catherine were kind enough to put us up, feed us a wonderful dinner and breakfast, and provide excellent company and conversation in Spokane – which logged impressive 4 F temperatures the following morning. Thank you both for that.



Scenic Montana by PatGallagherArt, on Flickr



Gear Notes:

Feet: large fitting Scarpa Mont Blancs with two pairs of thick Smartwool socks worked well for me, Scarpa Phantom Guides with 2 pairs of thinner wool socks were a bit too chilly for Nastia.


Hands: Seirus neoprene liner gloves inside and XL OR Vert gloves for leading, OR Alti mitts for approaches/belaying.


Pants: I used Icebreaker boxers, the thinnest Smartwool long johns, and REI ACME pants. Nastia went with a merino baselayer and primaloft pants.


Top: I wore the thinnest Icebreaker short sleeve T, Ibex Indie Hoody, a $10 merino sweater from Goodwill, a Montbell UL hooded down puffy, and a light windshirt. Added an extra merino midlayer for the really cold day at Cabin Fever - plus a big assed puffy for standing around that day.


My gear kept me comfy enough.


Approach Notes:

Snow shoes would have come in handy for the Cabin Fever approach. Not so much for any of the others. Skis not recommended. Not enough coverage, too many rocks.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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dude, who IS that ultra-hot gal you're climbing with?? only soviets are that tough

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can't believe The Scarab didn't get the nod for yet another space-warp of an adventure :)


good odds on at least a day of far skankier ice to be had down here in the gorge this here weekend...

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There was no shortage of feisty dinner plates...


Looked for studs for the Scarab but time and cost (weird sized tires - a whole new set of tires/wheels would have been required) nudged us towards the road tested Snowshark, even if it warmed the planet a wee bit more. Comfy enough ride - cruise control, decent heater, adequate cargo space. Plus it was fun cruising the very same snowy roads as the few $50K+ SUVs we saw in the valley.


That, and the Scarab sports the Bronco colors. Guess I gotta be careful about that these next few weeks. Don't wanna get run over by a Duck.



Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Regarding lodging, the Double Diamond X bunkhouse (sleeps up to 6) was $37 per a night before the 10% AAC discount. Best you're gonna do it Cody is about $20-25 a night per. Do the math with gas, time, and quality of life and it makes little sense to stay in Cody (IMO) unless you really hate cooking for yourself, love winter driving after a long day, or can't be away from a mini mart for longer than 24 hours. The smell alone is worth giving Cody a miss.


The ranch also has at least one 2 bed cabins for 127 and a five bed house w full kitchen (bunkhouse has a hot plate, microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, and full sized fridge) for 195 a night. No limit of persons staying in either. They are working on providing food and drink.


The Ranch is a mile from the Hunter Ck/S Fork junction, and 7 mi from the end of the S Fork road. Pretty much a perfect location.


Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Did you actually see a lynx? One of my climbing goals is to see a wolverine on an approach hike someday. A lynx would be a good baby step for me.


Cool report, Wyoming kicks ass in a lot of ways.

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Just cat tracks. Too small for a cougar. Most likely a bobcat (lynx rufus).


There's a resident wolverine around Stehekin, according to some folks I met who study them.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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My uncle, a forester, was once stalked by a mountain lion. He didn't like it either.


Russians, in the far east at least, live with the largest feline in the world. For next time, just tell your Soviet comrades a mountain lion is like a cute, kitten version of the Siberian tiger.


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What a difference a couple weeks make. We also stayed at the Double Diamond X Ranch and rented out a couple of cabins due to the size of our crew. Nice people and we would stay again. We had temps up to 45 during the day and hardly any snow but still managed to get a lot done. Nice report.

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You can't swing a dead bobcat without hitting a NWsterner who claims they've been stalked by a cougar.


Cats are not exactly the kind of thing that keeps an ice climber up at night unless Tabby has a habit of curling up on your face or using your screamers for scratchin' posts.


Show me a North American cat that won't exit stage Fuck This if you run right at it screaming and I'll show you a dead North American cat.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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You can't swing a dead bobcat without hitting a NWsterner who claims they've been stalked by a cougar.


So true. Maybe we can diversify our tales of eerie wildlife encounters a bit now that wolves are back.

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