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climbingcoastie

[TR] Valdez - several 2/13/2015

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Trip: Valdez - several

 

Date: 2/13/2015

 

Trip Report:

 

After last years Alaska trip we decided that there was so much ice in Valdez that we would skip climbing in the Anchorage area and spend the entire time in Valdez. We still wanted to hit the born again Valdez Ice fest over Presidents Day weekend, so we skipped out on work on Friday and flew out that morning.

 

Researching rental cars I found out it would be $110 a day to rent a car in Valdez or $210 for the entire week out of Anchorage. This added with the extra cost into flying into and out of Valdez made the decision easy. We flew into Anchorage and would be driving to Valdez.

 

Becky, Josh’s wife, was going to join us for the first part of the trip this year. Because she wasn’t staying the whole time her ticket was to fly into and out of Valdez. The three of us left Sacramento on the same flight. In Seattle Josh and I were flying direct to Anchorage while Becky took the “milk run” through Juneau. This would allow us to arrive in Valdez all about the same time. Turns out our flight in Seattle had mechanical problems. After the delay we all ended up in Anchorage within 5 minutes of each other. Becky decided to join us for the ride instead of flying to Valdez. When reserving the rental car I opted for a compact, thinking the only time the three of us would be in the car together was headed to the climbs and back. Once seeing the rental car we all laughed. It was more of a roller-skate with a steering wheel than a car. It took us a while to get everything packed into the car and we headed out calling The Mosse’s Tooth and ordered pizza for the road. The drive was uneventful and we got into Valdez around 10:30 that night making for a long day.

 

Day 1

 

It was the first day of the ice fest, so we headed out to Keystone Canyon early and jumped on some topropes that were set up on the first pitch of Bridalveil Falls. During our first lap a few others started showing up. By the time we got our second lap in it was down right crowded, so we decided to head out to 19 Mile Wall.

 

When we got out there we got excited to see that there was a trail heading up the hill. Unfortunately that was short lived as we noticed it was a snowshoe trail and we didn’t have snowshoes. We post holed up the hillside for about 45 minutes to the base of Oosik (WI4 90m). I set up a top rope on the bottom 30m and we each ran a few laps. Becky told Josh and I that we could top out if we wanted to. Josh gave me the lead and I continued above our anchor to increasingly steeper ice.

 

After getting to the car we decided to see if there was anything open to climb. We headed back into Keystone Canyon and seen Triangle in the Cleft (WI3 30m) was free. Becky stayed in the car while Josh and I headed up to it. Josh took the lead up some thin ice. He got up about 20 meters and decided there wasn’t much worth climbing above him. He put a couple screws in and lowered off. I climbed up to the screws and decided to continue up just for the hell of it. I found a couple v-threads and brought Josh up. We rapped back down and headed to the car.

 

We went to the Fest party that night at the Visitor’s Center where some awesome prizes were given out. We split before the dance party began.

 

 

Bridalveil ® & Greensteps (L) being attacked during the fest.

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Bridalveil Falls with Glass Onion in the upper right.

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Woman's clinic on P.O.S.

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Me leading Oosik.

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Josh nearing the top of Oosik.

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Day 2

 

We woke up and headed into Keystone Canyon hoping to get on Hung Jury (WI4 55m), but when we got there we noticed a couple heading up to it. We decided to climb Horsetail Falls (WI3 80m) because Josh and Becky had never done it and it was right there. I gave Josh the lead as I lead it my first trip to Valdez several years ago. It was pretty much an uneventful climb except for one 15’ section leading up through a couple bells. When we were rapping as we reached the top others showed up to enjoy the topropes set up by the Fest Crew.

 

We cleaned up and headed over to Hung Jury where the first party was just topping out. We decided to start the climb under the bells instead of on the right side. Josh started up, being protected by the bells as the party above rapped. When they started below us Josh waited for them to get all the way down to the river so we wouldn’t knock ice down on them. While Josh was leading another party showed up, they went to the right side and impatiently waited for us to finish. Constantly looking around the corner and up at Josh, trying to rush us. Once Josh made it to the top me and Becky started climbing. I love this climb and you can’t describe what it’s like climbing through/around the bells. We made it down and headed to the car. As we drove by the climb we all had a good laugh as they guy that was in such a hurry for us to get done wasn’t going any faster than Josh was.

 

We headed to Hole in the Wall to get on one of the climbs that we didn’t climb last year Dire Straits (WI4+ 50m). Josh decided to give me the lead even though this was the route he wanted ever since he seen it last year. I left my hardshell at the hotel and the climb was running with water. I gave it a go but was soaking wet and miserable about 30’ up. The climbing got a little harder just above me so I slung an icicle and equalized it with a screw and lowered off. Josh pulled off an awesome lead and finished the route. I was so wet I didn’t want to climb it, so he rapped off a v-thread and we headed to the hotel.

 

That night was the bonfire at Nick’s place. It was defintely an Alaska size fire!

 

 

Becky on Horsetail Falls.

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Hung Jury from the river.

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Josh and Becky gearing up to climb Hung Jury.

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Horsetail Falls being attacked for the fest after we got off Hung Jury.

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My attempt at Dire Straits.

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Josh preparing to rap Dire Straits.

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Now THAT'S a fire.

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They counted 160+ people that attended the fest with 15-20 of us from out of state.

 

Day 3

 

We headed out to Bear Creek in the rain and got on Rain Check (WI4 90m). If you read last years report you know that we started up this climb and backed off do to fatigue from climbing for 9 days straight. We thought the name fit as we took a rain check last year on it and it was raining at the base. I took the lead and got to where the top splits into two curtains. I set up a belay and brought Josh and Becky up. I continued the lead up the right curtain to the spruce tree at the top of the climb. Standing under the tree belaying them up was the warmest and driest I was all day. While belaying them up I counted 3-4 slides coming down the hillside further up canyon. Once we were on the ground we were all soaking wet and decided to call it a day. I needed that lead after backing off the climb yesterday.

 

 

Josh rapping Rain Check.

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Day 4

 

 

We woke up early as Becky was flying out that morning. The weather had other plans and the plane couldn’t get in, so she was rescheduled for that evening and we went climbing. We headed into Keystone again and headed up to Simple Twist of Fate (WI5- 75m). Josh lead the first pitch that was mostly snow slogging. He gave me the second pitch that was steep blue hero ice. It was a fun and challenging lead especially with the water trickling down it.

 

Once Josh and Becky came up we rapped down and headed over to P.O.S. (WI3 25m). Josh lead up and slung a top rope and we each ran several laps on it. Josh ended up leading the steeper section for the last climb of the day.

 

We headed to the hotel and got cleaned up before driving out to the airport again. This time after waiting for two hours the plane never left Anchorage. Welcome to traveling in Alaska!!

 

 

Josh and Becky coming up Simple Twist of Fate.

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Day 5

 

Again we woke up early and got Becky the airport, this time she made it out. Josh and I went straight to Bridalveil Falls (WI5 185m) from the airport. I lead the first pitch making a detour way to the left to avoid a waterfall dripping down the side getting to the bolts behind the second pitch curtain. Josh combined the second and third pitch which started with an exposed step around to the front side of the curtain and upwardly traversing right. I lead the third pitch, the “killer pillar”, which was far less intimidating this year than the name implies. Josh finished the climb with the fourth pitch and we rapped off v-threads. We were both stoked and adrenalin was flowing, because we decided to find some more ice to climb. We headed up towards Thompson Pass, but by the time we got there the adrenalin wore off and we decided to call it a day.

 

Bridalveil Falls from the road.

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Josh approaching the top of the first pitch scouting his lead coming up.

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Josh starting the second pitch of Bridalveil.

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Me on pitch three. The "killer pillar".

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And another.

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Oops! I have always been told this was next to impossible. Glad this happened on the third pitch.

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Day 6

 

We started off by hiking into Sheep Creek to check out a couple climbs. We were amazed with how little ice there was in there was compared to last year. Spring Loaded was pretty much non-existent. We dropped our packs a ways in and skirted around some avalanche debris to take a look at some ice further up canyon. I had an uneasy feeling while we were up there. After scouting around and getting back to our packs we decided to pass and head up to Thompson Pass for some roadside climbing. Nothing to tall but exactly what we needed. We each did 5-6 routes, one would lead it, we’d pull the rope and the other would lead it with screws in place and get lowered and immediately run up it on top rope, then the first person would go up on TR and pull the anchor, making for a lot of climbing for only a few routes. On the way back we took a good look at the slopes above Sheep Creek discussing the avalanche potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got to love those approaches in Alaska!

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Views weren't bad either.

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Day 7

 

The avalanche conditions went down from considerable to moderate so we discussed going back to into Sheep Creek. We decided that as long as the sun stayed behind the clouds we would be good. We hiked back in and looked at Tsuri Gane (WI6- 170m) and Secret Journey (WI5 170m). We decided to jump on Tsuri Gane as we felt we needed to climb it early before it warmed up. Josh took the first pitch with snow covered rotten ice. The second pitch was pretty mellow and a lot of snow slogging. Once at the top of the second pitch we could see the hollow pillar wasn’t formed (not that we would have climbed it anyway). We decided to traverse to the left onto Tokyo Express to finish. Josh had a stellar lead on the third pitch used to traverse over. More rotten ice covered with snow, only steeper than the first pitch. Once I got over to Josh I took the “easier” line to the top of Tokyo Express.

 

Josh on the traversing pitch three. Apparently the ice on the right touches down and forms the top of Tsuri Gane.

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View from the top of Tokyo Express.

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Josh rapping Tokyo Express. Our backpacks far below.

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Day 8

 

We left Valdez for Anchorage around 9:30. We ran into all kinds of weather on the trip; snow, freezing rain, rain on top of compacted snow, and blue sunny skies. It delayed us a bit but we got to town in time to swing by AMH, the Mosse’s Tooth, and even caught a hockey game before calling it a night.

 

 

 

Day 9

 

We were at the airport by 9:30 and had an uneventful flight home.

 

 

Gear Notes:

10-12 screws

 

Approach Notes:

Alaska Air & Dollar Rent-a-Car

 

Snowshoes would have made it a lot easier to get to some routes!

Edited by climbingcoastie

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jeebus, looks like smiff-rock got frozen n' shipped north in some of them pics :)

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Chris, Not sure I met Mcalpine. I'm sure I seen him and probably even chatted, but couldn't be 100% sure.

 

Well worth a trip fourteenfour!! Alaska has so much ice that people in the lower 48 don't know about. Still plenty of FA just waiting for someone to get to.

Edited by climbingcoastie

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