If you are willing to overlook a crappy approach trail,, wholesale excavation/destruction, and dusty starts, the Diamond is producing some amazing climbs. Long, sustained and old school fun is how I would describe Hell Bent. Though short pitches are the norm, the corner pitch(3) is sooo good, as is the last few face climbing pitches. Thoughtful and in balance, you climb more with your brain than body. Jeremy and I had a blast in the cool temps, watching people scrub and work their projects. The route saw 3 parties on it today alone. Thin gear and stoppers are not very useful. Can’t wait to try Sabbra.
The 3 haggard climbers struggled back to the car, now separated, traumatized, and glad to have avoided a major epic. Stuck ropes, incomplete descent beta, and sustained climbing difficulties made for a long 2 days out at the Big Kangaroo. The 4th of July weekend started out with the Liberty Traverse though, so let’s check back on the 3 exhausted dudes later.
First up, Jenn and I went after our second grade 5 route together: crossing all 5 summits of the Liberty Bell group, you can make it as hard as you want. We tried to begin with the North Face of Liberty Bell. Once recovered from an off route start, we found the Remsberg variation to be quite fun. Water grooves stepping at its finest. It was cool to be up there so late in the day after the crowds were gone. We had to get over Concord(N. Face Directisimo) before dark though to keep our pride intact, then find a lovely bivy between Concord and Lexington. What a great sunset, and view from there. I am sure the traverse is fine getting it done in a day, but…..
Sunset, then sunrise..
Lexington was a chossy blur first thing in the morning, and on to the real business of NW Corner of N. Early Winter Spire. Sustained and old school climbing at its best. We had fun behind a couple of young men just getting into this sort of thing. Their stoke was refreshing. We were also next to Jenn’s friends that were having fun on the West Face route too! We did punt a bit on S. Early, taking the easy way up it for lack of energy, not to mention hunger. One of the better traverses in the state.
The second half of the 4 day weekend was to be devoted to the Skinny Start of the Kearney/Thomas route.
James, Lane, and myself aimed to do the possible 2nd ascent of the 4 (not 3) pitch variation start.
We expected typical “alpine” rock climbing, but got closer to Index type climbing(hard!), with dirtier conditions. The trad gear/anchors went in well, making the insane climbing slightly more sane. It is tough to describe how heroic each lead was in its own unique way. Right from the start, it gets after you and builds in intensity right on through the crux and beyond! There is little respite once getting on the more established K/T route. I barely got the crux pitch clean, but James fell early following and jammed his rope into the thin crack in 2 different places!!! Lane had to climb past him and aid the whole pitch to free the stuck rope and get the frustrated James moving again. Surprisingly the maneuver only cost us a cam and 1 1/2 hrs. On to the next crazy pitch and our next surprise at the top of the route: We couldn’t find a rap anchor along the whole top of the suggested rap route: Becky-Tate. It became clear that we needed a back-up plan. I took charge scouting a direct descent to the car for my partners, and then got busy retrieving our overnight gear that we left at the base of the climb on the opposite side of the mountain. The entire descent had to be done in rock shoes for my friends, but at least I got back to my approach shoes at the base of the route. For me it was difficult but passable to stay high traversing to the saddle, this tactic seems to be the best option despite adding onto an already LONG day. The 60lb pack(s) made quick work of depleting my reserves, but burgers became that much closer with each step. We avoided a full blown epic through sheer will. What a weekend!
More info in Blake’s new book, but be careful with the beta, there are more pitches than described, and didnt find the rap anchors for going down the Beckey route.
When your to-do list at Washington Pass dwindles to the last few ticks in the book, Freedom Rider will offer an arresting and consuming adventure. Don’t take it lightly, it is a serious affair. At times the rock is loose, cat-littered, and vegetated. (apologies to the party below us!)I would say that over half of it is very fun climbing though. There are also some very memorable sections that surprise the climber too. The crux is a real head scratcher, I got to the highest part described on the 10d thin, and then just did a pendulum past the off-width to save time. I knew it was going to be a long day: up at 430 am and back to Seattle by midnight! We got pretty tired as it was our first big route of the rock season though. A very ambitious project considering that. Thanks to Jeremy for the amazing day!
The super topo and Blakes book are pretty accurate beta resources, here are a few others, and some pics:
I had only been home for a couple of days when Lane asked me again to join Paul, Michael, and him in Moab. The steady rain in Seattle and the pending work project sent me re-packing light enough to fit in a small Honda with 3 guys, their gear, and a dog.(what, am I a teenager?) We met Lane in Moab after a communication fiasco that would be repeated throughout the trip. It is a very different experience climbing and travelling as a party of four. A leader must emerge, yet maintain democracy. Though it may allow greater flexibility, misunderstandings are bound to occur. A few nice advantages become evident however:
If you need 2 ropes to get down, you are set.
If a partner or 2 wants a break, set.
If one of the cars are too lightweight, pile in the other.
Working as a team to get the first leader up the first pitch can be very quick.
Critical gear can be handed back, or left in place for the 2nd team.
“Swap-roping” (swapping top ropes)
Makes for fun team meals at camp or restaurants. Shared expenses.
As a result of good weather, luck and company, we all got up some great towers and crag pitches:
4-9-17 Maverick Butt. 4p to 5.11 w Lane, Paul, Michael R. What a crag!
4-10-17 Sister Superior, Jah Man 4p 10+a0. Went too high at the crux, fell. Such a great route though.
4-11-17 W. Face 3 Gossips 3p 5.11 a1. Intense crack climbing, got it with 1 take, and 2 gear-pulls.
4-12-17 Long Dong rt. Kissing Couple 5p 5.11 ao. Our favorite climb, we all agreed. Tough first pitch, got it clean, except the blank section at the top bolt. We came in from the high approach, and 3 of us got to take the low approach out. Paul got the car and picked us up. Met interesting folk on trail.
4-14-17 Scarface Wall 4p to 5.11b. Got the on-sight of the legendary routes at this amazing crag.
4-15-17 Donnelly Canyon 3p to 5.10 w Lane, Ramsey, Whitney. Lane and I got to pretend that we belonged with 2 charming young ladies.
Some photos by Lane, James, and Michael Rowley Photography
I’m just gonna let the pictures do the talking about my best trip to Red Rocks yet.
Ok maybe the stats can have a word too..
3-26-17 Prince of Darkness 5.10c a0 7p with JC, difficult route! Holds are worn out.
3-28-17 Epinephrine 5.9 16p, Wow, what a route!!
3-29-17 Black Corridor 6p to 10c
3-31-17 The Fox, Danger Bros. Roof+ 4 others 6p to 11a w Mike. Burley , fun routes!
4-2-17 Community Pillar 5.8+ 6p Think fun tunneling
4-3-17 Fiddler on the Roof 10d 4p So techy, thin, 48p total
Thanks to Jeff, Stefanie, Jenn, and Mike, love you guys..
click image to enlarge..
Until I saw the photos on the Canada Facebook page, I was not planning a 3rd trip back to the Rockies. The locals had just installed several new routes on the 70m wall right of Twisted. The pictures showed wild, exposed climbing, and a mind blowing setting. Of course the exposure led Keenan, myself, and many others to scramble there to sample the newer climbs. I would describe the area as the light version of Stanley Headwall of fun! Not too hard, but feels like you are on something steep and difficult. I hope they can form every year. (note; now that I look at old pics of Twisted, I think they will regularly form!)
3-11-17 Nasty Habit 3p wi5-m7 WHAT A GREAT ROUTE!! p1 starts out fun mixed (m6, gear to 3″) to a bolt protected dagger move, fun lead to start the trip on. Nice easy alpine p2 with thin ice wi4. P3 is fun, scratchy hooks, getting gradually steeper, fun sticking the ice too. We then couldn’t do Blobs, because of 2 parties already on it.
3-12-17 Lower Weeping Wall, center 3p wi4/5. We wanted to do the upper pillar too, but 6 new inches of snow began sloughing off in the hot sun.
3-13-17 Curtain Call 2p wi5/6. Super fat fun in easy shape. long leads though as always.
3-14-17 Blob, Blob, Blob 3p wi3-m6+. Got our revenge on this amazing climb racing a local party that photographed us. Cant say enough about the 2 pitches….amazing, athletic, weird, and steep moves. Watch for large loose blocks. It wont take long to see that the routes are new, and still loose in places.
This great trip made me glad that I trained hard, keep an eye on route reports, and participate in the fantastic sport of technical winter climbing!
click to enlarge photos
Even though it was warming up in the Northwest, I wasn’t ready to hang up my crampons. I asked 4 friends to go to Hyalite and one-by-one they all backed out! I then asked facebook and found Bill, a driven yet laid back climber that had yet to get on ice this season. Bill arranged a place to stay with friends there in Bozeman, and we were off for a long weekend of driving and ice climbing.
I wouldn’t suggest warming up on the Matrix, but all of my training and 60+ pitches of ice this season justified getting on a difficult and spooky lead. Bill led Feeding the Cat, and we got laps in on it too.
I was waffling on doing Zack Attack the next day, but Bill was persistent about trying it, so off we went, starting up G2 early in the morning the slogging up sometimes deep drifts got us to the base 1-2 hours later. We then started up the incredible 5 pitch climb with Bill leading the first pitch (m4) in style. I did a short mix pitch left to the piton belay station(m4), then Bill did the dry finish to the right of rotten, thin ice of p3(m4). It was then up to me to do the last 2 short ice steps to finish this long spectacular route. The last one was very steep at the top trying to wiggle through the overhanging finish! This is the best the route has come in the last 8 years! tr from Bryan
Since Mummy 3 and 4 were in epic fat shape too, I had to head there the next day for the chance of a lifetime conditions. (my last time on Mummy 2011) After I did Scepter in fat condition, Bill took the opportunity to lead Mummy 3 in all ice condition(wi3+). It was up to me to lead Mummy 4. I chose the right side, it had delicate ice blobs to stem from the rock on the right, and bizarre ice on the left eventually forming a chimney with rock on the right and ice, left. At the top I had to go left to finish this wonderful lead. We were happy with our 12 pitch weekend, but are we ready to hang up the crampons yet? No way,
Some photos courtesy of Bill P.
So I must REALLY like ice climbing because I went up by myself for 2 weeks with only 1 partner lined up for 4 of the days. Why else would I spend countless hours in sub-freezing temps, put up with cold toes, screaming barfie hands, slick roads, lonely evenings , and one good meal per day? There were many fun days no matter my complaining. One of those days in particular was one of the best days of my ice and mixed career too. Here is the break down of the fun I had with 10 different people!
1-15-17 Junkyards 4p to wi4 w Jack
1-16 Haffner 2p w14
1-17-17 Guinness attempt 2p to wi3 w/Jenn, Paul. small sluff sent us packing
1-18-17 Redman/Whiteman 4p to m6 wi6 w/ Jeremy R
1-19 -17 Johnson wi4 w/ Jeremy P
1–20-17 Wuthering/Green Angel 3p to wi4 w/ Steve, Jeremy
1-22-17 Big Dipper, Little Dipper 3p to wi4, w/Jeremy, trying to find Lacey G.
1-23-17 Hafner 5p to m6 wi4 w/ Mike, Rachel, Trystan -soon to be bad asses
1-24-17 Circus Circus wi4 3p w/Jim Elzinger. Rarely formed route with a legendary partner
1-25-17 Unicorn/Kitty attempt wi4 2p w/Nolan, broken pick
I have to say, the day with Jeremy R on Whiteman/Redman was especially awesome. I was happy to give the crux of Whiteman to Jeremy, and what a super job he did on that intimidating lead! We spent 14 hours that day in a beautiful area doing the 4 amazing pitches.
It was fun doing 2 days in the Ghost with Jeremy, and Steve too climbing 3 routes that I hadn’t done yet. Both days ended in a headlamp blur at the end of long distant approaches for great ice with no crowds. Of course after 50 pitches of ice and mixed so far this season, I hurt my knee(mildly) on flat ground , so now Index is on my mind for a few weeks from now. What an exceptional ice season, I hope this can be the normal type of winter once again.
Thanks to all of my wonderful partners, and especially Steve for setting me up with a room, and partners for most of the days.
Doug and I packed up the full array of ice gear and headed out in his plush truck camper for a overnight jaunt to the lesser known realms just west of Banks Lake. Neither of us had climbed out there, and man what a great outing we had! We drove past Champagne to find it was the most sheltered and sunny, therefore best option in the frigid temps. To stick with the pattern though, we found Joe and Jason already enjoying the steepness of its 2 great pitches. We did the 2 pitch route in the afternoon shade after them.
The next day we went into stunning Moses Coulee ( reminds me of Cody), and proceeded to get very humbled gazing at the very formidable Butch Cassidy. It reminded me of a longer version of Zenith, another legendary sandbag.. We drove past it and other scare fests to do the Sundance Kid. Doug took the lead under virgin conditions, excavating his way up through the overhangs. Banks is such an amazing yet stiff area to climb. It matters dramatically whether or not the ice conditions are good, bad ,and/or untrammeled. Be careful out there in this banner season, stoke is high yet there have been a good number of accidents. Pay attention to the grades and realize Banks is a bit sandbagged at times when conditions are less than optimal.
..with a name like that…
The internet is a mixed blessing when ice season rolls around. It is tough to be tortured daily by photos of amazing routes, yet nice to know they are in and have been getting climbed. I had a 1 day window that James and I used driving to Banks Lake and had a wallop of a time climbing!
Razorblades is a 2-3 pitch route that rarely see its first pitch form, and P1 has seen very few ascents. P1(aka, Eating Razorblades) was in chandeliered and drippy shape. It had a back off sling that attested to that. It took a while to get up the steep, thin and rotten ice, but this was my shot, and I made the most of it all the way to the top. I found it to be difficult and awkward going.
I was lucky enough to be climbing the first pitch when a talented photographer was nearby. He took the following 4 pictures. His outstanding site is here: http://jonjonckersphotography.format.com/
The last 2 pitches were no gimme either. A strong leader with lots of screws could combine them, but I was I no hurry even though wet from drips on all sections. What a great climb!! I hope to head back this next weekend too.