Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Louise Falls.
 I've been super busy getting loose ends tied up for my World Cup trip since getting home from Alberta.So much to do and so little time to get it all done. I can't wait until the trip is set in motion. Hopefully we have things planned out well enough that I don't have to worry too much about sorting out details.

Grant leading up pitch one.

 The end of my trip to Alberta was pretty uneventful. On Sunday we went to Lake Louise and climbed the fals there. It wasn't very hard but was pretty fun. It was also probably the most pure ice climbing I have done for a while as most of my "ice climbing" this year has been drytooling on rock with very little ice.
Starting up pitch two.

Looking out across upper Lake Louise.

Monday I did another training day with Malcolm and Jen. We spent a couple of hours getting completely worked and dropped me off at the airport just in time to catch my flight home.

I'd like to give a super big THANK YOU to my friends Pat and Candace for letting me crash at there place and for feeding me!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Another day

I'm losing track of how many times I have been to the Haffner Cave this trip. Today I went back with my friend Pat Delaney and another Minnesota transplant to Canada, Kendra Stritch. The temperature was much colder than we were expecting which made for a miserable start to the day. I sprinted up the warmup trying to reach the top before my fingers started to freeze.

After Pat and Kendra took their turns we took shelter far back inside the cave. Inside the temperature was significantly warmer and we could thaw out our freezing hands and feet. To salvage the day we would duck out from deep inside the cave and climb on Caveman. It ended up being a really good day for me. Surprisingly I felt good even though I felt like I was pretty wrecked the day before. I ended up doing 11 laps on Caveman. The first two laps I rested before going again. Right after lowering off from the 3rd lap we pulled the rope and I jumped back on to do the 4th lap.I did back to back laps like this until 9,10,and 11 which I did all three in a row.

Pat starting out Caveman while I was further back in the warmer section of cave. The ice stalagmites form as water drips from the cave ceiling and freezes in the cold air in the lower section of the cave. Hoarfrost coats the cave roof near the entrance as the moist air freezes to the cold rock.
I think part of being able to do this was muscle memory and getting the route wired, but I think my steep route endurance is making a big improvement as well. The last lap my hands felt like they were opening and it was hard to pull with my arms, but some how I still made it. 

Mixing it up.

The view out my window as I started working on this post this morning.

Its been a busy last few days. Wednesday I took a rest day and spent it mostly getting caught up on tasks I had been putting off. 
A little light climbing to stretch out my muscles on my rest day.
Thursday I went to the Stanley Headwall with my bad ass mountain guide friend and teammate Jen Olson to climb a recently established route called The Ghost in the Machine.
The approach took about two hours and required skis. In discussion it all seemed easy enough. I would borrow some skis and skins and we would basically walk in on the skis. In practice it wasn't too bad and I think I only fell over once on the way in. It was pretty much all up hill but the time passed by rather quickly.
The lower end of the Stanley Headwall.

Jen getting close to the route we would climb.

The Ghost in the Machine climbs the left side of the big arch near the center of the photo.

Getting near the cliff and looking back down towards the road. The road is below the clouds way down in the valley.

Jen finally getting close to the route.
Once at the base of the route we sorted out our gear and debated about who should lead what pitch. I think we were both a little intimidated but before we could rock/paper/scissor for who would go first I volunteered to take the first pitch.
Me leading the first pitch.
This was my first introduction to leading "Rockies choss" on gear. Fortunately the rock and the gear were both pretty good. I was a bit out of practice since I hadn't done much traditional climbing over the summer and it had been nearly ten months since doing it with ice tools in my hands and crampons strapped to my feet.
Starting out the climbing was straight forward enough. It didn't take long though before the climbing became more difficult and my progress slowed down. Fortunately Jen was a patient belayer.
Passed the crux.
As the crack arched the climbing became more difficult. A couple of deteriorating smears of ice helped with the passage thru this section. Once the crack started going vertical again there was a bit more ice but the first section was detached and fell off leaving me to squirm up the wide crack until I could start climbing the solid ice above.

After climbing up the offwidth chimney I only had the iced up ramp left to climb before the belay. In the back of the chimney there was a nice crack, which I unfortunately didn't have anything left that would fit. Climbing onto the slab I was getting a little run out, but fortunately Jen had brought along a Specter that I was able to pound into the mud filled crack along the side of the slab.
Climbing into the offwidth chimney.
After setting up the belay Jen quickly followed and we discussed the next pitch. Neither of us particularly enjoyed the first pitch and we wondered if we should do the next one.The ice at the start of the second pitch looked bad and we couldn't see where the gear would be above. I was in no mood to lead it but fortunately it was Jen's turn and she bravely set off.

Jen starting up pitch two.
The Specter driven into an iced up crack provided enough confidence for her to keep moving upward. Soon she was rewarded with a cam in the crack and then the first of 5 bolts protecting the next section thru the roof. The next bit of climbing was pretty wild. Ice drips out of the overhanging crack and after climbing the initial slab you step backward onto the hanging ice and climb up and out from under the overhang.
Jen getting close to the lip of the overhang.
Even though its a pretty big roof above, because of the way the ice forms the angle isn't terribly steep. At the top there is another shallow but wider chimney and nothing but air below you. This part has a small crack that you have to place your own gear into. After a mix of drytooling and rock climbing on big plates of rock is the top of the route. A 70M rappel straight down left us right near our packs.

Looking down from the top of the route.

Jen rappelling off the route.
After getting down off of the route Jen finally got to telling me the part about how we actually had to ski out. I can't say I was overly impressed and a little terrified at the whole idea. It had been over 20 years since the last time I had skied and I didn't have a heavy pack strapped to my back. I also wasn't up on the side of a mountain hours away from the road. I'm convinced this was her way of sandbagging me.

After some instruction and patient coaxing from Jen I started my way down the steep slope. She made it look easy, I found it extremely frustrating. After a lot of falling over, wading through waste deep snow, getting back on the skis and doing it all over again I was down and out of the deep powder and steep terrain and we could follow the tracks from where we skinned in. About that time it also got dark which meant skiing the rest of the way out by head lamp.

As our descent went on the skiing got a little easier or rather I got a little better at it. I avoided crashing into any trees and when I wasn't falling over it was almost starting to be fun. Two hours after rappelling to the ground and about 10 hours after leaving we were back at the road and Jen's truck. 

Today Jen and I had planned to do a bigger route in the Ghost Valley, but opted to do a day of training instead. We headed back to the Haffner Cave for day three for me on this trip.I wasn't super keen on going back, but it seemed the best of the "not big day" options.

Climbing the warm up I could feel how tired my legs where when I had to swing them head level up to the edge of the overhang. After warming up we got back onto Caveman, which Jen was hoping to redpoint. I did three burns. Jen did four redpoint attempts. She climbed impressively smooth through the route on her first three tries only to come up short because of broken holds just one move from where it gets easier. By her fourth try she was getting too tired to climb it without falling, but was able to work out a new way to do the last move. After Caveman we hiked down to Lower Haffner and we climbed a route called "Oscar". It wasn't overly difficult, but it was a fun way to end the day and just about the right difficulty for how tired we were.

In the end I had a pretty good day of training and a really fun day climbing with a friend.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Another shortish day.

Today I was back at the cave in Upper Haffner. I think we got to the cliff around noon. Because I was still pretty tired from the previous days I decided to make it a fitness day rather than practice climbing unfamiliar routes.

Getting near the lip of Caveman.
After a lap on the warmup route I was back on Caveman. On the first lap I felt kinda tired. After the other two guys I was with had climbed I did a second lap that went a little better. The third lap I climbed to the lip of the cave where it gets easy, then down climbed back down to near the start. I was pretty amazed how much longer I could hold on after getting to the lip and feeling pretty tired.

We finished off the day by doing a couple more laps on the warmup. Climbing and then down climbing it made for a really good pump in my forearms. I think we all left with our forearms pretty blasted and we still got back to the car before dark.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Short day

Today was an easier day. After yesterday I didn't really feel like trying too hard so I didn't have much of an agenda. I just wanted to get outside and do something so I ended up back out at Haffner, except we went to Upper sector where the cave is. I climbed the warmup and felt pretty good. Since I'm here to train I figured I should at least get on Caveman and practice my horizontal climbing.
Starting Caveman you climb backward for a couple moves before turning around.
Turned around and starting to climb out the roof.
Other than forgetting half the moves the first burn on it went pretty good. With running beta from John I was able to climb pretty efficiently and I didn't really start to get too pumped until right near the lip of the cave.
Pulling around the lip of the overhang.
Because it went so well, for my next turn I did another lap. After yesterday I was still really tired so I only climbed four times and finished up back on the warmup.

Back to the Mountains!!

Saturday morning I was up at 4:30 AM to catch my flight to Calgary. 9 hours later I was out in the Ghost Valley hiking up to Wicked Wanda.
 On the last trip I had hiked up to this route but it was really wet so we decided not to climb it. This time it was still really wet but we had come better prepared for the conditions. Grant lead the 1st pitch up to the shelf and I quickly followed. After a quick changeover I was headed up the second pitch. From the ground the route looked easy, but up close the ice was a chandeliered mess.
 After a little soul searching I committed to the climbing and started up the lacy ice. A lot of delicate climbing a few bad screws later I was at the top.
Grant sorting gear at the base.

Looking out across the valley  from the base.
 Yesterday we went to Lower Haffener Creek. After a few warmups I got on the hardest route listed for the sector. "The Girl Without..." which is supposed to be M9+.
Grant trying his hand at mixed climbing.

"The Boyd Mystery" one of my warmups.

Topping out.

Starting up GWNT
 Starting out the climbing was straight forward enough. But soon the holds became very difficult to find which meant hanging out while scanning the rock for anywhere that looked like it might have a hold and then reaching up and finding it was no good.

 After what seemed like an eternity I was near the top and so tired. So many times I wanted to quit and hang on the rope. Not finding the holds and getting so pumped was very discouraging as the moves weren't very hard once I figured out where to go.  45min+ and I was finally digging through the snow at the top and clipping into the anchor, so tired I could barely hang on.

Getting close, but still so far away from the top. It took over a half hour to get to that point.