Saturday, 15 December 2012

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment