I closed out the year with some climbing in Cody, WY. I had the week between Christmas and New Year’s and was able to join my friend Doug and new friend Chris for some stellar climbing in Cody. While the town’s temperatures were frigid most days, the climbing areas had a bit better temperatures. Though most of the days it was either very windy or snowing. Luckily the temps were mild enough to make things comfortable, enough for ice climbing anyway. We were able to get some good routes done on some fresh ice. I’ve forgotten how difficult non-picked out ice can be. While the drive is quite long from Salt Lake City, I was able to redeem some air miles and fly up. Which was great on the way in, on the way out I wasn’t sure if I’d get out of town. There are only 3 flights that land in Cody this time of year. The mid-day one that I was on Saturday was delayed because of wicked snow conditions. Luckily the plane eventually made it in and we were able to make it back to SLC.
I gotta get back soon while the ice is so good and tick off more of the classics!
After a skipped year in 2016 I was back this year to the Bozeman Icefest. This time around I had a couple crusher colleagues from France in town to show us out to climb. In addition we had the whole Blue Ice North America crew junking it up. Luckily there wasn’t in much in the way of official company duty so climbing and drinking in spades were had. I’m glad to have swung the tools since I’m not sure when there might be ice around Salt Lake to get into.
Once again for President’s day Carly and I headed to Ouray for some ice climbing. This time around we also had a couple Matt’s, Eric, and a Leanne joining us. Our rental house as a bit out of Ouray and technically in Ridgeway, but that didn’t really matter since we had an amazing view of the mountains from our hot tub on the deck!
Saturday Eric, Carly and I headed to the Ribbon (WI4+). This was the site of last year’s cold and spindrifty climb that Carly didn’t have glasses for. Luckily we went in knowing the deal this time and dressed accordingly. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get up early enough and so we had to wait until the party ahead of us finished up. This party actually turned out to be Berry and his friend so it was all good.
Saturday the three of us headed to Eureka for Whorehouse Hoses (WI5). This turned out to be a bit of a mess. Suffice it to say we didn’t position ourselves as obviously in line at the route and as such we got bumped by a couple guides. While waiting there ended up being something around 18 people either on the climb or at the base. Luckily we stuck with it and we were able to climb. The first pitch is really where the money is and I opted for the lower angle, but still relentless 58 m left side. The second pitch was basically a steep snow ramp. The third has two options and since it was snowing and the right option looked a bit thin in spots we opted for the left fat side.
Monday once again was spent in the park just getting pumped on steep TR burns. I was able to TR Tick Tack (M5?) clean three times. If the last bolt wasn’t covered in baked out ice I probably would have lead it. Next year I guess.
After getting up at 4:00am to catch a flight out of Vancouver I landed in Salt Lake at 9:00am and caught a cab back to the house. A few hours of unpacking, repacking, showering, laundry, and napping, brought me to my next adventure. Berry picked me up after he finished up the work day and we headed north to Bozeman to climb and visit with Harley–well I guess we went to visit Corey and Liz, but Harley was obviously the main attraction ;-).
To keep the streak alive, our drive through Island Park was snowy. Being dark and windy didn’t help, but the tractor-trailers that wanted to pass us also didn’t make things any easier. Eventually we got to Bozeman at midnight and that concluded my Vancouver to Bozeman travel day, all 19 hours of it.
Friday morning Matt and I headed up canyon to check out the Unnamed Wall. We were able to get on The Good Looking One (WI5), which Matt crushed. The conditions looked a bit scary from the ground but the ice proved to be more solid and spongy than anticipated. Matt crushed it so it was my turn to step it up. I headed up The Thrill is Gone, which similarly was in baked, but better than appeared conditions. While the ice was pretty good for sticks it was disbonded and I was never all that psyched on the protection, even the couple of knifeblades and rock pro I was never jazzed about.
Meeting with Corey and Liz that evening we had some drinks food and caught up on the new life they have in Bozeman, which is sounding pretty sweet. Harley of course is doing just fine.
Saturday Corey, Matt, and I made the trek out to Dribbles (WI4), with the intent to head up to Responsible Family Men (WI5) after that. Luckily we spotted Doug and his partner just a pitch ahead of us on Dribbles and they had the same plan. Unfortunately the turned around because of windloading that occurred in the gully getting to the upper climb. When Doug says the avy danger isn’t worth it, you listen. We headed back to the parking lot and up to the Unnamed wall again to work on a mixed line well right of Bingo World. Matt did a great job putting it up and I flailed around on it for a bit on TR. Corey got in the fun as well and had just as much luck as I did, getting shut down at the six foot deep roof.
Sunday we made the long trek out to Alpha and Omega area to do some ice and mixed climbing. I lead Omega and while the angle wasn’t too hard, the ice was baked and due to the drop in temps overnight, was very brittle. I knocked off a lot of garbage on the surface to get to the good stuff underneath. Our day got cut short unfortunately when a piece came off when Corey was climbing. He ended up splitting his lip and needed to a trip to the Urgent Care.
A great weekend, especially following up on the ski trip in British Columbia.
For the fourth year I headed up to Bozeman, MT for the Bozeman Ice Festival. This year found me and the rest of the team from work missing three of our most important members. First off, Holly who’s the brains behind the operation for Black Diamond, took advantage of an opportunity to grow her career, unfortunately outside of BD. Kim filled her shoes and pulled off a great event despite being on the road for many weeks leading up to Bozeman. Second team member missing was JT who’s energy, ability to consume and process alcohol was missed (sort of) from our ranks. We only got rowdy on the last night. Lastly, and most regrettably was the absence of crusty old Bill Belcourt. The circumstances keeping him from attending are complex. All were missed at BIF19, but we made the most of it. A new member was Matt Berry who brough some considerable strength and guts for putting up some mixed routes for Oakley and I to thrash around on.
Wednesday former BD, Derek, helped us out construct Advanced Base Camp at the parking lot in Hyalite. He snowblowed a zone just off the parking lot where we erected some tents and a firepit. The firepit and the wood were courtesy of Whit Magro and Bozeman Tree Service. Like last year we served hot drinks and snacks to climbers returning back to their cars. It was great to see all the folks trying ice climbing for the first time or those just out for a hard day on the test pieces.
Climbingwise the Matts and I were able to do: Upper Green Sleeves (WI3+), Elevator Shaft (WI4), a mixed line to the right of it, Champagne Slot and Sherbert (WI3 & WI4), Killer Pillar (WI5), and Hangover (WI3). Not a ton of pitches but some good ones nonetheless. Killer Pillar was certainly the highlight. Doug Chabot came out with us and as always it was a pleasure spending a day climbing with him. His wit and climbing ability are matched by few.
Despite two of the best weather days I’ve spent in Hyalite, we got a storm Sunday night. This made for some tough driving conditions back to SLC. The team decided that interstates and caravanning would be the safest way back despite being a bit longer of a route. This allowed us to split up two per vehicle and once Rob and Andy joined us we had four vehicles. Conditions straight out of the gate were cruxy. Shey executed some white knuckle driving in the Sprinter on iced over roads and major cross winds. I took over after her and experienced some of the same nasty conditions. Iced roads, 30 mph crosswinds don’t mix with Sprinter vans. We were blown sideways 1/2 to 3/4 of a lane at times due to the wind. There wasn’t much to do other than just slightly correct and hope the gust stopped since braking and complete correcting would have been a recipe for spinning the van or worse, ending up in a ditch. Even Matt’s new truck with the 9,000lb winch wouldn’t have been able to pull us out.
After multiple driver switches between Berry, Shey and myself, we got back to SLC. A tip of the cap to Shey for piloting through SLC on the home stretch when it was nuking out and there were a mess of cars on the road. All told the storm turned a 6 hour drive into 12 hours.
After returning from Creeksgiving a little early to a nice layer of fresh snow, Carly and I went skiing at Snowbird. Despite the limited trails open it was a good day. The following day Matt and I headed towards the Sundial near Lake Blanche for what is going to become probably my annual first ice of the season climb. A long walk for a single pitch of ice, but it is quite beautiful there.
About a month ago I was on my way up to Snowbird to enjoy some of the fruits of what the lowest snow year on record has to offer and I spied some low angled ice up Little Cottonwood. The next day Aaron and I headed over and climbed it for a fun little outing. Perhaps the last ice I’ll climb all season.
Over the long weekend Carly and I headed to Ouray to get her first (and probably last) bit of ice climbing in for this year. There’s a good chance it’ll be my last as well given the temperatures in Salt Lake City. We were joined in Ouray by Eric, Matt, KP, Aaron, and Tina.
Weather was similarly warm in Ouray but at least the elevation and slightly lower temps have been keeping the ice around. In the sun it was nearly t-shirt weather, but in the shade things were good for climbing.
Carly and I did the Ribbon up Camp Bird Rd on Saturday. The route was hacked to pieces and it was hard to protect at times because so many people had made screw holes. The climb isn’t melting out nor is it building. Some of the old screw holes were nearly double their original diameter because the ice is sublimating. The route was in fat shape and while the first pitch was thin, it was fatter than normal. Carly forgot her sunglasses at the car seeing as we left with headlamps on so we’d get on the route first. This turned out to be bummer since the route has neverending spindrift from high above. She was barely able to see at times because of all the ice and snow bits in her face. She was a trooper though to suffer through the difficult bits, even on Valentine’s Day.
Sunday started off poorly. We had planned to meet Aaron for an early drive out to Silverton and Eureka. Our objective was Stairway to Heaven. Unfortunately Carly’s car needed a jump. This isn’t a new thing as it seems that any light left on, including interior ones, will drain the battery. We jumped the car with help from Matt. After getting to Silverton we stopped at a gas station so we could test if the battery had taken a charge. Everything started up again, even after 10 minutes of not running. Even so we were a little apprehensive of driving out to the boondocks of Eureka and climbing all day to come back to a car that couldn’t start. Carly took one for the team and decided to give up climbing for the day so Aaron and I could climb. She’d drop us off and pick us up at an arranged time later. There’s no cell service so we’d have to go old school.
Aaron and I had good, but less than productive day. We were able to get on Stairway but the conditions weren’t great. The climb is very baked out and difficult to protect in spots. We also had a party of three in front of us which slow us down. We decided to rap off after the second pitch so we could try and get a little more climbing in on better ice. That didn’t pan out as we had to go back up to the P2 belay after I forgot my tools up there. In the end we got plenty of mountain exercise done, but only two pitches of ice–though P1 of Stairway was good.
Monday Carly and I hoped to get on Horsetail Falls (WI4) before having to head home. Unfortunately a party beat us by about 30 minutes and we saw them just getting to the base of the climb when we showed up. Instead we parked at Engineer Pass Rd and walked up towards Gravity’s Rainbow to explore. We weren’t expecting to see much climbable ice on this South facing cliff, but we were able to find some lower angle stuff on Over the Rainbow to have some fun on. We also spied some routes that certainly have been climbed but weren’t in the Roberts guidebook or on MP.com. Our day was cut a little short because of a blizzard that rolled in and made for nearly white out conditions. Despite not getting to the “top” of anything we had a great day exploring and doing a little faux first ascenting as we never looked at the guidebook or other beta before climbing.
Since about the beginning of December I’ve been in Salt Lake. Weather hasn’t been good or bad enough to really dictate an out of SLC weekend. However things are getting a bit dire. We had a good storm last week but before that the ice all but melted and the snow was crusty crap. Last week as the the weekend drew closer I realized Carly would be in Avy I class all weekend and I could use a weekend out of town. Eric, Matt, Kevin, and Della were headed to Ouray for some ice climbing and I joined in.
Leaving Friday after work we rolled into Ouray at 11:30. After finally figuring out which room we were in we dropped into bed. 7am came quickly and we packed our gear for the day to head up Camp Bird Road just outside of town. This area has a lot of one and two pitch routes some moderates and some crazy mixed stuff. There’s also a few classic hard ice lines as well, The Ribbon (WI4), Bird Brain Boulevard (WI5 M5-6), and Talisman (WI6 M6). The last two are a bit above our pay grade and we weren’t early enough to get in line first on The Ribbon.
As such we walked up the road and got on some single pitch stuff. Eric and I teamed up and Della, Matt, and Kevin tied in together. Kevin and Della aren’t ice climbers but they are strong enough rock climbers to keep up with Matt.
Eric and I did a nice chimneying pillar and thin ice traverse called Chock Up An Other One (WI4). After that Eric lead an easier variation to the left.
Moving up the road we met up with the others and I lead a short mixed line called Mile 4 (M6). Everyone got a burn and we split up again with Eric and I moving to Chockstone Chimney. There was left variation I did that was pretty steep and a bit difficult to protect.
Eric and I did one more route that was really fun and a bit tricky. The route went up a 30ft pillar and the into a narrow slot. There was enough ice to not have to be mixed but it was tight and required some precise footwork.
Sunday we headed to the ice park so we could all get some laps and only spend a half day before we burned out. Misson accomplished.
Ouray was good to me again. Splitter weather, plenty of ice climbing, good food, and good beer. I’m hoping that I can get on some the longer routes in the area.
Just before Thanksgiving I traveled to Denver to attend the wedding of a couple of good friends. Luckily I was able to coordinate with a friend to do a bit of ice climbing before the wedding. I’ve never climbed in Rocky Mountain National Park, but I’m hoping to get back again.
I lead the first two approach pitches which weren’t all that hard. Just a little thoughtful in a spot or two. Doug however lead the crux, Deep Freeze (WI5+). The pillar was touching down but it was a little dry and hollow in many spots. The pro Doug was able to get in was primarily rock gear, inspiring less than full confidence. It was a great pitch nonetheless and I’m happy to have been able to get out.