Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eagle River Ice

Eagle River is without a doubt my favorite place to climb. The views are gorgeous, the approaches are relatively easy and there's so much to do within an hour or two from the car.

I've already climbed out there three times this ice season, but haven't posted anything about it. So, as I try to get motivated (see post below), here's a little trip report from a day on the ice with my good friend Richard Baranow.

Mr. Chugach himself knows the range and especially Eagle River better than anybody, without a doubt. We had talked about going out and scoping an unclimbed ice route high up in the valley but the motivation to hike 4,000' for one pitch of ice wasn't quite there.

Richard, all smiles!

So instead we went to a beautiful early season climb that rides up a gully for more than 2,000'. Well, we hit it in early the early season of early season. The climb was definitely 'in' but it was wetter than a fish.

Richard and I brought a rope but never took it out. We climbed the first three main ice pillars, all of which are fairly steep but never too hard. The third pillar was so unbelievably wet, we would have been dryer had we jumped in a pool. Even though it was steep, we opted not to rope up due to the water. The idea was just to climb as fast through it as possible.

An interesting note would be that I fell up to my waist in a deep pool when some ice broke underneath me. Soaking but not too cold, we climbed to the base of the main pillar. It was equally as wet, so we took an exit trail and hiked back down.

Richard coming up with Clint's swimming pool below him

Richard running up the third main piece of ice

...and getting SOAKED!!!

My clothes were stiff as they turned to solid ice sheets. All in all, it was a good day on the ice in late October. Sometimes the fun comes in suffering a little bit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Motivation and lack there of...

It is amazing how at times, there is so much motivation pulsing through my veins it is like riding a lightning bolt. Other times I feel like a deflated balloon, empty and flat.

Right now I am the balloon. The stress of school, work and Alaska's short days as we approach winter solstice have zapped my energy and my will to train.

After a long and stressful day in the Revelations this spring. This is how I feel now.

Flash back several months ago when I was hitting the rock-gym four times a week, running, lifting weights, riding my bike. I was running on an emotional and motivational high. My ambitions were all I thought about and being my best fueled my every thought.

Take one sip of beer. Add one bowl of ice cream, four term papers, 40 hour work weeks and no immediate objectives. Now repeat four to five times...with the beer, quantify by 100. That's where I am at now. But it isn't where I want to be.

As far as ice climbing goes, I feel like I'm climbing better than I ever have, but that isn't enough. I need to get out and put in some long days in the mountains. I need to feel the burn in my thighs from post-holing up some precarious snow slope as fast and efficient as I can. But, I don't want to. Where is my motivation?

There is an infinite multitude of amazing online sources for training that I have been looking at lately. Here are some of my favorites that at least spark the motivation.
Kelly Cordes Training for alpine climbing

Andy Kirkpatrick's website: Pyscho Vertical

I find the best motivators for me are old pictures from previous climbs and trips. Not only do they get me thinking about fun times in the mountains with my friends, they also get me thinking about how alive I felt in those situations.

So, here's a few shots from over the years to get me, and you... MOTIVATED!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ptarmigan Peak

Photo courtesy of Colin Haley

Immediately after returning from Yosemite, it was back to work and school. For many months, I had been working with the American Alpine Club, Black Diamond and the Bear Tooth Theatre to put together a slideshow. It would also be a benefit for the AAC, to help rebuild and renovate the Snowbird Hut in the Talkeetna Mountains.

Colin Haley, fresh off an attempt on Baintha Brakk (better known as the Ogre) in Pakistan flew up to Alaska and gave a wonderful slideshow on the Torre Traverse.

After that he had a few days to play before heading back down to Seattle.

The two of us ended up going out to Ptarmigan Peak with Scotty and Carl. The ski out was great and we didn't have many problems with moose. While the other guys scratched their way up one of Carl's old test pieces near Caught With a Youngin', Colin and I did a longer and more moderate route called Ski Tracks.

Aside from being extremely strong and remarkably efficient, Colin is amazingly humble. It was a fun day out on the mountains with a great guy!

A big thanks goes out to Colin for coming up and raising several thousand dollars for a good local cause!!! Check out the AAC's article!

Photo courtesy of Colin Haley

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yosemite Valley

El Capitan, the crown of American rock

Before winter had even hit Anchorage, I had a craving for warm weather. Perhaps it was due to the THREE days of "summer" we had that hit 70 degrees, perhaps it was just a desire to climb in Yosemite. Either way, I HAD to go.

I went down there with plans to meet my buddy Travis, who had hitched a ride over from Jackson, Wyoming. As I walked into the parking lot of Camp 4, I saw my friend Ben from Anchorage. It was totally random, but great to see a familiar face right off the bat. We didn't waste any time and hopped right on the classic Nutcracker, a four-pitch 5.8.
The feel of beautiful, warm granite under my hands and feet was euphoric.

Trav seconding on Munginella, a sweet 5.6 warm-up!

Travis showed up the next day and we got right to it. My buddy Nick Parker listed off a few of the classics I had to do when I was in the Valley, and we started with a nice, simple warm-up on Munginella, a five-pitch 5.6 on a rock formation called the Five-Open Books. We did a lot of climbing on this formation, as it had a high concentration of four to six-pitch routes in the 5.8-5.9 range.

The third pitch of Munginella, with Lost Arrow Spire in the background

Some sweet chimney action...a little runout on After 7, a popular 5.8

The days were spent climbing with an incredible backdrop of the visual wonders of Half Dome, Lost Arrow Spire, El Capitan and the Cathedral Spires.

Trav with the Cathedral Spires as a backdrop

On a rainy day we hiked up to the base of El Capitan to the North American Wall route. Rain ran off the wall, but fell over 100 feet into the about steep. This section was overhanging!!!

Hiking around under El Capitan

The classic Royal Arches was a fun and moderate route that put us up high above the valley. The hustle-bustle of activity below was quelled by the clinking of carabiners and cams. Bishop's Terrace was undoubtedly the best 5.8 I've ever climbed. It had a little bit of everything from fingers to hands (lots of hands) to a wide section that had me hopping up my lone #4 camalot.

Setting up the rappel atop Bishop's Terrace. It was a beautiful and HOT day

A great guy from Wales named Matt spent a lot of time climbing with us. He and I tried to get on the South Face of Washington's Column but got turned around by crowds, so no big wall for us this time. Oh well. We cracked a beer from our haul-bag on a ledge and watched the sun set on the northwest face of Half Dome.

Sorting and packing gear before our attempt on Washington's Column

Matt and I on Washington's Column with Half Dome in the background

A little sacrifice for the friends we wished were with us

We met many great people from all over the world and had almost as much fun sitting around the crackling fires at Camp Four as we did climbing. It seemed as if half of Alaska was down in the Valley when we were there. I think I met 14 people I knew!

Aside from climbing a lot, we got to do a lot of other cool stuff. We watched Hans and Yuji smash their speed record of the Nose, climbing the whole route in just over 2:35 minutes.

Hans and Yuji on their record-breaking run up the Nose

The Sentinel at sunset

On another day we bailed off of the Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral Peak after the weather started heading south. We headed back over to El Cap and played around on the biggest rope swing I've ever seen. Nothing says 'fun' like swinging nearly 200 feet over the forest in front of El Capitan!

Me leading up the first pitch of the Central Pillar of Frenzy on Middle Cathedral

We were having a good time at this belay!

On the Central Pillar of Frenzy before the weather closed in. The East Buttress of El Cap is in the background

Matt and I on the Central Pillar

Swinging high and far on the El Cap rope swing as the snow starts to fall

Me taking the big swing

Another swing from my point of view, this one had a harder landing

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. Of course, just when my trip was winding down was when I was starting to feel really strong and comfortable. Oh well, next year!

Trav and I finished our trip on a five-pitch route called Super Slide, a great 5.9 on the Arches.

Trav making his way up Super Slide

Trav and I at the top of Superslide on our last day in Yosemite. You've gotta love his fishing hat!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The High One

Immediately after I returned from my trip to the Revelations, it was time to start repacking for Denali. As I washed my clothes and drank a cool beer, I was struck with a sense of trepidation. This would be my first time on Denali, but I felt like I already knew every step of the route. Years of studying and reading about it had given me a sort of third party insight to every aspect of the West Buttress and the
lifestyle on the mountain.

It wasn't the height or the weather that had me less than excited about the trip, it was the hoards. Having come from the Revelations, a place almost no one had ever even heard of, the West Buttress of Denali was a complete polar opposite. Regardless, I knew it was going to be an adventure, just not a 'wilderness adventure.'

This was going to be my third year working with Rainier Mountaineering Inc., a guide service out of Ashford, WA. I had spent the past two summers guiding on 14,411' Mount Rainier, and had earned a spot working on Denali.

As Jay Hudson of Hudson Air dropped our crew off at basecamp on the Kahiltna Glacier, the anticipation and excitement grew with the height of the surrounding mountains. Immediately I ran into Alaskan hardman Mark Westman. A quick hello was all we had time for, but he had just completed the fourth ascent of the Isis Face on Denali as well as a new route near the Mini-Moonflower. Hearing about his climbing adventures already whetted my appetite for something other than a three-week slog.

Looking into the Valley of Death from the lower Kahiltna Glacier.

11k Camp with Foraker in the background

Our team was incredibly strong, the personalities unique yet comparable. As we moved higher up the West Buttress, the weather seemed to be holding stable. It looked as though we would complete a relatively fast trip, if only the weather would hold.

We ran into Steve House at 11K camp. He and his client Richard were acclimatizing for the Cassin Ridge. We would run into them many more times throughout the trip and it was neat to pick his brain about various climbs around the world.
At one point he stopped to talk to us and I somehow held his Grivel ice tool. "Grant me some of your power, Great White Hope!" I remember thinking. Perhaps I thought by touching a tool that had seen so many premiere ascents, some of Steve's innate ability would osmosisize into me. I'm not sure it worked, but it was worth a try.

Winds at 14k Camp

Life at 14,400'

Foraker and 14k camp from the edge of the world at 17k camp

A panorama video from 17K

...And then this happened...for several days...and it sucked!

A week of bad weather at 17K and three trips to Denali Pass at 18,300' had worn us out. Finally on the third attempt two guides and two clients made it to the top in less than ideal weather. We made it down and out in 19 days. It was super nice to get back down to the green forests and blooming flowers. Plus, I made it down just in time for a very special birthday party...

Cloud walkers: Climbers on the ridge just below 17k camp

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dishwater Drainage - Volume Two

The Revelations trip was coming up in a matter of days and I had yet to get my massive cache from Dishwater. So, instead of studying for school finals, I decided to go pick it up and go climbing for the weekend.

This time, it was Ricardo Baranowski, his friend Paul and me who would be going out there. It was so warm on the hike out that we didn't even wear our shirts for much of the time. Once again, Kaupo and Nene accompanied us in and helped carry some weight.

One the first night we enjoyed a beautiful sunset followed by seemingly eternal alpenglow. These are the moments I think most define my passion for being in the mountains. You don't get views like this in the hustle-bustle city!

Richard's snowcave was huge!

We got started early in the morning and hiked to the head of the cirque. There we found a narrow gash that appeared to lead to the summit of Nantina Point. Richard took the first lead up and over a short little rock step, then belayed Paul and me up.

I got the next lead up the steepening gash and found incredibly unconsolidated snow over bad rock with little pro. When I was able to get a piece in, it was with really small gear, like a #00 C3 camalot or #3 stopper.

Leads were taking a while due to the poor snow conditions. Richard took the next lead over a short little snice and rock step, then across a really exposed and scary traverse to another couloir.

By this time, I realized that the route was going to take far longer than we had expected. I had class at 8:30 in the morning and still had to hike out. Too many days climbing had pissed off my teacher and I was out of absences. Still, we continued up as the sun fell lower in the sky. Sometimes it is hard to stop when the momentum is pushing upward.

As we got higher, the summit seemed like it was so close. Pitch after pitch kept proving that it was farther than we had anticipated, yet we still climbed. A large chunk of simul-climbing ate up a lot of elevation in a short amount of time. The sun set as we neared the summit, and I realized I had forgotten my headlamp. I was pretty mad at myself for forgetting such a key piece of gear.

The last few pitches were devoid of gear placements. Paul and I were not at all motivated, but Richard was keen for the summit. He led all of the upper pitches including the last one. To break onto the summit Richard had to climb through a nasty cornice with almost no pro under him for an entire ropelength.

We pulled up on the summit just as the sun went down and didn't stay long. Paul and I were anxious to get down, and I still had to hike out. By this time, I knew I was cutting it close.

Paul coming up through the cornice
The look on my face says it all

As we rappelled through the night, I realized there was no way we were going to be able to make it back in time for me to make my class at 8:30 in the morning. It was a chilly night and we all had our down parkas on as we descended in 200' chunks. Towards the bottom of the route we could see the boulder where our snowcave was. All of a sudden we saw what looked like a headlamp down there. It turns out Richard's girlfriend Natalia had hiked up to help carry some of my stuff down because I was going to be hiking down alone otherwise with a lot of gear. I thought that was super nice of her!

We finally got to camp at about 3:30 in the morning. I knew there was no way I could make it back in time, so I decided to just say "screw it" and passed out in the snow cave. In the morning Natalia and I hiked out under beautiful skies.

Despite my pleas, my professor showed me no sympathy and failed my ass for missing one too many classes. Needless to say I wasn't pleased. Oh well, I learned a lesson...Don't take 8:30 AM Monday classes.

Perhaps when I'm retaking the class again in the Fall I'll be able to decide if it was worth it just to make the first ascent of the north face of Nantina Point.