Thursday, February 5, 2009

Steep Highway Ice

After a long cold snap followed by a long warm snap, the ice around southcentral Alaska is finally looking good again.

Lee and I took advantage of the conditions and headed out to the highway for some steep drips. Neither of us had ever climbed much on the PFM Wall, so we started there. We've always wondered what PFM stands for and our friend Matt thinks it stands for Pretty Fucking Miserable. Despite his guess, it was nothing but stellar on Saturday for us.

The first 30 feet are dead vertical and contain mostly candlesticked ice with occasional spots for pro. Luckily, I was able to reach the third bolt to stop a groundfall right off the bat. There was a small hole where two converging drips came together that allowed me to chicken-wing with my left arm as I put in my second screw. That was a first for me, I've never chicken-winged on an ice climb before. It was almost fist-jammable, but not quite. Above that, the climbing eased a little bit, but still proved thin and aerated in spots.

The south facing aspect of the highway means that it can get lots of sun. Half-way up the climb, I was so hot I shed my coat and continued up in my poly-pro top. You can see in the photo that I was all black: stealth mode!

Lee followed up like a champ, then we rapped off and did a lap on Roadside Attraction, which was also stellar.

Here's a cool video sequence I put together from Lee's photographs.

On Sunday while everyone else was watching the Super Bowl, Lee, Matt, Agnes and I skied at Alyeska.

The next day we went back to the PFM wall so Matt, a professional photographer, could snap some shots. It was not a very nice day and his guess of what PFM stands for seemed to fit.

I broke a crampon on lead and encountered several other problems that forced me to lower down. After fixing the bugs, I re-climbed the route to the top.

Thanks to Lee for supplying these awesome shots.

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