Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hurdy Gurdy Climbs

This season my focus has been to not only climb harder and faster, but to tick off as many climbs that I haven't done previously as possible.

So far this season, I've ticked off
-Hollow Icicle
-PFM Route
-Dreams of a Brown Moose
-Avalon Falls

One that I've always wanted to check out but requires a burly approach are the Hurdy Gurdy climbs in Eagle River.

Richard was going out there with a few friends this weekend and invited me along.

The approach starts with just under a three mile ski, followed by another 1.5 mile bushwhack up a small drainage that gains more than 3,200 vertical feet. The approach alone took 4.5 hours. While the others climbed Piece of Cake, a fat 325' WI3, Richard and I traversed over and climbed Fruit Cake, a solid WI4.

Armed with an arsenal of 10 screws, I set off and climbed through lots of steep alpine ice that was brittle and often aerated. It took lots of time to lead through the funky ice. I got to a spot that looked good for belaying...and it wasn't. I put in a 10cm screw and equalized it with a worthless spectre, then climbed up another 20' of vertical ice. With one long screw left, I constructed a V-thread (that was hard as hell to make since my abalokov didn't want to grab the webbing). Then that was equalized with my last screw.

Richard is barely visible way down there

A view down from the hanging (uncomfortable) belay

Richard followed up then lead another 40' of slightly better ice.

We decided to traverse a snow ledge over to Piece of Cake and rappel from there. Richard lead out and protected the running belay with slings wrapped around finger-width alders. Three rappels brought us down to the bottom, where our friends met us.

Sadly, one of my poles got caught on an alder while traversing through them and got pulled off my pack without me knowing. We gathered our things, then started the hike down and out.

The whole day was about 13.5 hours...a long day for a little ice.

The point of the day was to work my legs and climb some new ice. Mission accomplished!

After that, we had a midnight dinner of moose spaghetti at Richard's and then happily turned in for the night after a long day!

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.