Thursday, June 16, 2011
It seemed like there was alot of interest in Westminster Spire. I included a topo of the classic original route and the mellow route Rick and I did.
A few months ago I was asked to write a small story pertaining to climbing in Montana. I choose to focus on the process, not the result, of being a climber. The story I wrote is called Zen and the Art of Failure. In summation the story was about failing in the mountains, the learning process, and the importance of persistance and process.
This spring has been providing me many opportunities to practice the art of failure. Montana has had an unsually high snowpack, colder than normal temps, and an abundance of moisture. These factors have lead to many talented climbers having an unsuccessful climbing season in the mountains around Montana. The past few days Rick Dvorak and I have had the same results. We tried to ski into a certain project (10 miles one way) only to find the road is washed out (adding on 8 more miles of travel). We abandoned plans, drove to the top of the Beartooth Plateau, and spoted a nice looking mixed line. We fumbled the approach, then finally got in a position where we could see the entire route. We found it capped by a 30' overhaning snow mushroom. Fail #2.
After wasting a day pissing in the wind we decided to just go rock climbing. Westminster Spire looked to be just what we needed. I had climbed the spire before along the original line (up the sharp arete) so we decided to try a new line up the feature. The only problem was that I forgot to bring rock shoes. I had a pair of approach shoes along (cirque pros) so we decided to give the spire a shot.
We chose a moderate line on the spire's right side that arched like a staircase directly to the summit. We approached the spire and geared up beneath the feature. We decided that it looked mellow enough to simul-climb. Rick (who had rock shoes) started up and I followed 20 meters behind. Cleaning the route was easy as Rick placed 6 pieces total on a 600' route. It was a mellow and fun route that felt more like an involved free solo. We summited the spire and basked in the sun. We descended the spire to the rappell anchor where we found rodents had chewed completly through the webbing. We replaced the anchors, then rappelled to the col between westminster spire and a taller (unnamed?) spire. We saw an arete on the spire (directly from the col) that looked fun, so I decided to lead it. After 70 meters of really fun moderate rock climbing we sat atop a second spire. Not a bad way to end a weekend of failures.
We descended back to our packs and hiked out to the car under a light rain. We have no idea if any of these 2 routes have been climbed before. They both were about 5.6 or 5.7 and had loose rock and some vegetation. classic right!
Gearing up for failure number 2
finally we're climbing
Rick climbing on the arete
Rick coming up Spire number 2
Rick on descent
Rick below the spires, the left spire is the higher one. We climbed from the v-notch up the right skyline on the taller spire.