Friday, December 23, 2011

Low Gravity Day

Pete Tapley on Roman Candle

I don't really get to excited about climbing individual pitches; be it rock, ice, or bouldering, but this last week I climbed a single pitch that was the exception.

Kyle Vassilopolus and I headed out to Hyalite canyon this past tuesday to work on some mixed climbing routes. This is Kyle's first real season on ice and he is already crushing it, granted he is a very strong rock climber (more on this later). We headed up to the bingo world cave, on the unnamed wall, where Kyle has been working "Northwest Passage" (M11). He roped up, stretched a little, then jumped right on the climb figure-fouring out a hrorizontal roof. He reached the lip of the cave, shook out, then climbed (bare handed) to the anchors and clipped the chains, it was his 3rd try at the route total!

Northwest Passage. photo by Adam Knoff

After Kyle sent his project we walked over to a route called "Roman Candle" (M9-) that was put up a few years ago by Whit Magro. I laced up my boots, stretched my arms, then climbed the route to the anchors (Whit bolted an extension to the top of the cliff, "The Roman" M10+, which I did not do).

myself on roman candle last year.

I couldn't believe that we both just walked up to our projects and climbed them first try of the day! I had been working on roman candle for a while and the route felt impossible when I first tried it, maybe this is why this route means so much to me, because I put a bit of effort into it and was able to make the subjective impossibility possible!

So I mentioned that Kyle was a strong climber. The day before Kyle climbed N.W. Passage (M11) he climbed "Montana Beef" V11. A V11 and an M11 within 24 hours of each other....has this ever been done before?

Anyway, it is great to see some progress in my own climbing and be inspired by watching Kyle climb!

***Kyle continued to crush this season, here's a write up on his mixed climbing from ROCK AND ICE.***

Cheers, Loren

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chasing the Ice Dragon

I had a blast climbing with Daniel, Tanner, Chris, and Ari this past weekend. A long day out, sticky ice, great views, and hilarious partners made this a memorable day.

Ice Dragons is one of the best alpine ice lines I have been on; purely based on difficulty of access and position while on the face. It's a long climb (1,500 feet) and has a bit of everything thrown in, ice, snow, rock, neve... The best beta for this climb can be found here and here.

We started the day by leaving the trail head at 6:00am and hiked to the base in 3 hours. We climbed the route in 5 or 6 pitches (with alot of simul-climbing). We walked off the route to the north-west and arrived at the trailhead 12 hours later.

Cheers, Loren

Photo by Daniel Burson


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black Mountain y-couloir

Winter is finally here. This past weekend Bridget and I chased the snow that accumulated high in the mountains of central Montana. We decided to climb the Y-couloir on Black Mountain (located east of Paradise valley). Bridget and I had been kicked off this peak with force this past spring by a strong snow storm that left us sprinting for the trail head, a rematch was in order. We figured that there would be ice somewhere on the peak and perhaps the Y-couloir would be in fine shape. We left Pine creek trailhead at 8:00am and made great progress to the beautiful Pine creek lake; one of the coolest high mountain lakes I have ever been to.

Bridget hiking up the 5,000 some feet to Black Mountain under perfect fall conditions.

Bridget on the approach

When we reached the lake we could just slightly make out the summit of Black Mountain as strong winds raked the summit and clouds swirrled around it. We climbed up snow covered boulderfields to the base of the route, passing beautiful blue marble (?) boulders that would be perfect to climb on in the summer. When we reached the base of the couloir we found the snow to be incredibly windloaded and a bit spooky. We decided to rope up, hug the rock to our right, and place as much gear as possible between us as we simul-climbed. We literally swam up the couloir as spin drift slides randomly cascaded on us. After looking at the left branch of the Y-couloir we decided to go up the right branch. We could see some ice bulges and the objective dangers didn't look as bad.

The bottom section of the couloir, spooky windloaded snow and strange pro.

Bridget is down there somewhere.

Bridget lead out as she got pounded by spin drift "slides". She climbed through the crux of the route over a fun 80' section of ice and neve. We topped the couloir out and both sat in the sun as we nursed the first screaming barfies of the year.

Bridget on the upper section on the couloir

just having fun

This whole section was composed of rock-hard ice, burried just under the powder snow.

Bridget nears the top of the couloir

Heading to the summit.

Bridget on the top

And this is why I love Montana.

This is another reason why I love Montana.

The only down side was the amount of trash we found at the lake, lame.

We scrambled against the wind to the summit then decended the North ridge back down to the lake. We hiked out to the trailhead in the dark and decended from winter back into autumn. The experience was about as good as it gets and a great reintroduction back to winter.

Cheers, Loren

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pensive Tower

Pensive Tower and where we went, take this topo with a grain of salt

Bridget and I had another great climbing trip this past weekend (Oct. 1). We drove to the west fork of Rock Creek and camped at the trail head on a Friday night as the stars illuminated the trees and mountains around us. We awoke early (5:00am) and hiked the 9 or so miles to the base of the tower. Along our hike we encountered a small pine martin on the trail. The pine martin was inquisitive and kept poking it's head out from rocks at our feet. We continued hiking and turned our headlamps off at quinnebaugh meadows where we rounded a corner and saw two large moose grazing in the meadow.

From this point on the west face of Silver Run Peak dominated the view, as a series of walls drop down to the creek for nearly 3,000'. Pensive tower is a route I have always wanted to climb ever sense I had first wandered up the valley. It's a perfect line on a perfect piece of alpine granite. There is no real information on the route aside from a very brief mention in the Brunkhorst Guide. I had heard of a few people who had attempted the route. Most of the parties I knew ended up bailing on the route because the difficulties encountered were much harder than the guide book states, or the notorious Beartooth weather swept them off. For some reason I kind of had a stigma with this piece of rock...

Bridget crossing the creek

Bridget on the approach. Pensive tower looms above.

With this in mind Bridget and I crossed the creek then headed up to the base of the route. The fist "approach pitch" was composed of terrible loose choss and steep grass climbing. I was hoping the whole route wasn't going to be like this. After the approach pitch the rock got better, dare I say, good! Steep, short splitter cracks abounded and the rock took protection well.

Myself climbing up the prow

Bridget following one of the 5.10 pitches.

The guide book says the route should be 9-14 pitches of 5.8 climbing. On pitch 4 we hit a solid bit of beautiful 5.10 climbing, not hard, but hard enough in the mountains with a pack on. A few pitches later I looked up and saw some leaver gear at the base of a steep corner system. I climbed up to it, clipped the fixed gear, then tried to wiggle my way into a steep groove that lacked holds or a crack. The back of the rounded groove was composed of loose brick sized blocks. I down climbed and looked around, the fixed gear was obviously a rappel/bail anchor (as it wasn't in the least bit stuck). I peered up into the groove again and pulled off the #4 cam. I placed this between the loose blocks (so the blocks cammed on either side of the groove) and sketchly french freed at A0. A good #3 placement was just in reach now so I plugged and pulled on this piece as well. After that episode (and a few more A0 moves) we arrived at a large ledge. We continued climbing pitching the feature out until the terrain mellowed out and we could safely simul-climb. We topped out at 4:00pmish.

Bridget leads through a few roofs

Miles of easy simul-climbing near the top

A confused Asian man near the top, White tail peak in the background.

Bridget on zee summite

We packed our bags and hurried off the Silver Run Plateau under dark skies. We eventually hiked the 9 miles back down (Sundance Pass) to the car, 15 hours after leaving it.

Bridget doing a speedy descent off the plateau

Hiking out we stared at the golden aspen trees as they swayed in the breeze, then scarred a porky pine that was in the trail. The best part of the hike out was finding a lodge pole pine that had been mutilated by a cantankerous bear.

This climb coincided with my Birthday, and you know what? I couldn't have had a better present.

Cheers, Loren

Friday, September 30, 2011

Classic Routes for the Mortal man

La Sportiva Live and I collaborated to write a short article on "Classic routes for the Mortal Man". I'd like to thank all the folks at La Sportiva, Bridget, and Brad for being great climbing partners and for providing pictures.

to read the story click HERE .

Cheers, Loren

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lines on a topo map

The back side of the Dog's tooth at sunrise

Scott Salzer and I ventured into the Crazy Mountains for our annual pilgrimage. We choose to explore a theoretical cliff located N-E of twin Lakes. The lines on the topo map made the area look promising. We started hiking at 5:00am and arrived beneath the mountain at daybreak, the problem was the cliff is located on the other side of the mountain. We climbed for 2,500 feet up following a rib of perfect pink granite. We hoped that this granite poked out the other side at the unseen cliff. It didn't. We arrived at the top of the cliff and looked down on a 600' cliff of choss. We decided to try and climb a line on the cliff that looked somewhat safe. It wasn't. After climbing around a huge chock stone I stepped to the left and placed a piece of gear, just as I did this half of the bottom of the chock stone fell off, the size of a kitchen table. Lucky I was out of the way, and Scott was hidden in a cave. Shaken I climbed the last 25 feet of 5.10- climbing to the top of the chock stone where, after finding nothing but rotton rock, I placed the only bolt I have ever placed in the mountains and bailed. The climb had a very sinister feel to it. The entire time we were climbing we had to brush off small bones from the holds. It turns out that the chock stone was home to a large owl (we never saw) and the ground was littered with owl pellets and bones. This is one cliff I don't think I ever need to go back to and honestly I don't recommend any climber going there unless you like bad rock. However, It was great learning experience and another 'crazy' climbing experience with Scott.

Cheers, Loren

Scott on top of the ridge before dropping down the other side to the base of the wall.

Scott splunk-climbing

Scott rappelling off the wall

I know this is cheesy, trust me.

A video of the day.