Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tolman Gully?

Last weekend Bridget and I spotted an ice flow to the North (lookers left) of the Rock Creek Falls Drainage.  The following day we headed up there with Echo Oaks (who also saw the ice the weekend prior) and Olin Erickson.  What we found was a super moderate, but alpine ice gully that brings one directly to the summit of Tolman Mountain.  It was really fun and had about 400-500' of ice climbing up to WI3 with some gully walking between the short ice flows.  It seems to be an early season climb.

We found rappel webbing on trees from previous parties - thus it is not a new route by any means - just another seldom done Beartooth classic.

PS.  If you know the name of this climb let us know - I'm just going to refer to it as Tolman gully based on geographical reference.

Cheers, Loren

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A trip up the Westminster Spire

Bridget and I had a good time climbing the stunning Westminster Spire last weekend.  Westmister spire now stands 8 miles from my front door along the Beartooth Pass and is surprisingly alpine for being so close to town.  It was my 3rd trip up the Kennedy-Kanzler route (the obvious arete) and I forgot how alpine this 5 pitch route is.  Loose, exposed, serious, but worth it.  Here are some snowy pictures of the route.

Bridget starting pitch 1

Bridget on pitch 2.5 (moving the belay)

Bridget leading pitch 3

Bridget on pitch 4

White Tail peak from the summit of the spire

A post hole descent 

Cheers, Loren

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Say NO to fracking on the Beartooth Mountain Range front

An oil and Gas company wants to frack the Beartooth front.  Say no if you love the Beartooth Mountains.  This company wants to produce a "Bakken like industry in the Roscoe and Red Lodge area". 

Please sign this petition:

Read more here: Billings Gazette

Cheers, Loren

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A letter to a friend

Dear Kevin,

I was not there when the accident happened.  I only saw the picture of you moments before; guns blazing, wild smile, and an aura of a man completely in his element.  I was there an hour later, waiting with the SAR team, helicopter blades thundering - sky turning dark... hope gone.

I watched the stars.  I watched my friends.  I watched the inside of my head.  Complete loss for words or action.  The night was calm and cold as I laid in the dirt, shivering and crying.  It was still a beautiful night out, owls were calling and wind sang through the trees of Wyoming.  After the SAR team left the canyon was quiet again.  We combined at the camping spot and drank tequila until we puked, we told stories, we cried, we laughed, we praised you and tore you apart- we loved you.

Kevin, this letter is for you.  You don't have to explain anything to me, I know - understand.  The pull of the wild places and the vehicle of climbing to get us there is the substrate of our existence.  I don't expect anything more or less.  We have had close calls in Alaska, yet we continued to venture into the unknown- to us it was a part of living - and a part of transition from this life to the next.  You don't need to explain - I get it. The hard part is picking up the pieces afterwards, trying to teach High School science with out breaking down.  Trying to look at our friends in the eyes, trying to look at those who do not understand at all - just trying - trying pretty damn hard.

Kevin I love you, always will.  We have had some formative times together, both in the hills and in the bars.  We have shared so much of ourselves with each other.  Know that you are loved, by many, many, many good people.  You were a brilliant climber, a wonderful friend, a loving husband, a son to be proud of, a good man.  I'll think of you every time I put my harness on, chalk my hands up, or stare at the rising sun in the early morning hours in the mountains - just like the morning when you passed on - guns blazing, wild smile, and an aura of a man completely in his element.

K-Bone we love you, best of luck,

Loren Rausch

Best, Loren

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The last few weeks of my life condensed into a few random pictures.  I hope you're as confused as I am with these images.

Cheers, Loren

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cleopatra's Gargoyle

Hyalite Canyon, Bozeman, MT, is geologically composed mainly of the Absaroka supergroup.  A massive series of volcanic explosions and the ensuing mud flows (much like the Mount Saint Helen's explosion-but on crack) created the unique stratigraphy seen today.  This rock creates world class ice climbing but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of rock climbing.

Nate Opp and Aaron Thrasher put this route up a few years back on the spire of rock that sits adjacent to the classic Hyalite Canyon ice route named "Cleopatra's needle". Those guys are rad climbers so I expected this route to be bold and, well, loose. I talked Scott "sandbaggin" Salzer into climbing this three pitch route with me and he agreed. The route is said to be 5.10d and all one needs are draws for bolts- I have climbed in Hyalite canyon long enough to know that I should bring a couple of #3 peckers and a hammer along just in case.

I'm not going to lie, this is kind of a messed up route.  Messed up in terms of what one is climbing on; overhanging kitty litter sprinkled with tennis balls half sticking out of the poo.  On a route like this the experience is what dictates quality- not the rock- thus, this route is the definition of quality.

What the route is made of

We found the route and I headed up the rock-like-material.  I have never been on the Hyalite choss when it wasn't winter and everything is frozen together.  In the summer the Hyalite rock takes on a whole new level of funkyness.  It's not bad once you wrap your head around the experience, but the first pitch was a bit rough.  I ended up placing two crap peckers in the first 25 feet on my way to the first bolt...  After that the bolts appeared on a regular basis and the route was protected well (there are quite a few moderate runouts on every pitch though).

Myself placing a second pecker on my way up to the first bolt

After the first pitch was over it started raining for about 20 minutes.  The second pitch belay has a cozy cave to keep dry in.  While we were waiting out the storm a humming bird kept buzzing up to us and hovering a few feet away from us the entire time it rained. 

The humming bird- I'm not sure on the species- my best guess is female calliope or blue-throated hummingbird which isn't supposed to be in Montana.

Scott psyched on the top of the first pitch waiting out the rain

The second pitch (5.8) was awesome, by far the best climbing on the route! The last pitch was exposed and required a long runner on every bolt to reduce the rope drag (something I failed to do). The last pitch does have a huge detached flake that the climber has to stand on- if it went it would be no good for anyone.

Scott on the second pitch

The final pitch

A canyon with a rich history

Myself doing the robot wave with twin falls pouring in the background

The last rappel is rather overhanging

 The route is very cool and a bit bold for being bolt protected.  Props to the first ascentionists, this route is in a class of it's own in relation to Bozeman climbing, super unique. This route parallels it's neighboring ice climbs as being not quite solid.  This is the only rock route I have ever climbed that felt ephemeral.  Like the humming bird on the breeze, this route may cease to exist tomorrow and may fall into the fir trees below- or it may remain standing for centuries to come.  Thus is the nature of Hyalite rock.

Cheers, Loren

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Solo on Sacajawea Peak

Folks on the summit of 'Sac.

Sacajawea peak is the highest peak in the Bridger mountains just east of Bozeman.  The peak is named after the Native American interpreter that aided the Lewis and Clark expedition.  From Fairy lake it's a chill 2 mile hike to the summit but the views and geology make it seem like you are deep in the backcountry.  A few years ago I onsight soloed this 800' arete that bypasses the switchbacks leading up to the saddle; it was an adventure as I didn't know if it would "go" within my comfort level.  It goes on mainly solid rock and is much more fun than winding up the switchbacks on the trail.  There is one switchback that heads far right when you're ascending the trail.  At the switchback a rock buttress comes down and nearly touches the trail, this is the arete.  It starts in the dark purple chimney (on a bedding plane) and climbs this corner (5.4).  The next portion is the technical crux.  A short (15') gendarme guards the steller arete above.  Climb this steep face (it is overhanging for a few moves) on less than stellar rock at 5.5/5.6.  It is short though.  After this have fun on the long knife edge arete that climbs up on solid rock for about 600'.   The climbing on this arete is exposed and awesome!  It is easy 5th class to where the arete ends, from here hike to the left and gain the saddle where the trail tops out at the big carin.  This weekend I headed back up to the arete for a multisport conditioner day.  The arete is still an adventure.  Buyer beware, it is a freesolo on loose rock in the mountains (I wouldn't recommend it for everyone).  I think the Bridger Mountains may have a wealth of fun low 5th class aretes like this for those who like long, loose, limestone ridges, and adventure- if there are any other idiots like me out there.

The arete

The first section right off the trail

The steller upper section of the arete

On the west slope of the pass look for these long colums.  These are actually Stromatolites- fossil evidence of blue-green algae and cyannobacteria from ~350 million years ago!!!

The goats are nice and friendly on Sacajawea Peak

Cheers, Loren

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Hanging Garden

Beehive peak's south face  In the beautiful Lee Metcalf wilderness.

The hanging garden is a "hanging" snow couloir that dissects Beehive Peak's north face. It was first climbed in July, 1967 (back when men were men) and has recently become a high-end ski descent in winter.  With nothing better to do with my day I decided to solo the route in late season conditions, hopefully find some ice to climb, and see the north face of Beehive Peak.  Beehive peak may be the "best" alpine peak in the greater Bozeman area (aside from the peaks lining Paradise valley) it definitely is my favorite peak in the region.  The hike in is short, the peak has no walk up route, there is snow, ice, rock, and ski descents.  It embodies all the aspects of a fun alpine peak- it actually reminds me of a tiny Grand Teton, and you can get your alpine fix and be back in town for lunch.

The hanging garden runs left to right in this photo and ends on the flat shoulder of the west ridge.  Photo obtained from:

The climb was really fun- lots of no fall terrain- but really moderate climbing.  I started by climbing the east couloir to the col, then descended down towards beehive lake.  I found the bottom of the hanging garden and had perfect frozen neve and some water ice to climb.  I topped the couloir out then tagged the summit and descended the west ridge and the 4th of July couloir.  The best part of the climb was that it allowed me to circumnavigate the peak, climb thousands of feet of ice/neve by enchaining multiple couloirs, and get back to Bozeman before 3:00pm.

Looking up the foreshortened east couloir

Perfect neve in the east couloir

Good views

down climbing neve on the north side

yea- in the hanging garden

Looking down the hanging garden

Cheers, Loren