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