Mid-Winter Crisis

I’ve begun to feel the first desperate stabs of this winter’s mortality.

Routes that are only in climbable condition in the early season are, by now, gone until November. I’m looking forward to friends coming out here soon on their spring break weeks. I’ve started researching Western rivers and potential rock climbing destinations. Football is over, and pitchers and catchers report next week. The ice climbing season is still going strong, but it doesn’t have the “endless summer” vibe about it that it had when I first got out here. It’s time to pour a little gas on the fire, and there’s only one way to do that right: road trip.

These scenes never seem to get old. This is the green-tinged pitch that gives "Smooth Emerald Milkshake" its name — Cody, WY

Jason and I left Bozeman on Monday afternoon. Destination: Cody. Objective: Smooth Emerald Milkshake and maybe a stopover in the Beartooths on the way home. Jason had been eyeing the route for a few seasons, but its reputation as being hard to find and hard to reach had steered him toward other climbs in the area. I assured him the approach was no big deal [Read More]

Hot Springs and Cold Belays

Jamie on top of the 5.7 first pitch. Don't let the picture fool you — he copied my jacket/helmet combo.

Here’s a day-by-day synopsis of the past week:

Wednesday – By way of two morning trips to the airport, I said “fare thee well” to Michelle and “howdy” to Jamie Dial, my boss at Vanderbilt’s Outdoor Rec Program and my major climbing mentor. Jamie is the type of climber whose stories often start with things like “the second time I soloed the Grand…” and “I’d probably been on El Cap for two days when…” His climbing resume reads like a North American bucket list, and, lucky for me, his skills in the mountains are rivaled only by his ability to impart that knowledge and experience to others. He was just a few days removed from a Vandy trip to J-Tree and Red Rocks when he hopped on a plane to Bozeman for a little ice climbing R&R.

Three hours after his plane touched down, we were racking up at the base of Mummy Cooler II (WI 3) in Hyalite. I gladly accepted his offer for the first lead and soon found myself in a familiar situation – belaying [Read More]