Time flies when you’re having fun…

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity: bouldering, sport climbing, trad climbing, ice climbing, and ski touring. Ah, the Front Range with its mild climate, sunny crags, Cabernet powder (?), and dripping ice… Oh yeah, sometimes it just all comes together for a brief fleeting momement of multi-sport bliss. But anyways, today it’s bitter cold (though sunny), and that Wyoming wind is rolling through town, rattling windows. I’m hunkered down in a cozy coffee shop, sipping an Americano, savoring a blackberry muffin, and studying up for first quarter exams which are quickly approaching. My thoughts drift to wind, spindrift, and plastic ice. The Park is calling. I haven’t been climbing enough ice… The relatively warm sunny weather was a nice dream of the coming spring, but looking outside I realize it’s early February and that we’re still in the midst of winter. [Read More]

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]

Weathering Heights

I had a few days off from work last weekend and my buddy, Will, drove in from the Bay Area to spend some time in Bozeman. Will moved out west after law school and has enjoyed the Berkeley gym climbing scene, but a pending trip to Mt. Hood had him ready for some real action in the mountains. We spent a couple of his days here climbing in Hyalite and a couple more hiking laps at the “M” for a pretty decent training shakedown.

Will, puttin' out the vibe in Hyalite.

I was relieved to find Will all smiles after our second climbing day. This wasn’t his first ice climbing experience (that came on a trip we took to Mt. Baker with my dad and brother two summers ago), but it’s impossible to tell how accurately one will remember things like that. Kelly Cordes, American Alpine Journal senior editor and general mountain badass, calls it Type II Fun: “fun only in retrospect, hateful while it’s happening. Things like working out ‘till you puke and usually ice and alpine climbing.” In other words, ice climbing belongs in the same category as tequila shots and Brontë novels: you’re proud to [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]

Rap Party

Hyalite in the morning.

Climbers spend a lot of time, energy, and money in the effort to keep themselves safe. A full rack of gear costs a small fortune, and the ability to use that gear efficiently and effectively takes years of experience. It’s no wonder there are literally volumes written on the subject.

A good belay anchor is a thing of beauty – equal parts gear, applied physics, and creative use of space – and, in this case, beauty often translates to safety. When you know those three large cams are equalized, backed-up, and bomber, it’s easy to relax and lean out over the five hundred feet of rock and air beneath you and focus on the task at hand.

Of course, the same things that make the belay so comfortable can make getting down a much more stressful situation. A pretty basic rock belay set-up will consist of three cams ($225), three wire-gate ‘biners ($25), two big lockers ($30), and twenty feet of 7mm cord ($8). That’s almost $300 worth of piece of mind at each belay. On the way up, it’s no big deal; the second climber just breaks it all down and hauls it [Read More]

RMNP Excursion and Philosophical Ramblings

I met up with a new climbing partner on Saturday to climb Martha, a moderate snow/mixed gully that splits the S. face of Mt. Lady Washington. I have been wanting to climb this route for quite a while and though it was in thin shape, it didn’t disappoint. We simul-soloed the lower portion of the route, which started off with some fun thin mixed moves to gain access to a lower-angled snow ramp that leads up to a thin couloir, interspersed with a few interesting rock/ice steps, which we belayed in three long pitches. Good styrofoam mixed in with snice, ice, rotten rock, and deep unconsolidated snow made for a fun all-around outing… we even got to place a couple of stubby screws! [Read More]