Tad and I returned to El Chalten for a well deserved meal and some story swapping with friends. We felt great about being in this place in what seemed to be an uncharacteristically good weather season. Everyone was getting out and going for it. But the warm temperatures seemed to be putting the ice routes out of condition. My long time friend Jess had just made a good attempt on the Exocet Chimney on Cerro Standhardt, but what is typically a sustained 500m WI5 turned to a cold shower and they turned back. So when we jumped on the computer and it looked as though the climbing gods were opening the gates to yet another three day weather window, route selection was a point of great attention. Tad and I had left a cash at Paso Superior with the intent of returning to climb Poincenot if the weather would allow. Now that it was definitely allowing, we rationalized climbing the route in warm temperatures by getting a very early start and avoiding any kind of soft snow on the ramp as well as the possibility of getting caught in wet slides. How the mixed pitches would look was to be left to mystery. We departed town the next day in beautiful weather for the Whillans – Cochrane 5+, AI3, M4, 550m
We arrived at Paso Superior with light packs and the temperatures were quite warm as expected. We hoped the ramp would harden up during the night for easier and more speedy climbing in the morning. The night was calm, and pretending to read in my sleeping bag, I felt a world of gratitude for being at the foot of such an amazing climb. Doubts swirled and faded and an overriding calm settled in. I was anxious to climb for sure!
The alarm beeped at 1 am an hour later we were on the glacier and approaching the giant bergschrund that guards the base of the route. We chose to begin to the far left and gain the ramp directly. Stepping out with a lot of vert below was rad. Once on the ramp, we encountered good snow and ice conditions quickly making it to the mixed chimneys. The chimneys have great stone and awesome cracks to place cams and picks. The warm temperatures had made only rock protection a real option but the climbing was good. After the second pitch we went right and found M4 climbing all the same. Once at the shoulder we switched to rock shoes for the fun rock pitches to la cumbre. It was a dream!! We began to rappel from the summit around 6:30 pm and reached the shoulder above the mixed chimneys at dark. Then we rappelled through the night with only a couple hold ups with the ropes reaching the glacier at sunrise.
I felt very strongly the bond of partnership that night rappelling the rock, ice, then finally over the bergschrund to the comfort of the glacier. I never forgot that it was just the two of us out there going for it, and it was incredible. Some people get stoked on solo ascents of scary routes. I would have to agree that they are bold, even genius in there self reliance. But for now I am content with sharing my experiences in the mountains with great people. Inspiring people. In this way, the memory is not simply mine to cherish, but shared. And if there is one thing that I walked away from my time in Chile and Argentina with, it was the realization that to share is to fulfill at least one of our true purposes here on this floating sphere.
A big thanks to my larger than life friend Tad McCrea
Tad put together a VIDEO of the climb Here
The East Face of Mt. Hood, just above the Meadows Ski Area, is becoming well known in certain climbing circles. It’s no secret that climbers have been flocking to this beautiful Volcano for a century to climb the more standard routes. However, the East face, or “Black Spider”, has seen considerable attention from the alpine ice climbing world in the last few years. Two first ascents were done in the winter of 2010. One of which was the “Center Drip” WI3, III, 1000′ by myself and partner Wayne Wallace. And the second was the “Frick-Amos” AI4, by Bill Amos and Dustin Fric.
Our new route ascends the rock wall directly on beautiful moderate alpine water ice. It had taken my partner 23 years to climb the line, it was a pleasure to accompany Wayne on this classic ice route. We were stoked after seeing a picture of the wall in ill-sick-nasty condition in a CC.com post. After the quick scenic drive from Pullman we parked the Prius and packed our sacks. We walked past the Meadows Ski Resort, chair lift, and right up towards the wall. On the way up, the ski patrol (or “red coats” as I call them) were very adamant that we needed to exit the resort terrain, which we assured them would happen once we got high enough. They finally let it be, and we set up a camp in time to watch the sun slip behind the Planet. It all went really smoothly the next day. Perfect weather and an early start are all an alpine climber needs, right? We stumbled onto the summit by around 10am to the surprise of some really awesome Oregonian south side climbers. Where the hell did you come from? they asked. I pointed my pelvis to the east and told them, “the fucking black spider!”
The wall produces climbs nearly every year, and I do feel that one day it will be considered “classy” for its aesthetic alpine ice climbs. It should go without saying that this hunk of ice and rock would be crossed and circled with climbing routes if it were located in reach of European ice tools….but its not, so lets keep going up there and climb some mixed routes!
You can see the climbing Video by clicking here
The alpinist.com article here
The Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary on” Climbing Mt. Hood” by clicking here
Here is a topo of the wall:
COLONIAL PEAK – NEW ROUTE 2010
On a perfect weekend in February 2010, I met up with Geoff Cecil and climbed a new route on the North Face of colonial Peak in the Cascades of Washington State. We felt lucky to have climbed in such perfect weather in the middle of Winter. The temperature at night was right around freezing making for a pleasant night on the face. I wrapped myself in a tarp on the ledge we stomped out, humming with delight.
This climb is a good alternative to the more sustained Watusi-Rodeo Route. Below are some links to more information on the climb. Get Stoked for Winter in the Cascades!
North West Alpine Journal Report Here
Geoffs Report Here
Short Video Here