Colchuck Lake is an incredible place to be. It was made even more incredible by the perfect weather and climbing conditions we found on 2 days in early May, 2012.
Taking advantage of the cold snap, my good friend Nick Gaddy joined me to climb the Triple Couloirs Route on Dragon tail Peak. The road was still closed and we giggled that it would probably open the day we left due to the lacking fluff on the way up. After hiking the 8 miles up to Colchuck Lake, we decided to scurry off to the North Buttress Couloir of Colchuck Peak for our first day in the area. On this climb, Nick and I shared a wonderful sunny day in such a beautiful place. I think Climbing in this time of years is especially beautiful. Youthful snow lingers in every crack and corner of the towering Giants. Summers rapid approach reminding you that with every days sun the alpine environment is changing, much like in the rest of the world. And as so often happens when I climb and sleep in the mountains, I begin to perceive the planet as another world entirely, the scale, the life force energy, The calm that surges after a day out among Giants. I see clearly what I am always on the look out for: the beauty.
Triple Couloirs was next, so we made dinner and listened to the waves of wind swirl above our heads.
The next day we woke at 3am to catch the first of three Couloirs on Dragontail Peak in cold shape. It turned out to be a really fun alpine ice climb in an unforgettable setting. I just kept imagining that some gnarled hard-skinned creature was going to pop out of his cave to stare blankly in our direction. A Perfect day for our intentions, and a great spring trip to start the summer….Or at least the next 10 days living out of my car in Icicle Creek before I depart for Chile!
Illumination Rock is located just above timberline lodge ski area on Mt. Hood. In winter, the routes are mixed rock and ice climbing. The route we climbed was 4 pitches of M4 – AI4. The protection was mostly rock in splitter cracks. For April, the climbs seemed quite winter-esque making the placement of gear even more fun than usual. Moving among sugar gargoyles put me in a total dream-like head space.
I had only seen fluffy mushrooms of ice in magazines, so it was great to touch them. Stoke seemed to be running through my veins….
Below is a topo of the rock with routes:
Banks lake is so under the radar. The season is usually short, but on occasion the great climbs form up nicely. I have been climbing here since the beginning, and every year since. In six years I had climbed nearly all of the frozen drips I had dreamed possible. But the awesome thing about ice climbing is that the climbs change every year and new ones pop up where you thought they never would. I once had a partner/mentor give me sound advice about the formation of frozen water falls. Explaining that there must be a combination of: water feed from snow or another source, freezing temperatures, thawing temperatures, and all of this with the magical ingredient – Time. But, every year I am surprised by the unpredictability of these things. This year, the sure-thing climbs that always form up at Banks Lake didn’t. There just wasn’t enough snow on the ground to feed the drips. But what blew my mind was the two big ones (The cable WI5+ and Zenith WI6+) formed to the ground. I had never seen the cable reach so close. And in a year when not 5 climbs formed for more than 3weeks.
I only top roped The cable, but it proved as long and sustained as it always appeared. Craig Pope lead Zenith in crazy conditions and it was amazing to follow. The climb was so chandaleer’ed at the middle pillar that it should get a mixed rating – Craig used a .75 camalot in a basalt pocket 20 ft. run-out, and the first 30 ft. of the climb would not take protection. The uniquely talented climbing photographer Ben Herndon was able to take some amazing photos as usual. I was very happy to finally be on both of these beautiful ice climbs.