Welcome to SP!  -
Alpine Ice 101
Trip Report

Alpine Ice 101

  Featured on the Front Page
Alpine Ice 101

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Object Title: Alpine Ice 101

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 6, 2011

Season: Summer

 

Page By: Ted Eliason

Created/Edited: Jun 9, 2011 / Jun 13, 2011

Object ID: 721399

Hits: 3350 

Page Score: 88.19%  - 26 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Dreamweaver Hangover

 
Another view of the pre-crux
 

3 am alarm. Was I in a coma? After catching up on a little sleep (in bed at 9pm after 16 hours of climbing Dreamweaver on maybe 4 hours of sleep) I had had no dreams. I remember hitting my sleeping bag about as well as counting backwards from 10 after an anesthesiologist has inserted a sedative into my IV drip.

The usual problems. Too much of my gear is black. The inside of the tent is dark. Sorting it out in the early morning is more painful than it needs to be.

I was unfortunately too lazy/fatigued to re-rack my gear the previous night. It was getting dark. I was chilled. I was having trouble moving away from the fire. I figured I would re-rack at a stopping point along the way in the morning before we started heading up the Martha couloir--something I would ultimately both fail to do and that would result in many disconcerting obscenities.

The Martha Couloir

 
The hike up to Chasm Lake
 
 
The Martha Couloir Route
 

Martha is another perfect crack-chimney in the Longs Peak amphitheater that splits the south face of the diminutive 13,281’ Mount Lady Washington. I had actually had my butt kicked before on Mt Lady Washington, in deep snow, high wind, and with a disconcerting layer of winter fat around my mid-section. No one should get their butt kicked by a mountain named, “Mount Lady Washington”. But I have. And I am secure enough to admit it.

Trailhead by 4:30 am. I guess that makes the previous day’s complaining about the hour long pre-trailhead ritual seem petty. For some reason, oatmeal actually for once sounded better than instant mashed potatoes with parmesan eaten off of a nut tool (because we forgot our utensils). I vowed to find a way to get more chocolate into pre-climb breakfast. An “Espresso Love” GU packet helps me out.

Scott and Tammy join us. Scott is the world’s toughest man. He will climb over 14,000’ after splitting a 6 pack and a fifth of hard alcohol, seems to have no problem bathing in snowmelt, and routinely lights up a camel unfiltered at rest stops or on summits of a climb—while still climbing stronger than the people he’s traveling with. He’s new to ice but a quick learner. One Ouray festival, Pumphouse Falls at Vail, and the right WI3/4 flow at Willow Lake near Kit Carson to his ice climbing credentials.

Alpine Ice 101

 
Starting up Martha
 
 
First Alpine Ice
 

This would be Tammy’s third climb in the Rockies ever (to my knowledge). A few weeks earlier we took her up Starbright and Shooting Star couloirs on the east face of James Peak. She is a marathoner and yoga instructor. She is fit enough to kick all of our butts combined in strength and endurance. But she is still learning how to handle an ice axe. Hopefully the route will be easier than Dreamweaver and she will be completely secure in second position on a rope team.

Chasm junction by 7 am. Wow, it’s late. Luckily the night before was colder than the previous one and the snow has remained firm. A biting wind starts hitting us at the junction. Not as good a day to climb ice couloirs in shorts. But the wind will keep the snow colder which is going to be a huge benefit.

 
A view of the Diamond Face from lower Martha
 
Up to the edge of Chasm Lake beneath the spectacular Ships Prow and East “Diamond” Face of Longs Peak—Colorado’s El Capitan. The previous day the approach trail went from semi-unconsolidated to well boot tracked. I’m guessing the route up Martha is going to be well stepped out and an easy day for us compared to hiking Dreamweaver in semi-stepped out condition. A quick look up from the base reveals no glaring difficulties. Kendra and I start shaking of our fatigue out and getting a second-day wind.

Steps. Beautiful steps. I must remember to get a slightly later start in the day than the first climbers on the route. Sure, there is potential rock fall from above. But oohhh steps can be nice compared to cutting steps or breaking trail. Maybe it is the second mouse that gets the most cheese.

 
Heading up the lower couloir
 
The hike up to the first chockstone chimney in the couloir is like climbing the rungs of a ladder. Steps above make ideal hand placements. The lower route could probably be done without axes or crampons. Not that I’m stupid enough to try.

First crux. Thin sheet alpine ice. A small rock fin separates two gullies of snow in the upper chimney of Martha. The one to the left tops out in a small, steep bulge of ice. The route to the right follows a sheer slab of blue ice curled under the base of a small tunnel of rock. Any obvious cracks to protect from are either too small or between loose rock. Previous climbers have their tracks both on the left and right. Ok. Maybe it’s better on the right.

A short belly-roll over a slick quartzite fin onto the ice slab. 15-20 feet up, a place to put in a cam. My gear is tangled. I curse fumbling through it with gloved hands to separate the right-sized cam from a pair of ice screws and tangled slings. My calves’ start feeling a little pumped, front pointing into the slab with my less-sharp alpine crampons while fumbling for gear. Finally I get the cam untangled and slot it into the rock. Bomber. Ok. A slip here could hurt, but probably would not kill anyone anymore.

The ice is too thin for a screw. The slab continues and the rock fin of quartzite to the left keeps teasing me with possible ledges or horns to protect from. I want to step out onto it and keep retreating. From below the rock looks like it angles up. Up close it is fairly sheer and angles down. I decide to run it out to the top of the gully hoping I have enough rope on lead and that I can pound in a picket at the top.

I am able to do both, but barely. Tammy behind me is at the base of the ice and I am 4 feet from a good picket placement. Like a bonehead, I had double clipped my pickets into the back of my pack before I started out on the route when I should have either single-clipped them or placed them behind my back for easy retrieval. More cursing. Taking off an unsecured pack on steep slab ice with three climbers roped behind me and last placement a good ways back. The calves complain more, but not as much as my mouth which my mother would be washing out with industrial strength detergent.

OK. Pack back on, picket secure, belay from the top. Everyone sketches up the ice to an acceptable resting stance. I switch the ATC out as each climber passes hoping none of the climbers that have completed the slab ice would be careless enough to slide back down it once on top. Again, probably not a fatal fear, but who wants a rescue?

More kicked-in steps. Oooohhh nice steps. There is a second ice crux up ahead. Cause for concern but it doesn’t appear as bad as what we’ve all just scratched our way up.

 
Scott heads up the second ice flow
 
 
Belaying the second ice crux
 
 
Kendra passing the second ice crux
 
 
Kendra above the second ice crux
 

A good screw placement at the base of the AI2/3 flow near the top of the Martha couloirs, right next to four previous ice screw holes. Glad I had the same idea as everyone else. A solid cam placement half way up the ice in the rock wall on the left. Place a third piece near the top? The ice feels like water ice from Ouray or Vail. Axes high, hips in, heels down, no problem. I decided to run it out rather than risk fatigue near the top of the semi-vertical flow. Solid boulders at the top for a bomber three-point anchor.

Everyone gets up the AI2/3 section and out onto a sunny, wind-free ledge to the side of the final snowfield to the summit.

What a nice day! In the wind you need a coat. Moving without the wind you want to climb in a T-shirt.

Food and Rest is in sight

 
Chasm Lake from the perch above the second ice crx
 
 
The wind blasted descent
 

A short set of snow steps up to the left puts us in safe Class 2 snow and talus to the summit. We pick our way up. Near the summit the gusts start to knock us off balance. On top it’s a full blown. The barriers to the wind sweeping over the continental divide are unbroken by the notch in the Keyhole across the Boulder Field.

We don’t stay on top long. A quick traverse to the east summit of Mount Lady Washington and ensuing descent down to chasm junction through solid talus, grass and snow. Down through the moraine and forest with still good snow. Camp at 4:30.

Boots off. Shorts and clean t-shirt. Beer open. Planted. Ahhhhh.

Epilogue

 
30 hours of climbing over 2 days on 600 calories and 9 hours of sleep
 

7:00 pm. Vegetarian Nachos, Sachmo Gardenburgers and Gubna IPA’s at Oskar Blues, Lyons. They say hunger makes the best cook. After 30 hours of weekend climbing, I cannot but confess Gubna is one of the damned finest IPA I’ve ever tasted.

Images


Comments


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-9 of 9    

Kristin5berryAwesome

Kristin5berry

Voted 10/10

Sheer perfection on the weather front. Love this time of year, especially the post climb/hike beer in the sun!
Posted Jun 12, 2011 11:59 am

kamilThe climbing description rocks!

kamil

Voted 10/10

Ain't tried technical ice climbing yet but you make me wanna try, and I'm a quick learner :)
Great report.
Aah, I've tried a few IPA's and I'm a fan of them too...
cheers,
Kamil
Posted Jun 12, 2011 4:50 pm

Downy?

Downy

Hasn't voted

Martha's coulior aint that hard, you make it sound like an Alaska epic.
Posted Jun 13, 2011 11:10 am

Ted EliasonRe: ?

Ted Eliason

Hasn't voted

It's not a 60 hour flash of the Slovak direct. Just a fun day out. I look forward to the TR on free soloing D7 in calendar winter.
Posted Jun 13, 2011 3:18 pm

StegosaurusLooks like a really enjoyable climb!

Stegosaurus

Voted 10/10

Fantastic narrative. Exciting to read. And I agree that there are few rewards more handsome after a climb than a can or two of Gubna or TenFidy.
Posted Jun 13, 2011 2:40 pm

thatnissanguyBravo sir!

thatnissanguy

Voted 10/10

Well written! This is a different Ted from the one I saw 6 months ago on Pacific/Atlantic!
Posted Jun 14, 2011 11:35 am

bikehike11Looks Enjoyable

Hasn't voted

Hey Ted, I can feel the enjoyment and the tiredness with your post while climbing. Marvellous! I do like the adventure.
Posted Jun 16, 2011 7:12 pm

shahkeersems enjoyable

shahkeer

Hasn't voted

great report...............very intrested!
Posted Jun 19, 2011 8:08 am

nawazBeautiful

nawaz

Hasn't voted

is amazing... Love the pics :)
Posted Jun 19, 2011 12:12 pm

Viewing: 1-9 of 9