Juneau's Standard Classic Day OutThe iconic scenic backdrop to downtown Juneau is also one of locals favorite test pieces for local ice. Chop Gully is a four pitch, six hour plus round trip climb that taps into several old traditional aspects of technical mountaineering and ice climbing. The route is known to cook the nerves of novice climbers and strand teams beyond their mental limits high above the frying pan in somewhat desperate isolation.
By most standards the belay stations are large, roomy, and offer ample options for three screw equalized belay stations. Still, without 70m ropes, breaking down the route's belay locations can leave 50m and 60m rope teams short of a bomber alder belay station located at the main rappel station. It is not uncommon here to employ classic climbing techniques like the old fashioned boot-axe or seated waist belays on the edge of the large divider ramp in the middle of the route. Chop Gully is famous for its history of monstrous avalanches!! It is considered good practice to stay off the route in heavier snow and warmer conditions until the upper snow fields let loose and deliver vivacious amounts of snow and debris to the approach slope near the creek far below.
Darkness is known to envelope climbers at this mid-point juncture, as well. Nine in the morning is a bit too late for December and January ascents to grab the apex without headlamps. In darkness, accidents can occur. I, for one, have seen and heard more then one ice screw or ATC careen over the steep cliffs into the shivering black void. One climber compensated by running the rope through four reversed and opposed carabiners emergency rappel device. Others leave expensive screws or ice spectres in order to retreat safely. Staying headstrong in prominently inclement situations in order to make the rap stations is the best way to guarantee success.
Each pitch is punctuated by a 15-20m crux of near vertical ice, even in low water-ice flow conditions. Beyond these sections, the ice is punctuated by bulges and short runs of lower degree ice ramps. Mountain goat tracks stimulate the imagination on the approach, Bald eagles often roost in the trees nearby or encircle the skies in search of food. Ravens frequently fill the air, mocking and often buzzing climbers, just out of reach. No matter who leads and what happens, Chop Gully is a fun thrill that will leave bountiful moments and exquisite memories worth savoring for a lifetime. After all, it's Alaska!!!