It was time for the first trip to Cody and the weather had been quite cold since November. My wife had hooked us up with some nice rooms at the Holliday Inn that go for $200+ dollars per night in the summer but were around $60 with a deal she gets from her work. We had a little time to shop and load up the packs for an early start in the morning. There were five of us on this trip so my Pat my brother from Colorado, Keith an MD from Sundance, and myself would be climbing as a group of three for two days. There had been a lot of snow early in the season and a lot of climbs that rarely form had been in for a month or two so I expected the classics to be huge, but that did not exactly turn out to be the case. Crossing the river seemed to be interesting this year as the ice was so slick and the wind was blowing so hard that it was hard to stay on your feet.You can see in the blury picture Moonrise is not fully formed. Last year these two climbs got so big that they completely formed together from the second pitch on down. The first pitch aslo was somewhat thin, but formed a cool little pillar that was plenty big enough to climb through. The lower quantity of of ice also meant that the bolts at the top of the first pitch had not been covered by the ice which happens many years.
Pitch two, three, and rolling ice above
Pitch two is a real gem and it was my second time leading this pitch. I decided to take the line on the left of the flow as it is a little less distance before betting to a shelf with a rest. This pitch is about 160ft and starts with some low angle climbing gets progressively steep as you move up. The temps had been wickedly cold in the few days prior to our arrival and the ice was very dry and somewhat britle this led me to struggling a little bit and having to hang about 140ft. up.
Regardless of my poor style it was still a lot of fun and it was over soon enough.
Pitch three starts out with some verticle ice and then leads to a sheet of of lower angle ice that due to the brittle nature of the ice it turned out to be a real calf burner. There is then many hundred feet of low angle rolling ice to the next pitch.
Pitch four and the Pillar of Pain
The fourth pitch is a beautiful blue wide flow that is about 100ft and was quite fat. This leads to the Pillar of Pain the name given to the last pitch and it seems quite like quite an appropriate name. Climbing as a group of three means that it would get a little chilly at the belays and after Keith did a stellar job on the crux pitch I had cold fingers but eventually got to the top
The decent is usually done by rapelling the pitches and then down climbing the easy ice between, but due to having a group of three and less than perfect ice we ended up rapelling a lot of the route easy ice included. Having three people meant that we had someone to deal with the ropes and make anchors when needed while the other two were doing other chores. We ended up doing something like ten 200ft. rapels and almost all of them were already fixed so it went fairly quickly, but there was still a few hundred feet of down climbing that were done off of the rope between the third and fourth pitch.
We got down in the dark and only got a little off track while crossing the river which was made more interesting by surging water that ended up being up to 6 inches deep.
Day two School House
Day two started with a little later start due to having a hard time deciding what to do and a little fatigue from yesterday. We ended up deciding on School House as Keith wanted to try the Last Climb Before the War wich is a pitch that come after the thrird pitch. You can see thfirst pitch in the center of the above photo.
There are many short steps of ice getting to the first pitch and it is a wild a nd beautiful setting with many crazy looking spires above the gully when doing the approach. The first pitch also has soem cool looking conglomerate rock on the right hand side of the flow.
Second pitch and third pitch.
The second pitch is a cool hanging curtain that is about 120ft. in fact all three pitches on this route are about that length. The second is accessed after about a half hour of ice scrambling.
Then after a much shorter scramble you get to the third pitch which again is a 120ft. pillar
Keith made it interesting by doing the verticle ice on the left side which was quite verticle with few rests.
Last Climb Before the War
The Last Climb Before the War was still hanging in there but did not look completely bonded at the bottom. Due to the less than perfect condition, some fatigue, and the late hour we decided to retreat.
The decent of school house
On the way down I took a few images of the surroundings of some of the spectacular scenery of the area.
Coming from the Black Hills you go over the Big Horn Mountains and pass through Tensleep Canyon which has some beautiful limestore and an impressive one pitch climb that we hit up on the way home from Cody on many occasions.
The first half is low angle but the last 70 feet is quite steep and it can really test you.
The limestone in this canyon is very impressive and there has been a lot of route development over the last ten years. This is the wall next to the waterfall and it has to be nearly 200ft as it is bigger than the flow right next door which goes at about 180ft. This particular wall has several waves of steepness befor some bulgey rock at the top.
Keith knocked out the flow quite quickly and soon we were on our way home. All in all it was a great trip hitting up may classic pitches that Cody and the area are known for.