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Snow Creek Solo Climb - Mar
2, 2008 Snow Creek Solo Climb - Mar 2, 2008  by Rick Kent

I couldn't get Snow Creek out of my mind last weekend so I decided to head up for a solo dayclimb on Sunday. After having spent most of my time canyoneering over the past 6 months I was ready to get back to some mountaineering. I had done Snow Creek once before with Rick Graham two years ago. That occaision was also a dayhike and I recall it was an extremely strenuous day which took around 16 hours to summit and descend down to the tram. It's probably more often done as a 2 day climb.

Winter on Kelso Winter on Kelso  by Kiefer

As far as winter summits go, I still needed Grays Peak snowy neighbor, Torreys Peak. Having battled a bad case of pneumonia and as the doctor said, A touch of the flu all last week, my plans were once again forcibly changed and pushed back to as yet another undetermined time. However, with all things being equal in light of frequent cancellations and attempts this winter season, Torreys Peak, as Jeff and myself would successfully summit on Thursday via Kelso Ridge, is definitely the highpoint of my winter climbing season though strangely enough, not the most fun. That honor belongs to Fletcher. This would turn out to be Jeffs second winter summit (second time on Torreys) and second time up Kelso Ridge and my third time up Kelso Ridge and third time on Torreys.

Snicker Power Snicker Power  by Dennis Poulin

After climbing Pinto Peak on Saturday, February 9, I headed down into Death Valley on my way to Pyramid Peak. It was a beautiful warm day and I stopped at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to look at their hiking books. I found a couple that I couldnt live without and then continued on towards the trailhead. I wanted to climb the standard route from the southeast as described by the Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section. There isnt much of a parking area at the trailhead and the highway is kind of busy. I wanted to car camp nearby, so I drove east on Hwy 190 about mile east and parked in an old abandoned trailer park that is south of the highway. I ate dinner and prepared my stuff for the hike in the morning. No one hassled me in the old trailer park and I got a good nights sleep.

An Enchainment for a Weekend
Warrior An Enchainment for a Weekend Warrior  by AJones

After numerous weeks of 30 below weather, the flu, and various other lame excuses, Greg and I finally got another good day of ice climbing in last weekend (Feb 24/08).

As many climbers know, the cool thing to do these days is an “enchainment” – in other words, climb a number of big routes on the same day. These types of feats, usually performed by mutant strong, full time climbers, often end up featured in climbing magazines. For example, Peter Croft is well-known for an enchainment in the Bugaboos where he climbed a route (solo) on each of the Howser, Crescent, Snowpatch and Bugaboo spires – to give you an idea of what an athletic feat that is; his day represented over 40 pitches of sustained alpine climbing, not including the hiking between each spire. Two years ago, a European couple visiting Jasper Park climbed “Polar Circus”, “Slipstream” and “Curtain Call”, all in a day (about 20 pitches of ice). Each one of these ice climbs are plums in themselves, but to do all three in a day, is simply inconceivable to me.

Winter Ascent of South
Thunder Winter Ascent of South Thunder  by ZeeJay

Four of us set out at 7:15 AM from Alpine, Utah at the end of Aspen Drive, elevation 5400', Dave, Lana, Michael, and myself. Our goal was the summit of South Thunder, elevation 11,154', 5.5 miles and 5700 vertical feet away. This would be my 10th trip to the summit. With nice crystal clear skies we had perfect conditions. The previous few days had been sunny and warm resulting in a nice solid crust on our southern exposure ascent.

Solo Climb
of Broken Top Solo Climb of Broken Top  by Bombchaser

Throughout December and January heavy snow had been falling in the mountains, basically limiting me to summiting peaks below 7000 feet. With soft snow, extreme avalanche danger, and long approaches, most mountains were not accessible. So with the weather moderating over the past week, and having received little snowfall I decided to try for one of the big guys again. I decided to summit Broken Top in Central Oregon, a 9175 foot tall mountain. There is an easier route which approaches from the west and climbs a long ridge. This would end up adding considerable time to my overall approach to try and snowshoe miles around to the back side of the mountain, since the only driving access stops at Mount Bachelor to the east. I decided to climb up the crook glacier and ascend the 9 o’clock couloir instead. I plotted out my route, made my itinerary, and left all info with a family member. I also will leave an emergency information packet on my windshield since I was climbing solo. I loaded up my backpack with around 40 pounds of gear, to include provisions to spend the night if needed. Now I was ready to tackle the 13.5 miles to the summit and back.

A Beauty
Creek Hat Trick - Jasper National Park A Beauty Creek Hat Trick - Jasper National Park  by GCutforth

The weekend before Aaron and I had been able to get out and do some laps in Maligne Canyon. This had been the first ice climbing we were able to do together in about a month. An odd combination of sickness and bitterly cold weather (-40 degrees Celcius) ensured that we would be taking up a sedentary spot on the soft, warm and horizontal couch as opposed working our way up any cold, and vertical hard water.

Needless to say we started our trip down the Parkway with some sense of anticipation. Based on some beta from our good friend Harvey Struss (a Seasoned Jasper Hardman in his own right) Aaron had proposed we try for some sort of enchainment in the Beauty Creek Area that would include Stanley Falls Senior, the Rick Blak Memorial Route, and Sunwapta Falls - Left Drainage. We were somewhat unclear about how everything would work, but regardless we were keen to get out and make something happen.

Daydream, sort of Moonage Daydream, sort of  by Steve Larson

The line is obvious from Tokopah Valley. Between the magnificent upper spire of the Watchtower and the lower tower to the west there is a broad gully that in winter occasionally fills with ice. Fed by meltwater from the west-facing snowfield above, it forms from the top down. From the valley bottom it is deceptively foreshortened. What appears to be 2-3 pitches is actually 1,000 vertical feet and six or seven pitches long.

According to Moser, Vernon and Hickey's Sequoia Kings Canyon guidebook, "the first pitch is rarely in shape, and can be bypassed by rock to the right." Today would be one of those days when bypassing on the rock would be necessary. But it didn't look too bad. A recon the day before revealed what looked like a straightforward line up to a left-leaning ramp that would, in a perfect world, deposit you at the base of reliable ice. The rest appeared (through binoculars) to be an exercise in following fat runnels meandering up to the steep snowfield that separated the lower half of the climb from the upper. The upper half comprises two beautiful steps of perfect water ice--the payoff for putting up with the thinness at the bottom.

Or so it seemed.

Vallee Blanche Full Moon
descent Vallee Blanche Full Moon descent  by JonathanGriffith

“Excuse me mate, where do the pistes start?”…it’s a question I’ve been asked or overheard far too much when it comes to the Vallee Blanche. Scores of unexperienced skiers pour up the Aiguile Du Midi cable car expecting an elevator to take them down to perfectly groomed red runs. The reality, as many know, is very different. A knife edge arête takes you down to the glacial plateau from which you have a multitude of offpistes runs to chose form, form the easy and classic Vallee blanche to the harder and steeper lines of the Cosmiques and Rondes couloirs. As many will be able to testify, one thing that they all have in common is people, and lots of them. It’s becoming a very rare thing to find solitude in the mountains of Chamonix, as its popularity with access and having some of the highest mountains in Europe means that even on the hardest climbing routes you can find yourself waiting at belays. Compare it to the likes of the Bernese Oberland where you can literally not see a sole for days does make me wonder why I am here in the first place. But then I am here for the same reasons everyone is- for some of the best, easy access, climbing and skiing in Europe.

Red Rock Mix Red Rock Mix  by rpc

It’s early November. We arrived in Red Rocks late Friday night & have gotten in a few warm-up pitches on Saturday. We’re hiking back to the trailhead. There’s an old man hiking into Pine Creek Canyon. “Hello Mr. Beckey” I say while scooping my jaw off the ground. He ignores me. Shirley’s hiking 20 feet behind me. She gets a big smile and – as I later find out – a wink from Fred Beckey. Lucky him that he’s 50+ years my senior…. who am I kidding, lucky me that the man is old. A wink and a smile from Fred go a long way apparently. The next day we do Black Orpheus swapping leads, with Shirley leading the money pitches. In fact, this trend has continued – Shirley has been sending all her projects at Smith (including shit that I’ve been hanging on and falling off of over and over…did I mention that Beckey ignored me?), taking half the leads on multi-pitch outings, and tackling crux pitches that I just “was not in the mood for.”

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