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North Peak Ice conditions

Regional discussion and conditions reports for the Golden State. Please post partners requests and trip plans in the California Climbing Partners forum.
 

Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby PellucidWombat » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:51 pm

Here's an 85-90 degree bulge we 'found' on the Ruth Glacier. I think conditions made a difference though since we were able to climb it with our down camp booties and some other comforts. :-D

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On a serious note, thanks for the measurements, Bob. I think they're useful and anyone with experience will know in what way to view those numbers.
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby The Chief » Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:39 am

PellucidWombat wrote:On a serious note, thanks for the measurements, Bob. I think they're useful and anyone with experience will know in what way to view those numbers.


Please do enlighten us how "those numbers" are to be viewed and utilized. 43 years of playing this game on rock, ice and snow all over this planet and not once have I ever heard nor ever partaken in calibration taking or mention of what "angle" any route was sustained at. When it comes to ice, we are far more concerned as to the quality and quantity.

And by his own admission, Bob Pickering took many of these measurements early in the season when neve, not Sierra Bullet Ice prevailed. Anyone that has been at this game long enough damn well knows that early season neve filled couloirs will indeed be no where the "angle" of what will prevail when that neve melts off the seasonal ice. In some instances, a good 20-25 degs off.

Totally reminds me of the 5.12 over hanging Gym climber going out to Needle & Spoon and totally flailing and taking the proverbial 30 foot whipper between the 3rd & 4th bolt on P2. It's only low angled 5.9+ slab and they are solid 5.12 climbers, in the gym thus no problem, right?




"Hey PW, I think we need to get over on so so couloir. Bob Pickerings angleometer readings say it's 73 degs instead of 80. I think we have better chance of succeeding cus it's at a lower angle than what all them exaggeraters out their that have done it said it was. It don't mean jackshit that there's only an inch of verglassed ice on it and pro is sparse at best. Nope that's not a bit important. It's the angle boys."
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby PellucidWombat » Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:48 pm

The Chief wrote:
PellucidWombat wrote:I think they're useful and anyone with experience will know in what way to view those numbers.


Please do enlighten us how "those numbers" are to be viewed and utilized.


Apparently my little joke didn't quite register. :roll:

Part of your reply shows that you do know what I mean as far as how to use the numbers i.e. not over rely on them for characterizing a route, as per the point of my picture. Personally, I think the AI/WI system is BS anyways since it is rated based on steepness, but since characteristics of a route change so much over the season and season to season, I guess it is the only regular way to rate & compare routes. They are but one measure.

BTW, I think our route was as steep as yours :lol: Obviously yours was still way harder 8). I can't imagine you don't realize the more obvious ways in which the numbers can be useful or at least interesting to consider so I'll be vague and leave it at that.
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby The Chief » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:58 pm

PellucidWombat wrote:Personally, I think the AI/WI system is BS anyways since it is rated based on steepness, but since characteristics of a route change so much over the season and season to season, I guess it is the only regular way to rate & compare routes.


You are 100% correct in the numbers. And I say the "steepness" is just that more subjective to any alpine routes rating.


Ya'll just don't get it. The "numbers" in any alpine rating are relative to the FAist and the conditions that they encountered when they did their FA. Many of the older routes that abound throughout the Sierra are so far out there, that many folks get their asses in big trouble thinking they are getting on some easy "4th" or AI2ish route that the likes of Clyde or Eichorn etal put up back in the 30ies.

The bottom line, regardless of "steepness", which you btw are in fact mistaken that the AI/WI rating are soley "based on steepness", many Alpine route ratings are just general guides.

As Alois mentioned, Jeff Lowe first introduced a new rating system for Alpine and Water Ice back in the 70's which he shares in his first book, "The Ice Experience". Steepness is only one ingredient which Jeff writes in depth that in many cases, is not as an important factor as whether one is on "Neve" or "Bullet Hard Ice". He equates 40deg "BHI" to 65 degs neve and so on. He also shares how his rating system also covers protection and runouts. As I posted above, anything over 45 degs with full pitch runouts can indeed be a fatal endeavor for some that are not experienced enough to delve onto. He adds that an "S" and "VS" be added to any WI/AI rating given to a specific route if protection is marginal to none and of course an "X" for any route that a death fall slide, regardless of steepness that may may be encountered when in full on Bullet Hard Ice conditions. Norman Kingsley shares how even the best can die on a moderately steep alpine route of 50degs. He had a close friend slide over 200 feet and impact a boulder sustaining a fatal blow to his head after one of his picks broke after driving through the 1" ice and impacting the granite below on a runout 45 deg line on a famous Sierra Couloir. I have seen many a folk coward on the U-Notch later in the season when the proverbial hard ice comes to bear. Many of those folks say that when they did that route previously, it was neve, just as steep but no where near as technical as the when they attempted it in full on Bullet Hard Ice conditions found in the late season.

So, this deal with "steepness" is only one component amongst many within the AI/WI rating system. Probably why there are many many fairly experienced and highly knowledgeable folks out there that can be deemed as Bob Pickering states, "exaggerators". Cuz they know how narly every a 50 degs Sierra Couloir can get when thin and completely "in" Bullet Ice conditions. Far more narlier than any 70-80 deg neve route by far.

It has absolutely nothing to do with chest beating. Rather, has to do with being real. And as Jeff Lowe states in his book, "Don't ever underestimate any alpine ice route just because it doesn't appear to be that steep. It is the prevailing conditions of the day that need first be considered when attempting any AI route. The hardest of black ice has been known to break picks and lead to fatal results in the most moderate of alpine routes."
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby Vitaliy M. » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:26 pm

The Chief, is that you in that photo or someone else with a "similar jacket?"
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby asmrz » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:53 pm

To be constructive here, I firmly believe that Ice Couloirs in the High Sierra were/should be rated for the worst conditions present, or for "deep in the ice climbing season" ratings. 30-40 years ago, snow climbing Sierra couloirs snow was not really in vogue, people rock climbed in the summer and ice climbing was left for deep fall, when the ice was hard as rock. So the ratings reflected that. The ratings also reflected the schrund difficulty. For example "V" Notch is very easy climb, but in late season and some years, the schrund can be vertical with overhanging lip and not by-passable (I experienced that and the resulting lead was propably the most gymnastic series of moves I ever made on ice). So if I had to rate "V" Notch in those conditions, would I say it is easy 48 degrees or whatever, or should I mention the start...Rock sections are another issue. Some climbs have (even) short rock sections that require gear to be carried up there, which makes things a bit more complex. It is always these peripheral issues that affect the ratings, steepness is just one small issue.
RJ once told me how hard it was to rate ice in the Sierra, because it can be so variable, even day to day. These days, when people climb the ice couloirs without any ice in them, either because they are unable to climb ice, or the ice does not form due to much warmer conditions, the issue is even more muddled.
On the other hand, most Ice Couloirs in the Sierra, even in full conditions, are climbable by good, experienced weekenders. So maybe we should leave the ratings as they are and enjoy the (re) discovery.
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby kevin trieu » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:09 pm

Vitaliy M. wrote:The Chief, is that you in that photo or someone else with a "similar jacket?"

what are you implying? that the chief steals others' climbing photos and post as his own? of the six years that i have known the chief, online, i know him to be a chest-beating asshole but never one to steal someone's photos and post as his own to glorify his huge ego. you better have hard evidence to back up this slanderous statement, boy. someone as respectful as the chief, online, doesn't deserve this.
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby PellucidWombat » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:25 pm

The Chief wrote:The bottom line, regardless of "steepness", . . ., many Alpine route ratings are just general guides.


asmrz wrote:On the other hand, most Ice Couloirs in the Sierra, even in full conditions, are climbable by good, experienced weekenders. So maybe we should leave the ratings as they are and enjoy the (re) discovery.


Both of these nicely capture the essence of alpine ice climbing as I've experienced it thus far. A downside to a rating system based on steepness, but that just adds to the fun! (and my conservatism on what I expect to be 'easy' versus more 'interesting'). That is also why I do care about more accurate measurements as, say, Feather Couloir as I've heard has sustained sections closer to 60 degrees while the Right North Couloir of North Peak is much less steep, however, technically both are rated AI2. So given nice hard ice conditions in both couloirs, this year I'd want to go play on Feather instead of North Peak for a more challenging & exciting ice climb!

The Chief wrote:which you btw are in fact mistaken that the AI/WI rating are soley "based on steepness"


Normally I hate to use wikipedia as a source, but this is more convenient than scanning pages from guidebooks.

Grade systems for ice and mixed climbing

I've seen basically this set of definitions in every printed source I've read for ice climbing technique and guides for California, Utah, Colorado, & the Canadian Rockies. So I think the community consensus of the ratings' meanings is pretty close to this.

A summary:

WI2 - low-angled (60 degree consistent ice), with good technique can be easily climbed with one ice axe. Grades beyond this generally require the use of two ice tools.
WI3 - generally sustained in the 60-70 degree range with occasional near-vertical steps up to 4 metres (Cascade Waterfall, Banff; This House of Sky, Ghost River)
WI4 - near-vertical steps of up to 10 metres, generally sustained climbing requiring placing protection screws from strenuous stances (Professor's Falls, Banff; Weeping Wall Left, Icefields Parkway, Banff; Silk Tassle, Yoho; Moonlight & Snowline, Kananskis)
WI5 - near-vertical or vertical steps of up to 20 metres, sustained climbing requiring placing multiple protection screws from strenuous stances with few good rests (Carlsberg Column, Field; The Sorcerer, Ghost River; Bourgeau Left Hand, Banff)
WI6 - vertical climbing for the entire pitch (e.g. 30–60 metres) with no rests. Requires excellent technique and/or a high level of fitness (The Terminator, Banff; Nemesis, Kootenay Park; Whiteman Falls, Kananaskis Country; Riptide, Banff)
WI6+ - vertical or overhanging with no rests, and highly technical WI6 (French Maid, Yoho; French Reality, Kootenay Park)
WI7 - sustained and overhanging with no rests. Extremely rare, near-mythical, and widely accepted testpiece examples of this grade don't exist in the Canadian Rockies. Note that many routes (e.g. Sea of Vapours, Banff; Riptide, Icefield Parkway, Banff) have been assigned WI7- to WI7+ but have been subsequently downgraded in latter years as they don't meet the strict criteria of steepness. In fact some local ice climbers have argued for Sea of Vapours

Dang, I can't find much relation between ice ratings and steepness anywhere here, not even on the lower end of the scale that most people climb at. Oh well . . . :-/

Oh wait, there is a little. The "+" sections I left out build on these and then add statements that really clarify difficulties other than steepness, like WI5+ = Technical WI5.

The Chief wrote:As Alois mentioned, Jeff Lowe first introduced a new rating system for Alpine and Water Ice back in the 70's which he shares in his first book, "The Ice Experience".


Thanks for the interesting historical info! Frankly I'd prefer a system more like what Lowe was proposing, but since that was in over 40 years ago and virtually every published ice climbing guide or technique book uses almost identical definitions to the wikipedia page, I'd say that sadly community consensus has lumped around a rating based (almost) solely on steepness. :cry:
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby asmrz » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:36 pm

The WI (water ice) system posted above has some serious problems vis-avis Sierra Ice Couloirs. Jeff Lowe proposed it mostly for those areas that had WI as Canada, Colorado, Wyoming etc. Eccept for Lee Vining ice and few other places, Sierra couloir ice is AI (ALPINE ICE). Alpine ice forms as a by-product of melting snow, WI forms as frozen water, so WI ratings are not really appropriate, another complication to our conversation on ratings.
BTW Feather Peak has no schrund, no rock sections, just a slope. Compared to let's say Checkered Demon which has similar steepness but (in lean years) a very difficult exit via mixed ice and extremely friable rock, similar steepness means absolutely nothing. Feather Peak is safer by climbing the extreme left side of the couloir, there is some potential for rock fall from the right side
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby PellucidWombat » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:39 pm

asmrz wrote:The WI (water ice) system posted above has some serious problems vis-avis Sierra Ice Couloirs. Jeff Lowe proposed it mostly for those areas that had WI as Canada, Colorado, Wyoming etc. Eccept for Lee Vining ice and few other places, Sierra couloir ice is AI (ALPINE ICE). Alpine ice forms as a by-product of melting snow, WI forms as frozen water, so WI ratings are not really appropriate, another complication to our conversation on ratings.


That irks me too. In the link and in most printed references, they say to just substitute AI for WI for the same rating system, and that the difference in the systems' definition is only the type of ice climbed. Since climbing these two types of ice is not very comparable, I guess that is why I see a lot of AI2/WI3 ratings around :x
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby The Chief » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:07 pm

asmrz wrote:RJ once told me how hard it was to rate ice in the Sierra, because it can be so variable, even day to day. These days, when people climb the ice couloirs without any ice in them, either because they are unable to climb ice, or the ice does not form due to much warmer conditions, the issue is even more muddled.

That is pretty much what S. Roper, Hervey Voge (these two original guide book authors & early Sierra climbers indicate NO ice ratings nor steepness what so ever in the original assigned ratings other than giving them a staunch "Class 5" & a blurb about an "Ice Axe & Crampons are mandatory and to be extremely careful of hard ice with severe rock fall potential") and SP Parker will claim as well.

As indicated by Alois, WI and AI are two completely different ratings for two different environments. You will find some intermixing on extreme routes such as Ice Nine where P4 and P5 (the crux Chockstone) will indeed consist of frozen water seepage from pockets of snow or heavy previous day TS activity. Thus, WI.








Edit: ADDITIONS
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby asmrz » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:15 pm

When RJ Secor was writing his first edition to High Sierra we communicated about a new guide to Sierra Ice. I proposed couple things, but RJ was already under pressure from several groups and people and decided not to tackle it.
I proposed: Based on hard ice conditions:
A. Grade just like YDS, I to VI ie length.
B. Steepest pitch and how sustained the climb is, AI or WI rating.
C.Schrund, Yes or No, how steep
D. Rock rating based on YDS.
E. Objective danger, Y or N, what
F. Descent
G. Any pertinent info (bulges, mixed sections, special gear needed)

I still believe it would be an improvement to the present system. Comments?
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby The Chief » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:33 pm

Alois,

The above is pretty much what J Lowe indicates in his rating system in Chapter Four of "The Ice Experience" beginning on page 120.

Again, he adds the "S", "VS" & "X" for pro accessibility. Something that should be addressed as well IMO.
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby Vitaliy M. » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:47 pm

asmrz wrote:When RJ Secor was writing his first edition to High Sierra we communicated about a new guide to Sierra Ice. I proposed couple things, but RJ was already under pressure from several groups and people and decided not to tackle it.
I proposed: Based on hard ice conditions:
A. Grade just like YDS, I to VI ie length.
B. Steepest pitch and how sustained the climb is, AI or WI rating.
C.Schrund, Yes or No, how steep
D. Rock rating based on YDS.
E. Objective danger, Y or N, what
F. Descent
G. Any pertinent info (bulges, mixed sections, special gear needed)

I still believe it would be an improvement to the present system. Comments?


This would obviously improve the guide book. I have NO idea why these are not being used. I think ICE couloir rating should be based on how hard it is when it is 'in.' There could also be a approximate rating for this couloir when it is a SNOW climb. That does not add that much work, but would make it a lot more competent. To me it makes sense that for a couloir like Ice Nine you have to give AI rating WI rating and rock rating as well. Indicating that there is a shrund, possible bulges, mixed sections, rock fall danger etc also helps. I understand that a climb should be an adventure, but think if rating is given in a guide book it should be a competent one. It is used by locals and non locals too. If I know that V notch has a shrund it does not mean that a guy from Kansas that comes here for a week long outing in Palisades knows that. And it may help him plan on getting over one if he starts from Sam Mack...
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Re: North Peak Ice conditions

Postby The Chief » Tue Aug 23, 2011 11:06 pm

Vitaliy M. wrote:. If I know that V notch has a shrund it does not mean that a guy from Kansas that comes here for a week long outing in Palisades knows that. And it may help him plan on getting over one if he starts from Sam Mack...


Hervey Voge addressed this in his original "A Climbers Guide to the High SIerra" GB where he always indicates that the difficulty increases to almost unsurpassable when the "shrund" is open and prevails on all couloirs in the Sierra that are known to have one. Of course these are Norman's original words and we all know that Norman himself turned back on several occasions due to the severity of both the V & U Notch shrunds and others through out the Sierra.

What does it matter if one starts from the PL, Sam Mack Meadows or Gayley High Camp? If they do not have the experience nor ability to over come the Shrund/s, starting location is a completely moot point.
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