Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Natural Ice Fall in Respect to Tree Density and Damage

I have to do a study on Rocky Mountain Vegetation for a college class this semester. I tried my hardest to combine climbing with the project, and it was a success. Here is a preliminary write-up of the paper. I'm sure there are errors all over it (and all the numbers and statistics have been removed for clarity). Maybe a few of you out there will think this is interesting.

Cheers, Loren

Natural Ice Fall in Respect to Tree Density and Damage
Loren Rausch
Bio 408, fall semester 2010

Hyalite canyon, Montana, contains an abundant wealth of natural waterfall ice and is internationally recognized as a destination area for ice climbers (Josephson, 2002). Many of the ice climbs reside on cliffs located in a forest environment under the control of Gallatin National Forest (USFS). Throughout the winter months (October through April) the ice pouring off the cliffs forms into massive features weighing many tons; these features detach from the cliff face sporadically throughout the year and fall into the forest below. Previous information on tree density and damage caused by falling ice in this fashion is unknown. The results determined from Hyalite canyon suggests that tree density is affected by falling ice and the resulting damage is easily observable. This suggests that the study sites are constantly under disturbance and never reach climax vegetation in their respective microclimates.


The ten sites described in this paper were evaluated based on two main determinants. The first determinant was that the disturbance beneath the ice climb was caused primarily by falling ice only. This site was found to the south-west of the grotto falls trailhead in Hyalite canyon. The cliff is a natural basalt cliff band which has weathered slower than its superior and inferior strata. The cliff and ice falls contained are locally referred to as “the unnamed wall” (Josephson, 2002). While there were many other sites to choose from, the unnamed wall was chosen because it was not affected by natural avalanches and natural rock fall is at a minimum. The second determinant for the study was choosing ten sites where the vegetation met the assumptions of statistics (normal population {not previously logged}, variances in population are equal, and random samples)(Weaver, 2002). Ten sites were chosen in total and at random based on the above determinants. Five of the sites were chosen and described along the trail just below the ice climbs (but not affected by them) in the same general environment type (climate) and altitude as the remaining five disturbed sites. The disturbed sites were chosen in relation to where the ice tends to form on an annual basis. These sites have local names and are called; “Jeff’s Left”, “Jeff’s Right”, “The good looking one”, “Bingo world”, “The Thrill is gone”, and “The itchy and scratchy show” (Josephson, 2002). These climbs were further chosen due to the lack of a significant avalanche path below the ice climbs (the falling ice acting as a trigger on the snowpack and releasing large scale avalanches). These “ice triggered” avalanches cause large scale damage below the ice climbs beyond the parameters intended for this study. All ten sites were measured in a plot system of 30m x 30m.



The results of figure 1 suggest a vast difference between disturbed (from falling ice) and undisturbed sites (ie. For a sample size of 5 any t-value greater than 2.8 is significant). Figure 2 suggests that there is also a significant difference between disturbed and undisturbed sites (ie. For a sample size of 5 any t-value greater than 2.8 is significant). The objective of this study was not concerned with the parameters of species (associations) in relation to composition; however a simple explanation of species in relation to the study sites is relevant. The predominant trees present in the study sites were, Pseudotsuga menziemanii and Abies lasiocarpa. Other Species noticed included maple trees, Rosa woodsii, and Juniperus horizontalis (Weaver, 2002) (Plate I, figure 1,2: Plate II, figure, 12,3, &4).

The results suggest that the affects of ice falling each winter from selected sites cause a disturbance that is statistically significant in two parameters. The first parameter is related to tree density, and the second is tree damage. Sites located beneath ice flows showed significantly less tree density and significantly more tree damage. The sites selected for suggest that ice is the contributing factor for these differences. Further study is needed in order to determine if the disturbance is prohibiting the climax vegetation for this certain biome to develop and the resulting disturbance is keeping the sites in study in an extended seral vegetation community type (Weaver, 2002).


Josephson, Joe, 2002. Winter Dance: Select Ice Climbs in Southern Montana and Northern Wyoming. First Ascent Press. pp. 86.

Weaver, Tad, 2002. An Introduction to Montana Ecosystems: A manual for study of Rocky Mountain Ecosystems. Ecology Department, Montana State University. pp. 3, 5-9, 57-60.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"The Dogs Tooth"

The wall in Alpenglow

The Cirque above Cotton wood lake

The Dog's Tooth is an alpine wall tucked away in the Crazy Mountains of central Montana. It presides over the head of a beautiful cirque rising above Cottonwood lake and watches over the vanishing rubble of Grasshopper glacier. I have visited this cirque a few years ago and climbed a line on a smaller feature to the left of the dogs tooth (we named it "The Lone Goat" in honor of a lonely billy grazing near by). The Dogs tooth is the proud feature in the cirque and left an impression on my mind that kept calling me back.

Finally this was the season where it all came together.

Scott Salzer and I had talked about going into the cirque and trying to climb one of the features; we both needed to tear off the drama and city grime plastered to our souls by urban life. There is not a better place to cleanse ourselves than on a loose, obscure, alpine jewel tucked away in "the mountains of mountains" (As described by the Native American Crow Indian culture).

We left Bozeman at around 7 pm on a Saturday night and promply got lost in the dark trying to find the trail head. We eventually creeped into the parking lot, Truck Norris gasping from the effort. We racked the gear and got ready for the morning as Jupiter hung low and bright suspended over the southern horizon.

Racking gear

At 5:30am we left the warmth of the bed of my truck and started for the adventure of the day. We brought mountain bikes for the first 3 miles of the approach (an old logging road that is now closed to motorized use)and had fun blasting through trespass creek by headlamp and nearly wrecking every 10 feet from the weight of the haul bag. We locked the bikes to a tree where the road peters out and started hiking the remaining 3 miles to the lake. Day break found us a quarter mile from the lake in beautiful alpine meadows that were wearing the colors of fall.
We quickly skirted the lake and climbed the remaining bit up to the remains of grasshopper glacier, and the wall.
We really had no idea what we were going to climb until a very strange thing happened. As we were sitting and pondering what to climb, a giant eagle flew directly over our heads hugging the wall. The golden eagle had to have had at least a 6 foot wingspan as it glided next to a vertical streak of white rock that went from base to summit. This is what we were going to climb!

We racked up and Scott led the first pitch up a 5.6 section to a ledge composed of gravel. I lead the next 5.7 pitch up better rock to a semi-hanging belay.

Pitch 1

Scott lead a beautiful and scary 5.9 pitch climbing AROUND a huge detached flake that was balancing on nothing. As I seconded the pitch I was going to kick the flake and seperate it from the wall. As I climbed above it I just couldn't do it, it was to big, to scary, to much of a mind fuck to watch it go 400' into talus below. I left it loaded and in place with a calmer mind than if I would have kicked it down.

Pitch 3

Pitch 3

I then lead a steep 5.8 pitch to the only ledge of the route where we lounged, took off our shoes, and ate. Above looked steep and intimidating. I ventured off up a beautiful dark slab climbing finger cracks that protected well and climbed just like the classic "lady fingers" pitch at Mill Creek. This slab ended and the rock turned white and got much steeper.

Pitch 5

Pitch 5

Pitch 5 (not psyched)

I ventured up the obvious discontinous hand cracks that were surprisingly steep and surprisingly loose. The last 30m had some of the most terrifying climbing of my life. Desk sized blocks wedged together on an overhanging wall, and me smack dab in the center. I had a terrifying vision of the whole mass detaching from the wall, tons and tons of car sized rubble exploding off the face. The strong smell of smashed rock and broken bodies. After 2 hours of free climbing some of the most intense 5.9 moves, checking every hold, and keeping calm, I emerged on a textbook sized ledge with good rock. I put in the remaining 6 pieces I had for the belay... Scott Seconded the pitch with the haulbag on his back and made short work of the epic pitch. The entire time we were on this pitch about 20 crows were flying eye level with us, cawing, cooing, and watching over the strange creatures climbing very slowly upwards. The only thing seperating us from the top of the wall was 30 more meters which we climbed at exposed and fun 5.9 on solid rock.

Scrambling to the summit

Looking down from the summit

Now at the top we scrambled the last bit to the summit where we enjoyed the views.
We quickly descended towards rock lake, skirted the lake, then gained a pass that brought us back to Grasshopper glacier as the wall lit up with alpenglow. It grew dark again, and again, Jupiter showed its face in the twlight as we ate and drank in the meadow below. We hiked the 3 miles out in the dark, found our bikes, and did 3 miles in 15 minutes (!) where we found Truck Norris waiting for us.
It was a super great adventure, it was like making love to the universe!

summary: To our knowledge there is 1 route on the wall called "The Brother Bear" IV 5.8 A2. It was climbed in 1974 by members of the dirty socks club. Our route is right of this route and climbs entirely up the white streak. We would like to call the route "Old Crows" 5.9 III. We only left 2 fixed pitons on the wall (for belays).

Video of pitch 3 area

Cheers, Loren

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Billings Bouldering

Here are some videos I made as a punk boulderer living in Billings (Shepherd) Montana. I actually really like the ol' Billings sandstone and I think it is super underrated. Who doesn't like a face full of sand when grunting up an offwith, or gobies on your knees and shoulders? For some reason this always happens to me on good ol B-town sandstone. Cheers, Loren



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Granite Peak

The Shelley Arete marked in red. I got this picture from this awesome site FRIENDS OF GRANITE PEAK

Bridget and I just got back from a trip to Granite peak, the highest point in Montana. I have been looking at a long arete on the peaks south side for a while now and decided this was the trip to give it a try.
We left out tent at 5:00am and summited the peak at 4:30 pm, after 15 pitches of climbing, mostly alpine 5.6/7, with 3 or 4 pitches of 5.9 thrown in. We rappelled the east ridge back to the tent.
I want to name the route the "Shelley Arete" ,if it's a new route, after a Redlodge local who gets after it in the Beartooths and who has probably climbed Granite peak more than any other person. Cheers, Loren

Music by: Port O'brien

Monday, August 9, 2010

micro moonflower buttress, Alaska



Climbers are Rachael Greenberg, Jonathan Spritzer, and myself. The route is called "Bacon and Eggs", first climbed in 2008 by Westman/Walsh. Cheers

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Expedition name: Mantana

Well it's been a while since I've posted, this is due to my free wireless (from somewhere) drying up, snap.

Kevin Volkening (known as K-Bone) and I went up to the Alaska range this spring to climb and get away from the man for a bit. On May 1 we got dropped off beneath Mount Dickey on the Ruth gorge. The setting is mind bending, humbling, and inspiring. As soon as we could we set off for the Root Canal glacier below the Mooses tooth. This entailed winding our way up beneath seracs, over crevases, and around ice gendarmes. It wasn't to bad really, just a bit objectivly dangerous. We set up a small camp on the root canal glacier and waited until morning to climb (when things are a bit more frozen). The next morning Denali was illuminated as the never-quite-setting summer sun drew a crimson face on the cassin ridge. We pitched out the first 3 pitches of the "ham and eggs couloir", then simul-climbed to the crux WI4 pitch, this was climbed via fun and steep water ice. We pitched out the narrows of the couloir over miles of WI3 steps, then simuled the remaining terrain to the summit. We rappeled the route and were back to our tent on the root canal glacier 10 hours after leaving it.

Mooses Tooth

K-Bone rolling the dice en route to the root canal glacier

Cruxing on Ham and eggs

midway up Ham and Eggs, the Mooses tooth

ham and eggs

Kevin nears the Mooses tooth summit

Mooses tooth summit

The Mantana Expedition from Kevin Volkening on Vimeo.

A video Kevin made of "ham ang Eggs"

Other routes in the gorge we wanted to do were not in (shaken not stirred, freezing nut, wake up, snow patrol) so we decided to try and ski the west face/ridge of Mount Dickey. We woke up early and skinned up 747 pass setting off a small wet slide near the crest. We boot packed up the ridge carrying our skis on our packs until the terrain became to icy. We decided to jettison our skis and summit the peak, knowing that skiing the steep ice would be a bit to dangerous for our tastes. We dug a waist deep trench to the summit of Dickey, 5,000' above our tent below. We down climbed to our skis then skied from that point down to our tent over bullet proof ice, sucked.

Mount Dickey west face/ridge

Mount Dickey west face/ridge

We then decided to get a bump flight over to the Kahiltna base camp. Upon arriving it stormed for then next few days while we read and listened to Dane Cook on K-Bones i-pod. Seth Campbell, Dom, and Austin then showed up. We were meeting them to help do Glacier research on the Kahiltna Glacier (they are with U Maine, and University of Alaska- Fairbanks). We pulled sleds to K-pass that were loaded with science equipment, then we got right to digging holes. The research work was exhausting but educational, and I learned a ton. In short we radared from 11,000' camp to the base of ski hill (which has never been done before), and dug many 6 meter deep holes where we did ice core drilling an additional 8 meters.
We were able to go to windy pass (13,500) on Denali and we skied down from there (except for an icy part on squirel hill).

Pulling research sleds on the Kahiltna

Don doing research on K-pass

View of Foraker and the Kahiltna from windy pass

I met up with Jonathan Spitzer and Rachel Greenburg in K-Base and we decided to climb the "bacon and Eggs" couloir on the Mini-Mini Moonflower buttress. It was an amazing 10 pitch route with most of the pitches checking in at WI4. We V-threaded off the route as the afternoon's sun caused sluffs to come crashing down the couloir. A bit nerve racking and annoying as our coats filled with snow.

Looking down from a pitch on the mini-mini moonflower buttress

Jonathan leading on the perfect ice of the mini-mini moonflower buttress

K-bone and I skied off the small peak near K-base called the control towner, then Seth, K-bone, and I tried the Moonflower Buttress. We got up to the Burgshrund at 11 pm but couldn't pass it, it had melted out in the warmth of the last 2 weeks and was impassable to us. We flew out to Talkeetna while later and ate real food. In all K-bone and I were in the Mountains for 33 days.
Upon arriving back in Los Anchorage, my Brother (who lives there) took me bear hunting (no success) and halibut fishing (mixed success, I get sea sick). K-bone and I even were able to catch a live State Radio show at the Beartooth theatre in Anchorage with his soon-to-be fiance. A great trip. Cheers, Loren

the pipe line, feeding America

Live State Radio show

My Brother in Homer AK, halibut fishing

Montana boy meets the ocean

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No beginning, no ending: The first winter ascent of The Beartooth Spire

The "Tooth" Photo by Rusty Willis

No beginning...well I guess it has a beginning and from this beginning the rest of my modern life can be traced. The Beginning. It all started one fine summer day in Montana, the Beartooth Mountains to be more specific. The long shadows of the Beartooths have always touched me. I grew up in Shepherd, Montana, not exactly a climbing hot spot, so this is the story of why I'm a climber...the beginning.

The road wandered up, up, up; winding and weaving around cliffs and stands of dwarfed white bark pine. The air grew colder, and thinner too. My youthful mind was absorbed with the drama of the vistas around me; Soaring cliffs, deep valleys where silver streams cut through forest, clouds playing on the edge of August snow. We were driving up the Beartooth pass. My Father was driving, my Mother riding shot gun, and me in the back seat, face plastered to glass. The drive to the plateau was astonishing, then suddenly anticlimatic, as precipice turned to pasture. The top of the plateaus in the Beartooth Mountains suddenly appear, usually flat, and usually appearing overgrazed. They are in fact very important and filled with unusual flora biodiversity. The elevation hovers around 10,000'-11,000' and the mountain range trends east-west, resulting in a unique environment where a cold and short growing period has resulted in flowers that are found else where only above the artic circle, and only in certain locations. But anyway, it was all lost on my youthful mind.
The road continued up the rolling tundra to a section where the plateau narrows and the road switchbacks on its self. It's here, just below the "summit" of the pass, where one can glimpse the Beartooth Spire.
I saw this spire, and I knew I would climb it someday. From that point on I became a climber, and the rest is history.

So here I am decades later, at the base of the Bear's tooth (or the tooth for short). I have climbed the spire now 3 times in summer, and have tried climbing it in winter so many times I can't even remember an exact number. Last year it almost killed Rusty Willis, Stan Price, and myself with an avalanche. We have paid our dues with bitter cold, wind, deep snow, long approaches, jungle thrashing through pines, and general Montana winter conditions.

We learned something every time we had tried climbing the tooth and this time we were going with a completely different style. Disaster style, lighter than alpine style.

We left the trail head at 1:30am with day packs. (we did have 2 luxuries, a jetboil stove and insulated pants). We skied the first 6 miles easily, then jungle thrashed up to black canyon lake. The valley took us to the base of the tooth just as first light hit the spire. 11 miles, roughly 5,500' elevation gain, and 7 hours later.
We geared up and climbed a couloir between the mini tooth (see previous blog post) and the long ridge leading up to the spire. We climbed this long ridge in about 10 pitches with difficulties up to M5. We finally gained the base of the tooth proper and climbed the remaining 4 rock pitches to the summit!

Finito! it was done. We signed the summit register, then rappelled down to the base of the tooth proper. We spotted a couloir on the north side of the spire in a sort of notch and opted to rappel this as the ridge we ascended was complicated. We rappelled this leaving most of our nuts and pins as anchors (every 30m) into the night. Darkness found us on the wrong side of the spire, dog tired, hungry, and mentally wasted from psychological rap anchors. We walked around the ridge and climbed back up to the col seperating the mini tooth from the ridge we just climbed. We down climbed to our waiting skis, jetboil, and warm coats. We brewed some noodles and had only one mishap when the jet boil tipped over and spilled the hot water. We both fought off sleep (now 11:00pm), as we ate in a cold wind. We bundled up, then skied out (bad dukkha, don't ask). We reached the trail head at 4:30am, 27 hours after leaving.

A classic alpine climb. I feel privileged to have made a significant mark on this beautiful spire. The "first" doesn't matter, the numbers don't matter, all that matters is the relative personal significance something holds, and how much you tried, reguardless of the outcome. Cheers, Loren

The route

typical climbing, myself on the ridge

typical climbing, Rusty on the ridge

typical climbing. myself on the ridge

Rusty mixing it up on the ridge

Rusty on the tooth proper

myself on the ridge

Rusty heading up the last pitch

signing the summit register

It looks like this climb has been getting a bit of press!
Here are a few more stories on the climb, Cheers!

Alpinist Newswire

La Sportiva

Billings Gazette

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Archive of beta

Protection on "Lone Goat" Crazy Mountains

I figured I'd archive a few First Recorded Ascents partners and I have done over the years, mainly because I have a short memory and these routes have a high chance of being lost to time, which will eventually happen anyway. Climbing in the mountains of Montana it's not really about first ascents; it's about the experience, sharing cold coffee with good people, laughing, being so scared you want to puke, sunrises, sunsets, falling snow, getting away from "the man", falling ice, commitment, having a synergy with your partner where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, falling rock, pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do, being a living part of a mountain, being awake.


"Puta Gato" WI4, 2p, East Rosebud, Beartooths
"Wolverine Falls" WI 3+, 2p, Crazy Mountains
"Elk Falls" WI 3, 70m, East Rosebud, Beartooths
"Piolet falls" WI 3, 15m, Crazy Mountains
"Brown Gully" M6, 2p, Pine Creek, Absaroka Mountains
"Chicken Wing" M6, 20m Crazy Mountains
"Low Hanging Fruit" M5, 15m East Rosebud, Beartooths
"Scottish Leather Face" WI3, M3, 2p, West Rosebud, Beartooths


"Cloud Forrest" V8, Rock Creek, Beartooths
"The Butterfly Effect" V7, Madison River
"Meadow" 5.12a (sport), Bozeman
"Cyber Circus" 5.11a 3 pitches(sport) Bozeman
"Moon Dog" 5.12a (sport), Bozeman
"Half turn" 5.9 (sport), Redlodge
"Scruffy Squirrel" 5.10 (sport), Redlodge
"New World Monkey" V6, Billings Rims
"Apsaalooke Spire" 5.8, Beartooth Mountains
"East Ridge of Spirit Mountain" 5.7, 12 pitches, Beartooth Mountains
"North-East Ridge of Storm Spire" 5.9, 6 pitches, Beartooth Mountains
"Lone Goat" 5.7, 3 pitches, Crazy Mountains
"Dark Moon Couloir" AI3, 1,300' Spirit Mountain
"Unnamed" 5.9, 2p, Unnamed wall, Hyalite Canyon

Rick Dvorak on "East Ridge of Spirit Mountain"

Myself starting up "Elk Falls"

"Puta Gato" WI 4

Olin Erickson on "Scottish Leather Face"

Olin Erickson on "Cyber Circus"

Apsaalooke Spire

Dark Moon couloir, spirit Mountain (with partial ski descent, solo)