Monday, December 10, 2012

Hyalite choss scratching

Hyalite Canyon has been good this year and I've had a few great opportunities the past month.  I had the chance to help with Sherpas Cinemas film Conrad Anker and Kris Erickson climbing a Hyalite test piece ice climb (Winter Dance).  I was the mule and hauled camera equipment to the top of the climb and then did a bit of rope rigging.  It was a learning experience for me in many ways.

Conrad on Winter Dance

 Looking down Winter Dance

The Chopper filming- the film is going to be awesome!

 I also got out with a few friends to do some Hyalite mixed climbing.  We have been working "northwest passage" (M11).  I came very close to climbing it on my third burn so I'm feeling confident that I can get it done this season (in between my student teaching semester in a middle school science classroom).

Kyle vassilopoulos climbing "Panama Canal" M8, "Northwest passage" climbs out the roof to the right of the hanging ice dagger.

Myself red-pointing the techy "Panama Canal" M8.

Rusty Willis on "Northwest Passage" M11.

Cheer, Loren

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cottonwood Towers


While trail running with Bridget last spring up South Cottonwood Creek, near Bozeman, we ran past what appeared to be limestone spires sticking out from a thick mat of pine trees.  I logged the location of these spires away in my memory, for a rainy day activity, and kept on running behind Bridget with a pounding side ache. 

Nearly a year later we were back, we left the ice gear at home and loaded a pack with rock gear.  We hiked up the south cottonwood trail in perfect fall weather to the third bridge crossing (2.5 miles).  From here we walked up the trail another 5 minutes until the spires could be seen on the other side of the creek.  We crossed the creek, hiked to the base of the spires and looked up at limestone choss in all its glory.  As an inspired choss tower connosure I can not pass up unclimbed towers so we tied in.

The first view of the cottonwood towers from the trail - "The Ancient Fart Tower" on the right and the "Choss Wrangler Tower" on the left.

The spires turned out to be really cool.  They are overhung, really narrow, and tilt out in strange angles.  There is a notch that separates the two towers on the spires' back (west) side that has a wide crack.  I started up this loose crack that lead to the notch that protected well with cams to a #4.  From here I went up the climbers left tower and found some protection with two ice specters pounded into turfed-up cracks.  I mantled the tiny summit that is reminascent of the 'ancient art of the desert tower' in Utah.  It really is the ghetto version of that tower- thus we named it the "Ancient Fart Tower". 

The ancient fart tower- the route goes up the arete in the center.

Myself heading up the "ancient fart" tower

Bridget rappelling off of the ancient fart tower- we ended up slinging the entire summit with cord as an anchor.

After climbing the ancient fart tower we decided to climb the other tower that is attached.  We started up the same wide crack that gained the notch between the two towers then climbed up climbers right on the exposed ridge to the other virgin summit.  

Bridget heading up the "choss wrangler" tower with the "ancient fart" tower in the background.

Bridget on the summit of the "Choss Wrangler" tower.

Required gear for the cottonwood towers.

We placed a single bolt on top of the choss wrangler tower in good rock as there was no other option for a rappell anchor.  Both these towers deserve a special rating- a choss rating- to mentally prepare for the climbing.  They both get a Choss 5.7 rating, bring some pitons/ice specters. These towers are chossy as hell, but also good fun and a cheap reminder that climbing inadequate rocks is best approached with humor and zest.

Cheers, Loren


Thursday, August 30, 2012

An ascent of Iddings Peak

The long east ridge of Iddings Peak

Iddings peak is the second highest peak in the Crazy Mountains of central Montana.  The entire mountain range is an anomoly, it resides in a basin feature (i.e. the mountains shouldn't be there), the rock is ignious and metamorphic, and the relief in these mountains is enormous for such a "low" mountain range.  It's a unique place.

I have always wanted to climb this peak's long east ridge, and with the rest of the mountain ranges in Montana being on fire, this was the logical choice.

I leasurely hiked into the beautiful cirque that contains Pear lake and set up a camp near the inlet at a small tarn.  I spent the day exploring the two tiny pocket glaciers that surround  the peak.  They both had small terminal moraines which is a good sign (you can see one moraine in the picture above). 

I awoke when it got light out then headed up the few thousand feet to the base of the east ridge.  The night felt really cold and I was surprised to see that the tarn I was camped at was frozen over.  Once on the  east ridge I found the rock to be a bit loose (expected) but really, really good climbing as well.  The ridge was mostly 4th class for about half a mile, exposed, windy, with great views.  I summited the peak then descended the entire ridge back down because it was so fun (one can excape the ridge just below the summit pyramid).

The east ridge

The east ridge with the summit pyramid still 1/4 mile away.

Rock lake way down there, the haze is from all the forest fires in Montana.

A few mountain goats

This little guy was more interested in choke cherries than me.

Cheers, Loren

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Highway 14 pinnacles and Tensleep

Bridget atop the "Trickster" pinnacle

I have tried making it to the Highway 14 pinnacles (Bighorn Mountains, WY)  earlier this summer but a ghetto truck made getting to the towers unfeasible.  Bridget and I finally made it this past weekend, but we barely made it out of the area.

We arrived at the Coyote rocks area in the evening with pent-up energy from the drive.  We immediatly free-soloed the "trickster" pinnacle (5.6) and sucked in the view of the area; what a setting!  We were at timberline, there was a snowfield near by, and there were hundreds of domestic sheep grazing around us and the towers.

We ended up climbing most of the towers in between rain storms.


We did alot of hanging around in the back of the truck with two wet dogs waiting out rainstorms.

Bridget atop the "Yipping Coyote Tower"

Really cool spires abound!


another pretty tower

The highway 14 pinnacles were really fun to climb at but it was adventure climbing.  There was alot of loose rock and the leading was pretty heady (i.e. don't bring alot of gear because you won't place it).  We almost got stuck there as well.  The description of the area states not to drive on the 4x4 road when it rains.  We decided it was no big deal to drive out once we climbed most of the towers so we headed down the rutted road.  It turned out the road turnes to gumbo mud when wet and getting out of there was the most gripping part of the trip; but we managed to make it out with out destroying the truck.

We then headed to drier places (Tensleep) to go sport climbing.  I have never been to Tensleep before so it was time to drink the cool-aid.  I found the stone to be awesome, the climbing pumpy, and routes bolted liberally.  It was stellar!

 Bridget leading "Big Yellow Butterflys" at Tensleep.

Myself on the huge roof of "killer karma".

Cheers, Loren

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

East Ridge of The Grand Teton

The East Ridge of The Grand Teton

The 4,000 foot east ridge of the Grand Teton is one of the most eye-catching lines in the park when viewed from the Snake River plain.  For years I have sat and wondered what it would be like to be kicking steps up the summit snowfield, the exposure must be crazy;  well it is!

Bridget and I left late last saturday and hiked to Surprise lake where we dropped into Glacier Gulch and the Teton Glacier terminal moraine.    We found a nice bivy cave right at the start of the route (where the moraine butts up against the Grand Teton). 

Bridget in the first Bivy cave

I am a facinated by alpine glaciers so I had to go explore the Teton Glacier.  It didn't dissapoint.

View from the first bivy

Bridget and I awoke at 3:30am and cooked some breakfast in the darkness of the bivy cave.  At 5:00am we were climbing up the initial portion of the route.  The majority of the climbing (up to the Molar tooth) was steep walking with a few short 4th and 5th class steps.  Once at the Molar tooth we found the fun 5.6 chimney which was lead in one long 70m pitch to the notch.  From here we climbed the wide crack on the "tricky traverse".  I really enjoyed this portion of the climb, the rock was fine, the climbing steep and exposed. 

Bridget leading the second portion of the "tricky traverse".

Bridget climbing above the second tower.

We simul climbed the rest of the route from the col behind the Molar tooth.  The climbing was easy, but exposed and sometimes loose; but it was always good.  We finally got to the best portion of the route- the summit snow field.  We put our boots on, donned an ice axe and set off up the snow climbing together.  I was sucking wind and the sky was begining to darken from a small storm cell.  The knife edge of the snow arete was exhilarating as the exposure off the north and south sides of the Grand Teton dropped below our feet. 

Bridget on the summit snowfield

 We reached the summit block and sprinted left to a loose ledge and some fifth class climbing that lead us to the summit at 11:20am.  We sat on the summit for about 20 seconds as the small storm cell caused the air around us to buzz with electrical energy. 

looking down the long and convoluted east ridge from the summit

 We ran down the Owen-Spaulding route as the thunder crashed around us; thankfully for us the storm veered to our North and we missed the worst of it.  We got down to the lower saddle and met up with a friend who guides for Exum.  We ended up doing some alpine bouldering, maybe the best bouldering setting I have ever had the privilage to climb at!  We bivied at the saddle under a rock as it rained.  We had planned on linking the North-West ice couloir on the Middle Teton on this trip as well but upon inspection the ice couloir was melted out in the lower part.  We ended up carrying ice gear (and bivy gear) up and over the Grand Teton - good training.    We finished the next day by hiking out to the trailhead and swimming in String lake.  The climb was long and we never saw another soul on the route, perfect!

Bivy number 2, hiding from the rain

Swimming at String lake

Cheers, Loren

Monday, July 23, 2012

Medicine Mountain- central buttress

It was around ten years ago when I first set eyes on the obscure Medicine Mountain which is shrouded in the shadow of more popular peaks in the Beartooth Mountains.  Medicine Mountain doesn't rise above 12,000 feet, it doesn't have an "easy" way to the summit, and Whitetail and Castle mountain straddle the peak and hold classic routes that attract the majority of climbers.  I never knew why it wasn't more popular in climbers eyes; in fact, I only personally (kinda) know of one party who may have climbed it; the badasses Abbey and Shock. 

It was time to go find out for myself what this peak was all about.  Bridget is always game for an alpine adventure so together we hiked the ten or so miles to the base of the peak where we set up camp at the beautiful beyul of silt lakes.

We spotted a nice looking buttress we dubbed the central buttress.  The buttress leans directly over the valley and is constrained by two well defined snow couloirs on either side.  We awoke at 4:00am and were standing at the base of the buttress by 6:00am.  We ropped up and decided to simul-climb what we could to save time.  We climbed up the right side of the buttress leaning leftward where we gained a sharp arete.  The arete soon turned to a mini-gendarme which we passed on the left.  More moderate climbing brought us to the summit by 9:00am.

Bridget climbing low on the route

Bridget on the sharp arete

In the tradition of obscure routes (and safety reasons) I'm not going to even try and place a grade (commitment or difficulty) on this rad peak.  The rock is some of the poorest (loose) I have ever seen in the 'Tooths, and the descent was spicy as well (we rappeled the notch/pocket glacier towards White tail peak).  Be warned, Bridget and I were forced to simul-free solo ALOT.  With this said, it was one of the most pristine summits I have ever been on.  So perfect.

Bridget pulling the ropes and down climbing the pocket glacier with a sharp rock.

The central buttress

Bridget on top with Whitetail peak in the background

Cheers, Loren