Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Scratch

There is an ice climb North of Durango called 'Seven Year Itch'  and as the name might suggest it doesn't come in every year. In fact I would go so far as to say it doesn't come in most years.  However every fall as ice climbers drive North of town they look up at the climb and see how it's coming along, hoping it might come in.  Some friends and I have been talking for some time about bolting a mixed climb to access the ice up high in years when the climb doesn't come in fully.

So this Febuary the two Bens hiked up to 'The Itch' with the plan of bolting a route called 'The Scratch'.
Due to sugar snow and having to break trail, the hike took 3hrs 45min.

Ben Gardner on the hike up

'Seven Year Itch'

After finally reaching the climb we got to work cleaning and bolting the best looking line.  By the time we were done it was to late to give the climb a go so we headed back to the car arriving after dark.  

Ben back a the car, after a long day of hard work and no climbing.
I just found out that Matt and Dan hiked up to the climb yesterday to try and steal the FFA but were shut down.  However they report that it still needs some cleaning but will go likely go at M8-9.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hallucinogen Wall – May 16-18, 2008

College was done for good, the summer painting job that I had lined up wouldn’t start for another week and a group of my friends were on a two-week trip to Yosemite. The perfect makings for a trip up the Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon.  
I had called John in early April to assure that I would have a partner.  A month in advance he was excited. But as the climb grew closer his excitement waned.  After I sent John an article about heading, I got an email response saying only, “I’m Scared.” A week before the climb John informed me that he couldn’t get a day off of work and that the H-Wall would have to be done in two days.  Three days before the climb John told me that the ski conditions on a peak he had been eying were perfect and that he wanted to go.  Then it came out that really, he was just scared.  Luckily John bucked up said that he would meet me on Friday night.
On Friday at 1pm I started down the cruise gulley with our 10,000 haul bag filled to the brim.  I kicked, dragged, and carried the bag 1,700’ down to the base of the route.  At 4pm I started back up the gulley.  I had brought some Lipton Noodles with me to make for dinner.  Some how they didn’t sound that appetizing after 3 hours of carrying a 90 pound pig down and hiking back up a scree filled, poison ivy infested gulley.  I drove to Crawford and ordered a burger.  John had left Steamboat right after work and joined me for dinner. The next morning we woke up a 4:30am and started down with the few things of John’s that I had not brought down.
John on pitch 3.
John started the first pitch at 6am and we were on our way.  John climbed the first 3 pitches and encountered the toughest hauling on the route.  I took over on the wet 5.10 off-width, and shortly after leaving the belay was pulling on gear.  An incredible 5.9 hand crack and John was starting the first of the difficult aid pitches.  After too many hook moves John is preparing for the pendulum.  What appears to be small at first ends up being pretty damn big, but John is soon yelling off belay.  John tells me when I get to the anchor that he took the pitch because he didn’t want to follow the pendulums, which is fine with me because I didn't want to lead the pitch. Two more pitches and we are on top of pitch 8 and setting up the portaledge.  Thinking that it would be difficult to repack the haul bag the next morning we left the two sleeping pads in the pig.  I knew that this was a bad idea but it felt warm out and I was tired enough that I didn’t want to deal. 
My reward for being lazy was uncontrolled shivering while eating breakfast the next morning at 6am.  Pitches 9 and 10 went relatively smoothly.
The cactus garden on top of pitch 11.
Pitch 11 was another matter; some initial easy aid lead to a fixed head and a hook traverse to the right.  Finally got a HB offset behind a loose block and high stepped on it.  I was standing in my topsteps with my hand on an edge for balance trying to figure out what to do next when the decision was made for me.  My piece popped.  I found myself holding on to the edge I had been using for balance.  I started free climbing and stopped with my left foot on a good edge.  Continuing to free climbing up wasn’t an option with all the aid gear on and while in hiking boots.  I spotted a dead head (left over copper from an old blown copper head) and found a spot that looked like it would hold an aluminum head.  I beat the crap out of that head.  Then I hit it some more.  Finally I stood up on it.  It held!  The first head I ever placed and it looks and seems bomber.  The cactus garden greets me up higher with a few needles in the knee and I’m at the anchor.
Movin' on up.
Two more pitches of moving up and right on too many heads to count get us to a C2 pitch.  John informs me that while jugging he is expending just as much energy as I am while leading.  I remind him that I have been hauling.  I start off in the light thinking this pitch should be easy and then 2 more pitches and we are on top.  I end this pitch in the dark, with horrid rope drag, and having hammered a pin.  I haul the bag and inform John that I need a break and it is his pitch.  He doesn’t look happy but he puts on his climbing shoes and starts up the “5.9+ rotten chimney” above.  John climbs up and then down 3 times sending showers of rocks down each time. It’s sad but some how seeing John suffer a little makes me feel better.  He tells me that he is going to give it one more go and then it is my turn. He makes it up this time and soon I’m jugging while pushing and pulling the haul bag over roofs and out of the chimney.  I get to the anchor and am disappointed to see that John is not on top but is about 40’ below the rim on a ledge.  I find a way up that is way harder then the 5.7 that he topo suggests and top out at 2am. We have to climb over a chain link fence to get to the trail back to the car and I decide to wait for John to help me get the haul bag over the fence.  When I have my back turned he lifts the bag by himself and hucked it over.  His only response to my surprise is, "I do construction." 
 Rim to rim in 45 hours, having climbed for 20 hours straight on day two.  We are exhausted.  We both drive home that night. 
I get home at 5am with the help of, cold air, loud country music, slapping myself, biting my gums, and talking to myself.  I sleep until 2:30pm.  John took a shower and went straight to work.  Burly.

Big Sky, Montana

Amanda and I went to Big Sky, Montana last week to visit her father who was visiting friends and of course do some skiing.  Neither of us had been to Big Sky before and were blown away by the beauty of the place, and the quality of the skiing.  Both of us hope to get back up to the area soon.
Amanda and I 
Gordon and I in the Village

Amanda with Lone Peak in the background.