Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hollow Icicle

Well I recently got a GoPro and after much learing and some frustration I have learned the basics of video editing. Fun toy tho!

I headed out to Hollow Icicle at Echo Bend in Eagle River with Mark last Sunday. The pillar wasnt hollow at all this time around, although it felt steeper that the last time I had climbed it in the hollow condition. Note: never use those second handles you see in the video for ice, they suck!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Early Winter Cragging

The snow has finally come once again and sent me hobbling out the door on my ski pole crutches to get my fill of ice, freezing belays and the screaming barfies. First off Eddie and I headed up to Ptarmagian to perform the ritual of being molested by dozens of angry moose all the while being harassed by his out of control demon dog, Morgan. We decided to climb Only the Hookers Get the Blues so we could quickly remember how strenuous and scary steep ice is during the early season. After feebly hobbling down the knee busting coulior to our bikes on the way out, I realized I had forgotten my headlamp and was subsequently treated to blind biking over the ice and around the moose while attempting to keep on the hard packed trail. Alas more recovery time will be needed before I can make that hike again.

Eddie following the first ice step - by John G

The goods - by John G

Hookers in all its glory - by John G

Next up was my annual pilgrimage to Nabesna. With four days off and plans of grandeur on my mind I found myself at the base of the thin, reverberating pillar that is Wing and a Prayer and a sudden change of mind that left me paying out rope as Eddie gently tapped his way upwards. Evening chatter with the other climbers at the cabin left us with the knowledge that it was a dry season in Nabesna so we set off on an exploritory mission Saturday. Not finding anything worth climbing we pointed my truck towards home and hit town in time for some sleep.

Wing and a Prayer - by John G

Cool stemming action higher up - by John G

Can you spot the mud volcanoes? - by John G

Back in town I made a quick trip down to Portage and ran a few laps on Five Fingers. Narrowly avoiding Marcos engine exploding we enjoyed nice warm temps and plastic ice.

Five Fingers - by Marco Carter
On Monday, my last day off, I headed out to Hatchers Pass with Eddie to try to redpoint a mixed route at Hillside Pillars I had previously attempted. The creek was now nicely frozen up and soon I was racking up. After much soul searching and encouragement I made the irreversible traverse step facing a highly unpleasant fall opportunity over marginal gear. Thankfully I found a good cam and finished up the bolt line pumped out of my mind. Many thanks to Eddie for the long cold belay!

Whirlpool - by John G

Bear Hug - by Eddie Phay

Yay for bolts - by Eddie Phay

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eye Tooth

Dream in the Spirit of Mugs, Eye Tooth

I was up in Prudhoe Bay for a few weeks working on a project when I randomly met a guy named Ben walking down the hall and soon a plan to climb the Eye Tooth’s West Pillar was hatched.

This year has been a bit of a transition for me; I took a new job that allowed more climbing time during the summer and after clipping more bolts than usual this summer had the illusion of getting better at this whole rock climbing deal. Anyhow to make a long thought process short I somehow figured that I was ready to try a big rock route like the Eye Tooth.

I met Ben at his little cabin nestled in the back woods of Palmer early on July 18th and we struck out for Talkeetna. Ben had just completed a 7 day, 900 mile bike ride from the Slope to his house the day before, but not missing a beat we were both whisked away to the melting Ruth Glacier where he set off across the glacier forging a path across the crevasses.

We set up camp that evening under blue skies in the glacier cirque and prepared for an early morning start. It is noteworthy to mention that Ben is fluent in the Yuper, Russian, Spanish, and Indian accents which made conversation far more entertaining than usual. I must start practicing myself!
The alarm went off at 3am and by 6:30 I was slipping into my brand new never been used shoes (gumby mistake!) and off we went. 

Between this time and 4pm I got my ass so thoroughly kicked I just about gave up rock climbing entirely and at the top of pitch 12 the decision was made to take me home. 

The next day we reversed our steps and I pressed my magic button and a TAT Otter came swooping out of the clouds to pick us up just before in the knick of time.

All in all I did have a great time out in the mountains, enjoyed good company, got two awesome flight seeing tours and got extremely motivated.

As the pictures show, the route is absolutely spectacular and someday I will return! 

The Mooses Tooth massif - by John Giraldo

The Eye Tooth in all its glory - by John Giraldo

Crevass Central - by Ben E

Camp - by John Giraldo

Early morning walk - by John Giraldo

Awesome splitter - by Ben E

Getting high - by Ben E

- by Ben E

Approaching the headwall- by Ben E

- by John Giraldo

Belay with a view - by John Giraldo

- by John Giraldo

The moody Eye - by John Giraldo

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Escalator, Mt Johnson

Finally getting around to posting on my AK Range trip this spring.

I headed to Talkeetna with Amos on April 6th with grandiose plans but due to weather our plans were foiled. After deciding to head into the Ruth Gorge we set up base camp and decided to climb Mt Johnson as a warm up route. To make a longer story shorter we climbed the route in two days during which we hid from avalanches, got pummeled by spindrift and finally shut down by the summit cornice 30meters shy of the top. With the trip not going quite as planned we pushed the magic plane button on the Spot and were speedily whisked away.

Alas, failure breeds success. I will return!

Picture time:

This place is massive, you just ski and ski and nothing gets
any closer - by John Giraldo

Mt Dickey and a TAT Beaver -  by John Giraldo

Mt Dickey - by John Giraldo
A TAT Otter with The Mooses Tooth in the background
- by John Giraldo

Amos on the start of the route -  by John Giraldo

Kick ass snow cave - by Amos Swanson

The rock face that protected our bivy - by Amos Swanson

Im guessing my first bivy sack experience will likely be
the most enjoyable - by John Giraldo

Good morning! - by John Giraldo

About midway up the narrow section.
It must have been 60 deg out and the mountain
was quickly falling apart- by John Giraldo

The glacier is way down there now - by John Giraldo

"Almost summit" photo. It was 7pm and out headlamps were
2000' below; time to move - by John Giraldo

The Escalator, Mt Johnson. We bivyed at the top
of the massive snow slope and then rappelled/downclimbed
the route. Not sure why you would do the walk off - by John Giraldo 

Funny video - by Amos Swanson

Saturday, April 14, 2012


The trip didn't started auspiciously. We arrived in Talkeetna during a storm cycle. After waiting for the weather to improve we realized there was too much snow in the Tok for the plane to land and were forced to make new plans. Internet research found some alternatives; we decided to climb Mt. Johnson. As luck would have it the night before we left I picked up an Alpinist at TAT and on the last page was a picture of Jim Sweeny at Providence Hospital. Intrigued I read the article. It was entitled "Full Value" and told a story of survival. While attempting Mt Johnson he took a fall badly injuring himself. His femur is dislocated.  It started to avalanche, pummeling the crippled climbers. For eight days he survived while his partner dragged him towards safety. Avalanche after avalanche buried them. The gear was swept away. The were both dumped into a crevasse. Frozen, continually getting buried and with only one wet sleeping bag Jim laid on the glacier dying. His partner screamed in his face asking him if he wanted to die. If he didn't he had to fight for his life. The story ends by stating Jim was still climbing and still had no medical insurance. The next morning we flew out, however the story will stay with me.

A few days later it was my turn. Endless spindrift was funneling down the route. Rock and ice falling all around, exploding as they smashed into the wall. For hours we hid under a rock face unable to continue or retreat. As the sun moved the wall above us started to release. Avalanches arced over our head, thundering into the couloir we had just ascended.

Again the question is why? Why would someone chose this time and time again? The answer is different for everyone. Perhaps some don't have an answer. Your life simplified, finding stillness in chaos. The beauty of the simple things in life. Food, sleep, shelter; nothing else matters. The feeling of being truly alive, the satisfaction of pushing yourself to your limits, returning shattered and yet rejuvenated.  Some find this in religion, some in creating music or art, some in mediation, each in their individual way. Most of the world never finds this, living their life cluttered by their thoughts and emotions. Never finding their release. As my Australian friend once told me, "95% of the world never has a experienced a 'near life' situation." Perhaps someday I can find fulfillment in a less dangerous, less selfish way. Until then, I too will be climbing.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ptarmagain - Ski Tracks

At long last I was able to climb Ski Tracks on Saturday with Amos. I had been wanting to climb this route for a long time but had been denied twice so I was stoked to finally get it done. 

On my first ill fated attempt I went up with Marco in February 2011 but not knowing where to start we ended up way left of Ski Tracks on Catatonia. Unable to continue and with the temperature around zero we returned. 

Marco starting up - by John Giraldo

On rappel, if you follow the ropes you can just
see Marco - by John Giraldo

Frostbite! - by John Giraldo

My second attempt was with Jeff in October 2011 during a snowstorm. We managed to make it past 60 moose on the walk in while getting soaked by wet early season snow. After trundling a block on my chest I made it to the first anchor thoroughly soaked, it was here that we turned around. 

A very snowy P1 - by Jeff Wagner

Finally I headed back up, this time with Amos. The ski in was less than ideal, it was hard packed and at an angle but we managed to make it and posthole up to the start of the route. After about 8 hours of shredding we topped out in beautiful weather and then made exhilarating high speed glissades back to the skis. Great route and a fun day out!

The first snowfield - by John Giraldo

Sending - by John Giraldo

Simul climbing - by John Giraldo

The ginger and his granola - by John Giraldo

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ptarmagain - Three Headed Bitch 3-17-12

Headed up to Ptarmagain once again with the boys to do some cragging. Deep snow made upward progress tiring but soon enough we made it to the traverse ledge and were off.

Carl and Carl skinning to the ridge - by John Giraldo

Amos making the traverse - by Eddie Phay
With the objective of climbing Carl's Chockstone we rapped into the wall and I started up P3 (if coming up Mixed Inhibitions) to the base of the chockstone. Here we found an enormous snow mushroom had formed under the feature and decided it would be too dangerous to try to climb around it. 

Me starting up - by Eddie Phay

-by Eddie Phay

Eddie following on the crux section - by John Giraldo

After rapping back down to the ledge we looked around and Amos decided to give the left "splitter crack" variation(M8) of the Three Headed Bitch a try.

Amos, 3 years in the game and still relevant - by John Giraldo

Eddie on record mode - by John Giraldo

Myself, flailing upward - by Eddie Phay

After the reverse traverse we were back at the skis where we made various downward efforts dependent on our skill level. I could tell the snow was perfect as I slid and tumbled my way to the bottom.

The wall I have spent most my winter on - by Eddie Phay
Look at all that snow - by John Giraldo

He joined my in the tumbling effort - by John Giraldo

If you got time on your hands check out Eddies video. 6 mins in shows the skiers shredding, 7 mins in shows Eddie and I raiding Amos food bag and 27 mins in shows a very pumped John being shown how to top out. Good stuff

Vimeo Spring Day on Ptarmagain