Monday, February 27, 2012

Tap Dance, Eklutna Glacier

I headed into Eklutna Glacier this weekend with my friend Mark for Harry's annual party. With my primary objectives shelved due to recent snowfall we decided to climb Road to Nowhere, a fun route I had done last year. Three 70 meter pitches brought us to the snow slopes just as the sun was going down we were soon back in the warm cabin. 

After some brainstorming we decided to do some exploring so the next morning we set off to try a line I had seen across valley from Miller Might. After a bit of scrambling we made it to a comfy belay and I set off. After some delicate runout climbing I managed to make to to the top of the steepness but was unable to find a solid belay. After what seemed like hours and lots of weirdness I was finally able to find a big enough ice lens up by the snow slope to make a v-thread. Not trusting this belay enough to bring Mark up on I gingerly rappelled and we returned to the cabin for John-made spaghetti :) 

Overnight a warm front moved in and we awakened Sunday morning to a snowy gale. Unable to climb everyone decided to clear out the cabin and after a short ride back across the lake we were back to the car.

Tap Dance, 25m WI4+

Delicately tap and hook your way up this fun route, it would be much better with a bolted belay on the wall directly above the ice flow, if you climb it take a bolt kit!

P2, 70m ropes make for long pitches!
-by John Giraldo

Mitre Might - by John Giraldo

Tap Dance marked with red arrow - by John Giraldo 

-by John Giraldo

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Andromeda Strain

As the grand finale to our trip we decided to attempt the Andromeda Strain (V, 5.9, A2, W4) on Mt Andromeda. After considerable difficulty we crossed the bergschrund and climbed about half the route to the start of the hard climbing. After looking up at the shattered rock capped with huge snow mushrooms we once again tucked tail and ran.

Amos summed the day up by saying "Two men climbed halfway up a mountain, dug a ledge and went down."

Columbia Glacier - by John Giraldo

Mt Andromeda - by John Giraldo

Burgschrund crossing - by John Giraldo

Perfect snow - by Amos Swanson

Check out the shattered rock in the foreground, the entire
mountain was made of this - by Amos Swanson

-by John Giraldo

Pretend bivy- by John Giraldo

Practice Couloirs in the background
-by John Giraldo

The Andromeda Strain - by John Giraldo

Cool glacier - by John Giraldo

-by John Giraldo

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rampart Creek

Hello there, I am finally getting around to posting about the rest of my trip to Canada. On the 5th we moved from Canmore to the hostel at Rampart Creek. It was a "wilderness hostel" located in the middle of the Icefields Parkway with no running water and alternative energy. While we were there we decided to try some classic routes located around the famous Weeping Wall. Unfortunately it had been very warm and the ice that was exposed to the sun was rotting out making the climbs start to fall down. I suppose it was fitting though so we could continue with our theme of not topping out on any climbs while in Canada.

On the 6th we attempted Mixed Master (300m, WI5, 5.8), and after lots of fun climbing with rock and ice coming down as we went up we found ourselves looking up at a very melted out pitch 7.  Needless to say we bailed and upon reaching the ground we found our packs had been vandalized by the ravens; they had even pecked a hole through Amos' bag in search of his sandwich! With Amos repeatedly yelling "Birds and Sandwiches!' we packed up and returned to the hostel.

Mixed Master - by John Giraldo

Amos nearing the top of P1 - by John Giraldo

P7 - by John Giraldo

Icefields Parkway and Saskatchewan River - by John Giraldo

The next day we needed gas so we drove 150km to Jasper and checked out the scenery while we were at it. On the way we passed a guy who had run out of gas about 25 or so miles from Jasper so we put him in the kiddie seat and gave him a ride. To my amazement when we stopped at the gas station he went inside, bought a 1.25 gallon gas jug and then had us return him to his completely empty car. I wonder if he ever made it back....

On the 7th we attempted Polar Circus (700m, WI5). Quickly soloing the first 3 pitches we made it to the Pencil which had formed huge this year. Hearing that it was badly cracked but stable I decided to give it a shot and after hanging on for dear life for four screws of overhang I finally managed to get to the vertical bit and top out. Amos started up the upper pitches and after two curtain spanning cracks that had us convinced 100 tons of ice were going south any second he lowered off a screw and we ran for the car.

The Pencil - by Amos Swanson

Cracking curtain - by John Giraldo

Free hanging awesomeness - by John Giraldo

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stanley Headwall

THE Headwall is for hard men only.  For three days we set our sights on The Headwall and three times we got it handed to us. Delicate, runout, steep and sandbagged are key words when describing the experience.

Day 1: After several hours of skiing it was determined that we had picked the wrong valley while ascending through the fog and were in Storm Creek. After a fun ski out to the car we decided to abort mission and head to the nearby Haffner Creek for some mixed action.

Storm Mountain - by John Giraldo

Disorienting fog - by John Giraldo

Half n' Half M7 - by John Giraldo

Day 2: With the correct trail determined we set our sites on The Uniform Queen. We found the route to be in very dry conditions with the crux pitch missing key ice sections but decided to give it a go regardless. After a runout M4 pitch Amos started up the WI5 pitch sans ice. After difficult "dryscratching" he called it a day at the next anchor and we lowered off.

Creek crossing fail haha - by John Giraldo
P1 a bit runout - by John Giraldo

Amos starting P2 - by John Giraldo

The Stanley Headwall - by John Giraldo

Suffer Machine is the main ice
flow, Uniform Queen is the ice
ribbon in the dark rock corner
-by John Giraldo

Day 3: Beaten but still eager for more we headed up yet again with The Suffer Machine on our mind. The guidebook recommends accessing the ice via the original aid line that has been since freed at M7 and so off we set towards the intimidating roof. After realizing it was above our skill level to free we decided to bail rather than pull on bolts. We then tried a route to the left of Suffer Machine but facing hard runout climbing we pointed our skis downhill, got some turns in and decided we would come back some day when we were stronger.

HUGE roof on Suffer Machine. I
am standing flush with the wall to
take the photo - by John Giraldo

Amos heading up to the roof after I bailed
-by John Giraldo

Yeah buddy Im learning how to make turns in my mountain
skis! - by John Giraldo

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Ghost

Today we woke up around five and after a quick breakfast we started our two hour trip to The Ghost. Once we made it to the dirt road things got interesting with obstacles such as icy hills, deep ruts through unplowed snow, and a scary slope referred to as The Big Hill. From here we scoped out our original objective, The Real Big Drip, and realized it was missing at least 20m of ice.

After a bit of discussion we changed our plans and headed out to a classic ice climb called The Sorcerer. The guide book says, "If you are to do just one route in the Ghost River area The Sorcerer would be it". While rated at (WI5, 210m) we found it to be in very thin and hard to protect WI6 conditions. Amos put up a technical, committing lead on Pitch 3, climbing a detached pillar and ice roofs before punching it to the bolts. From here we decided to rappel as neither of us were too keen on holding on to our tools any longer.

Spectacular limestone amphitheater - by John Giraldo

The Sorcerer - by John Giraldo

Starting the climb on unprotectable verglas
-by Amos Swanson

Amos pulling the scary crux
-by John Giraldo

Above the roofs - by John Giraldo

Ok, so now for the highlight of the day. Actually might have been the highlight of the trip. Buckle your seat belt and hang on, this video is rad!

Trip Notes:
It has been 30-40 deg F so far, feels as enjoyable as rock climbing!
Hostels are cool, the people that frequent them are odd.
Traveling without a private hotel room and making all your own meals while full time climbing is a surprising amount of work.
Canmore has more hotels than people.