Thursday, March 24, 2011

Comet Spire Attempt and Fun in the SCV

Since my climb of Colchuck's NE Face I have been resting an injury and focusing on organizing an up coming trip to the Alaska Range. That said, I haven't been able to resist a little bit of upward movement.

Nearly a month ago, Dan and I tried a fantastic route on Comet Spire, an orange sentinel north of Prusik Peak. The route, which I had scoped a week earlier with Cole Allen, reminded me of Patagonia, ice running up a steep tower to an airy perch. We approached on larch studded snow slopes and laughed our way up a 400 foot stretch of AI3, shooting for a runnel that broke the final buttress. The sun warmed my body but the cold in the breeze stung my face. The day was perfect. Then, a snowfield high above us slid, swiping powerfully through where we had climbed only moments before.

Comet Spire from Snow Lakes

Our perfect day became quite intimidating and we safely bailed down a protected rock buttress with no issues. Although we didn't summit, winter climbing on the opposite side of the range for a change was inspiring and eye opening. I can't wait to go back.

Beautiful climbing on the East Face of Comet Spire

Since then I have powered down into an even chiller mode, mostly working and resting, but...

The past few years I have found myself wandering the Snow Creek Valley, mostly alone, chasing elusive pieces of blue I see through the winter snow. Each glimpse of ice leads me to the next. Those quiet wanderings help me gather my thoughts and keep me fit for real objectives. Ice climbing in Washington does not show itself easily. Endless searching yields a seemingly limited outcome, but then you spot a runnel up a tower or a rock face with just enough ice and protection to scratch up. Finally, the lines are starting to add up and more beckon around the corner. The past few weeks we found a fun 900 foot M5 up a rock buttress, climbed a tough mixed route and stumbled on the crag of our future it's time to rock climb (and go to Alaska in May!).

The Millennium Tower

Snice runnel on M-Tower


Harder Scratchin'

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dan's Drip

Dan's Drip

This past weekend, local mountain enthusiast Dan Zimmerman was killed in an avalanche on the rolling flanks of Mt. Cashmere. Dan and I were only long time acquaintances, but we did share a common passion for the peaks and valleys of the Stuart Range. While Dan shredded down mountains, I clawed up them. We ran into each other often in the Icicle, always translating shared condition reports into our respective dialects of climber and skier. Dan wanted white smoke and I wanted blue ice. We both wanted days high in the alpine with our friends.

My canyon wanderings the past few days have been quiet and reflective. Dan's spirit has moved on, softly blowing through the pines, down the rushing river, and up into the rimed peaks. The Icicle won't be the same without him.

A finger injury has kept me resting the past few weeks. Although I can't crank on the rock right now, I can swing a tool, so I have been prowling the cold corners of the Icicle for thin ice and mixed routes. Yesterday, I followed a thin runnel up a rock face, into a corner and over a scratchy roof, establishing a fun 100 foot M5 R pitch. Located above the Snow Creek trail, this line defines the "here today, gone tomorrow" nature of ephemeral ice lines. Five days ago it wasn't there and now it's on the way out.

It's not an incredible effort or a climb of any importance, but to me it will always be known as Dan's Drip. Life, like ice, is so fragile and temporary. When a climb melts out we don't forget the line. When someone moves from this life to the next we remember them forever. RIP Dan.