Friday, February 10, 2012

The Yang

Dan approaching the NE Butress of Colchuck Peak
I never savor the taste of victory for long. An unexplainable drive forbids me to enjoy success. As I type this blog, the high pressure that we have been enjoying in the Northwest is melting into wet, heavy snow and iron skies. Only a few days ago I stood atop the NE Buttress of Dragontail, excited to have climbed a big route in the cold short days of winter. It was my first significant winter ascent since Cole Allen and I climbed the North Ridge of Mt. Stuart in January of 2009. And that's not for lack of trying! For me, winter climbing is the most elusive and curious aspect our sport. I beat my body against the toughest conditions in hope that every few years things will go right and a summit will be had.

Pitch one on the NE Buttress of Colchuck Peak
Only two days after summiting Dragontail I was back at the lake with Dan Hilden to attempt the NE Buttress of Colchuck Peak, a route that I had attempted three previous times in winter. We executed our plan on day one and climbed higher than we ever had, bivying on a chopped ledge midway up a large ramp system that forms the middle of the route. Excited that we had climbed through difficult terrain that had shut us down in the past, our feelings were positive and we felt confident. So far, so good.

Brewing up at the bivy

But the mountain had other plans and with the dark night came snow. All night spindrift pushed at the walls of the tent and the soft tinkling of icy precipitation would not stop. In the morning, a brief sun break lured us out of the bivy and onto the route. The few inches of new snow made the going even more difficult than it already was. Conditions were absolute crap and traversing unconsolidated snow over steep ramps was more exciting than it should have been. Dan led two "easy" (in summer!) pitches that took a couple hours each. Our slowing momentum was further hindered by the returning storm. In wind and pouring spindrift we made 7 rappels and bailed back to Leavenworth.

Dan on the lead shorty before we bailed

So now I sit at home, the excitement of success wiped away by more recent memories of standard winter suffering and dissapointment. The Ying (NE Butt of Dragontail) and the Yang (Colchuck) of winter climbing has been clearly displayed this last week. I wouldn't expect anything different.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stick With Me!

Only have a minute here, but wanted to let everyone know to watch the blog in the next week...I've got the rest of my Patagonia trip to post up, as well as a great story from a recent FWA of the Northeast Buttress of Dragontail, one of the longest (if not, the longest) routes in the Stuart Range. Over a wild day and a half, Nate Farr, Colin Bohannan, and I completed this route in windy, but sunny weather. Gotta run and pack my bags for the next mission. Big weather window to play with here in the Northwest!! See you with more stories (they're adding up here!) in a few days...

Approaching the NE Buttress of D-tail

Colin surfing the heights

Myself all puffed up on route!