It’s the time of the year when long tendrils of snowmelt begin to harden and form some of our favorite ice and mixed climbing formations. Like you, we spend our time scheming new ascents, planning trips to new areas, and optimizing our gear. If you’re looking to connect with us this winter, here’s our schedule for the ice season. We’ll be making our usual stops as well as joining the Michigan Ice Fest for the first time. Drop by to say hello or to demo a pair of our Raptor Ice Tools.
Category Archives: ice climbing
With my sights set on a new alpine route in Alaska in the spring, I needed a partner I could trust and could also commit to the time off. I scrolled through my black book and landed on Canadian crusher Alik Berg. Thing was: we had never climbed together. He recommended we do a trial run on his home turf of the Canadian Rockies. So I loaded up the Chevy van and pointed north once again.
On arrival to Canmore Alberta, located 20 minutes east of Banff, I was immediately very intimidated by how massive the peaks were looming on all sides of me. Wow, I thought, this is the Yosemite of Alpine climbing!
After climbing the classic The Day After Le Vacances du Monsouir Hulot on the Stanley Headwall, Alik proclaimed we were ready for a real Alaska warm up. He held up a black and white photo with a line going up a mountain. “What do you think?” he asked. I saw what looked like 3000 feet of steep snow up to a rock head wall of about a 1000 feet. I thought to myself: Sure why not, we will figure it out.
“Sure man looks cool,” I said.
With heavy packs and back country skis, we departed the car on Feb 25th with a solid weather forecast. The seven mile skin in was beautiful; big trees with a deep pine fragrance. Tracks of moose and other critters dotted the trail. We left our skis at the base and strapped our crampons on. To our good fortune, the snow on the lower portion of the route was solid neve and we made quick time to the headwall. Two pitches of M5-M6 brought us to our bivy platform on the first snow band. Cuddling up in my bag I was feeling strong and confident.
“Man looks really steep up there” Alik announced. “I bet its really run out. We will be lucky to get any pro.” I inquisitively peeked out of my snug bag. It was at this point that Alik started to regale me with all of the tremendous lore of the route. “Its turned back close to a dozen parties in winter, only the legend Raphael Slawniski with Ben Firth have managed it. One guy degloved his hand trying, the legend Steve House fell 80 feet and broke his pelvis.”
“Dude,” I feverishly announced, “stop talking, your freaking me out!” Luckily, exhausted from the days efforts, I managed to doze off for a few hours of sleep.
We awoke early and started climbing just before sunrise. We climbed 1200 feet of spectacular 5.10 limestone with ice tools and crampons. The exposure was magnificent and the climbing was genuinely fun and took gear well. The winter conditions had frozen all the loose bits in place, and we both agreed it should be a modern mixed climbing classic!
That night I spilled a half-liter of Gatorade in my sleeping bag, and had a proper freak out with the sub zero temps! Alik, cool and calm, said, “dude chill, its gonna be fine” I knew then and their Alik would be a great future climbing partner. The following day we summited and had an amazing panorama of the Canadian Rockies. It was news to us we had made the second winter ascent. http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15w/wfeature-mt-temple-history-winter-ascent. We began to make plans for Alaska.
Returning to Alik’s house and standing in the hot shower with a beer in hand, I felt the warm water soak into my bones and I had a deep sense of satisfaction. I was happy that 20 years of constant dedication to a sport I loved was finally paying off. That we had just completed a rather difficult climb with great joy, confidence and enjoyment. Sure, we suffered. But with out the suffering, the shower and soft bed would not feel nearly as good. I relished in my worn, fatigued and battered body.
Two days later I said good by to Alik and the Canadian Rockies, and packed the van up to head south back to Bozeman, Montana. I was slated not only to assist but also to participate in the Sierra Club veterans ice climbing week in Hyalite hosted by Montana Alpine Guides.
Volunteering has taught me one thing. I never regret doing it! Every time I put others before myself it feels incredible. I get back double what ever I put into it. It is medicine for the soul in more ways than one. I cant explain the psychology of it, but for me it works wonders. As a veteran myself of three tours in Afghanistan as a Air Force Pararescuman, I find great solace and personal healing when helping other vets get out side and into the wilderness. We share a common bond, a common thread. The intrinsic team work the 12 of us shared was unforgettable during this 5 day ice climbing course.
Each January, we circle the Ouray Ice Festival on our calendars. It’s a yearly favorite that affords us the opportunity to climb ice, connect with the climbing community, and talk about our favorite subject: climbing gear. This year was no different and we were more excited than usual due to our upgrades to the Raptor Ice Tool.
Trango athlete Marcus Garcia led a day-long seminar at Ouray Ice Park introducing participants to the fundamentals of ice climbing. Here, he demonstrates the finer points of one tool technique in the South Park area.
After the clinics and some climbing of our own, we gathered to watch the competitors in the elite mixed comp. It did not disappoint! Here, Marcus works his way through the lower section of the route toward the difficult upper section complete with crack system.
On Saturday, Marcus climbed his way to a top 10 finish in the speed comp. Ouray never disappoints and this year was as impressive as ever. Congratulations to Marcus for a strong showing and thanks to everyone who dropped by our booth, demo’d a pair of Raptors, or joined Marcus for the intro seminar!
I am not an ice climber….well, I have now gone, liked it, and I will most certainly go again!
My first experience was years ago with an acquaintance. I wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for, but we hiked around a lot up the Lawn Lake Trail. I never took my tools off the pack, even to this day I have no idea what moderate ice we might have been looking for. Oh well.
|All Mixed Up, Thatchtop Mt., RMNP|
My second experience, was this November a few weeks after my whipper in Zion. My experienced friend was very patient while I gimped up the trail, and even more caring when we stopped at the base of All Mixed Up to gear up and my feet were already frozen. After attempting to warm them, feed me, hydrate me, dance around, we ended up turning around.
What a sissy!
I am from Minnesota, I used to tolerate the cold so well. Wow, too many winters chasing eternal fall!
My third experience was just after Thanksgiving and it went swimmingly. Granted I borrowed warmer, more appropriate, boots.
The three of us, 2 non-experienced ice climbers and a third who had previously climbed at our desired destination, Hidden Falls. We had a leisurely breakfast, drove to Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park, strapped on the packs, and wandered down the road, now winter trail, west.
Then we wandered down the road east, back tracking. We wandered a short trail parallel to the road for awhile. Then we wandered about another pull-out and trail. Finally, we wandered further west definitively. Our third, “leader”, didn’t quite remember how far to wander the road, where Hidden Falls might be hidden, and surely didn’t even know what day it was.
All in good fun. We arrived, just as another pair of climbers was hiking out.
Perfect. Place to ourselves.
I just top-roped, but messed around with dry-tooling (which I had done before last winter in the Cascades), but I also got to climb a few pitches of just ice.
I was enjoying my new ice tools, and the boys were also enjoying my new ice tools. The Trango Raptors saw 8-10 pitches on their first day out. These nice tools have an aggressive pick, are quite light, and have an excellent grip. I really enjoyed the grip set up, allowing me to switch hands comfortably, gripping above the standard grip location was equally as comfortable and easy.
Get your new pair at http://www.trango.com/ice_gear/Raptor