The Iceman Cometh

A week ago I was out sport climbing in a T-Shirt Nate Farr, an old friend from WWU who was one of the first people I ever climbed with. This week things were a little different. A big scary mass of Canadian air was on its way down (we send them acid rain, they send us arctic air, free trade at its finest!). With local TV forecasters hyperventilating about the chance to fire up the storm-tracker Doppler-8 infra-red mach3 Gillette Schick-Quatro weather radar, I knew I was in for a week of accessible waterfall ice, and unavoidable weather hype. While the later soon grew hyperbolically comedic, the former provided the chance for three days of climbing ice only 20 minutes from Vancouver, WA.

On Tuesday I skipped out on work at Cilogear and met up with Tim Holscher, to investigate a few flows in the Columbia River Gorge. We found 2 routes, each two pitches long, featuring solid WI3 with fat ice and little wetness.

After that, we did our best Somali Pirate impersonation, by hijacking a barge and motoring over to the Oregon side of the river. Here we went on a wild goose chase looking at more routes that weren't in condition yet, and not finding any wild geese either.

We did come across an amazing flake of ice that seemed to defy gravity, and eventually climbed at "Mist Falls" which is a pretty little amphitheater completely coverd in thick ice. This made for a fun, if very mellow end to the day.

On Friday Tim and I met up again, this time to investigate a series of flows that form off the Columbia River beach, on the Washington side. We came across 6 different routes, although only 3 of them were in climbable condition. Local TV reporters, high on overtime pay and truckstop coffee, gave dire warnings and prognostications of certain death to anyone crazy enough to venture out. We ignored them and found calm conditions, occasionally sunny skies, and an awesome 4-pitch linkup that put us 1000' above the river, clamoring over a guardrail onto highway 14.

The first pitch started out steeply, rising directly off the beach. As Tim climbed higher, he bemoaned the ice's decreasing thickness. The ice screws may have been crappy, but hey, at least the rock was total garbage!

After 60m and a little extra, Tim belayed from a tree and I followed the pitch before leading up a WI3 jungle for a short top-out pitch.

From here we collected our bearings, battled three rounds with blackberry bushes (sticker bushes 2, humans 1) and eventually reached the base of a 2-pitch flow which lead the next cliff band. I took the first pitch, which was mostly fun WI2, with a vertical step toward the top.

Tim led up the final pitch, which was featured and beautiful.

From the top we tromped up to the highway, overcame the afore-mentioned guardrail, and began to hike back toward our car. It had now begun to snow, and it took us to while to realize that in order to reach our car we'd have to catch a ride or walk back 3 miles along the highway, and descend about 1000' back to the base of the route. Past experience has shown that one's success in getting a ride is inversely proportional to the number of sharp pointy objects he or she is carrying.

Given a pair of crampons and two ice tools each, I pegged our chances of success as commensurate with the likelihood that local tv newscasters wouldn't finally be wetting their pants about the arrival of actual snow. However, my pessimism was unjustified, as we were soon given a ride, avoiding all but a mile of walking.

On Saturday we headed out one final time, although this time the feds had stepped in, with the National Weather Service issuing a blizzard warning for the area. Given the weather of my upcoming climbing destination, I figured getting out in the wind might be useful training. I kept thinking this until we went to make our first rappel, off a small promontory of land. I waited between gusts before throwing our rope over the edge, only to see the wind blow it back up at my face and shoot it out sideways at 40 MPH, leaving the ends of both strands 100' to our left, and uphill of where they'd started.

We eventually made it down to the wall, and were rewarded with a steep mixed (mostly rock) start and interesting ice features on the rest of the route.

Today I pulled my randonee skis out of the bag and did a lap around the neighborhood. The roads were covered in snow, nobody was driving, and the absolute quiet was astonishing. I could only stand it for about 10 minutes before I had to run inside. After all, the dopler-8 storm tracker had updates to report!


The "Proof Box" of Life

I haven't written in a while, largely because I haven't done much worth noting to my friends and family. However, I would appreciate it if everyone would check out my photos (#1 and #2) in this photo contest, and vote for them if you think they deserve it.
And I would ESPECIALLY appreciate you voting for them even if you don't think they deserve it! I basically haven't posted because I don't want to get too caught up in the boring minutiae of my daily life. I want this little blog to be entertaining and exciting, updating only when I have something worth saying or photos worth sharing. To quote John Ruskin, "When a man is so wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package."

I've been doing some part-time work for CiloGear, a small Portland company that makes the best backpacks in the world for climbing

(or bivying in).

It's been fun and I should be doing some major re-writes to their website in coming weeks. I have also gone climbing a little bit locally (on rare dry days), I'm working out to stay in shape for Argentina, and I hope to go skiing up on Mt. Hood after this week's storms. However, before all that, I have to get my wisdom teeth removed!This procedure was schemed up by dentists in order to reduce both my wisdom, AND chewing abilities. Still, I should get it done before my health insurance expires. Speaking of which, I should redeem my coupon for "One free skydive with beginner parachute purchase" right away too.

Anyhow, I climbed all November, was loaned some fantastic gear and now I am just waiting to use it in South America! Back when I worked at the legendary Stehekin Bakery, I would constantly be taking things in and out of the proof box. This is a purgatory-style kitchen appliance, where baked goods go to sit and plump-up, before the final step. A loaf of bread or pan of cinnamon rolls will sit in the proof box, nearly formed but not yet complete. I've been mixed, kneaded, and covered in sesame seeds... now I'm ready for the oven.

I've also been picking up odd-jobs around the Portland/Vancouver area, but I think I may have hit the jackpot with an idea to sign up for drug-approval studies. Charles River Clinical Services is a pharmaceutical company based in Tacoma, WA which does testing on a segment of their population described on the homepage as healthy adult males. Finally, a job I qualify for! This "healthy" description is written overlaying a picture of a guy rock climbing. Obvious the owners of Charles River Clinical haven't spent much time around climbers if this is their example of healthy (or adult for that matter). I'm hoping that my excessive consumption of expired balance bars has resulted in a rare and valuable blood type that will land me millions. Keep your fingers crossed...


Bros and Brahs

In their early 20s, when exposed to college, feminism, and new ideas, many women reach a time in their lives when they feel the urge to experiement like never before. This often occurs much to the consternation of their boyfriends, and can lead to distance and heartbreak.

My girlfriend Allison is no exception, yet her daliances have manifested themselves in a much more sinister form... she moved from Bellingham to Colorado!

Out in the Northwest, the Colorado 'scene' is often described as a bizarre amalgamation of sorority/fraternity craziness, and an uptight yuppy REI-catalog lifestyle. With visions of incessant "bro-brah-ness" in my mind, I headed out with trepidation to the Centennial state. However, my fears were soon allayed.

Allison showed me around Denver, and we went bouldering at a couple local spots. One day was at Flagstaff, on the hill east of Boulder. The other day was near the town of Morrison, about 15 minutes west of Denver overlooking a pretty little stream and the town's main drag. My opinion of Morrison remained high, when it became possible for even the brokest of dirtbag climbers to sweet-talk their way into a free milkshake from Ozzi's Espresso and Icecream.

The climbing in Morrison was sunny and a lot of fun. The highlight of the day was a rad problem (evidently an area classic) that climbed straight out of the biggest cave. We even ran into a local who had told us about Morrison while in Squamish last summer.

As long as Allison remembers how much cooler the Northwest's mountains are, I wont hold her Colorado residency against her.