Rock & Ice Classics

In the past few months I've gotten out and climbed on a few trips to classic areas that were new to me: Yosemite and the Canadian Rockies.

Chris Tirrell working the line
Before those trips I managed the FA of a really fun thin face/bouldering pitch at Trout Creek on the day thatthe wall closed for the seasonal eagle nest intermission. I love crosswords, and crossword-puzzle-builders love the word "Aerie" - which is an eagle nest. The route was named "aerie interlude" in deference to my crossword obsession and the much more famous "Airy Interlude" in the Needles of California. It goes at .12d or so (V5 to a V6/V7) and protects with very thin but bomber cams and wires. Again, no bolts have been used or needed on any route at Trout Creek. Trout opens back up for climbing in a few days (May 15) and I definitely suggest this climb, even just as a great end of the day TR after climbing Gateway or one of the 5.10 routes over to the left.

Jens Holsten and I took a trip to the Canadian Rockies to climb some long classic waterfall ice routes, and we were graciously hosted by our friend Steven Swenson who fit us into his schedule of guests and itinerant dirtbags who overwhelm his condo in Canmore Alberta.
Jens gets us going on Carlsberg Column near Field, BC

We were both amazed by the scale, beauty, and access of the peaks in the Rockies. The ice was fat and blue. Screws actually would hold a fall. This was not Washington slush ice. The first day in the area Jens and I climbed Carlsberg Column in the Field, B.C. area, and then we stopped by Lake Louise and strolled past the amazingly ornate lodge, walked past kids skating and playing hockey, and found ourselves under Lake Louise Falls, which we climbed as well.
The view from one end of Lake Louise
The other end of Lake Louise
The second day we drove up to the Icefields Parkway and began to climb the Weeping Wall, but realized that there was a reason we had the place to ourselves - the ice was turning white and getting sun baked. After reserving a spot at the Rampart Creek Hostel, we backtracked to the trailhead for Murchison Falls, and climbed a route just left of Murchison, a stunning and scenic WI5 called "My Daddy's a Psycho". By "we climbed" I really mean "Jens climbed" -- I basically lead the easier (WI3 and WI4) pitches, while Jens took the WI5 pitches.

Jens on a WI5 pitch of a Murchison Falls variation
Murchison falls is 1-2 miles above the road in a beautiful setting
After a sleepless night in the noisy and sauna-like atmosphere of the hostel bunk room, we got up early and climbed the amazing Polar Circus route, a long and ever-steepening series of frozen waterfalls that is among the most famous ice climbs in the world. After driving back to Canmore and resting for a day, Jens and I were joined by Ian Yurdin of Bend, and our guide/rally car driver Steve Swenson for a trip into the fabled Ghost Valley on the eastern front range in Alberta. Steve's Subaru Outback made it pretty far, despite falling snow, large drifts, semi-frozen river crossings, and 3 terrified passengers. I realized that I had forgotten my crampons, but Steve realized that he had climbed our intended route 3 times already this year, and was happy to let Ian join Jens and I on the climb. We completed a very cold and snowy ascent of The Sorcerer, complete with frozen eyelashes and eyelids on the final steep headwall pitch.

I heard they designed that rock based on the North Face logo...
Later this spring, I final made a trip to Yosemite where I had the amazing opportunity to climb the Zodiac Wall on El Capitan with Dan Nordstrom who owns Outdoor Research, and with Maria Hines, who owns 3 of the premiere restaurants in Seattle, not to mention being a champion of the Iron Chef TV show. I was mostly along for the ride as a dabbler in all types of climbing, but I learned a lot about hauling, portaledge camping, dawn-walling, harness-sleeping, and aid sketchery. The most memorable event was catching Dan's near-factor-2 fall midway up the route, as his GriGri and 1 jumar were knocked off his harness and free-fell over 1,000' to the deck. The Zodiac Wall is steep, and water falling off the final pitch lands dozens of feet out from the base of El Cap on its steep right side. After a couple days of resting/cragging/bouldering I teamed up with new friend Ricardo Varga, a Mexican sport climber from Portrero Chico, who was just learning to trad climb. We rallied up the classic Astroman, despite getting jammed up behind (5!) teams on a wednesday, including a Euro party engaging in classic Euro shenanigans such as laybacking all the cracks, yarding up a haul bag, and falling out of the Harding Slot and spending hours dangling in space under the gaping maw. I got to lead the whole route apart from an approach pitch, and felt good about on-sighting the famous climb and my first real Yosemite experience. 5.9 is physical, hard, and calorie-intensive in Yosemite!

Ricardo follows the Enduro Corner on Astroman
Ricardo on the Changing Corners pitch
Slotting myself into the belly of the beast, and executing the 180-degree turn. Index flares have taught me well!
Laybacking under the Harding Slot

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