Thursday, October 10, 2013

What we do when its not snowing...

Lake Koocanusa
Eureka, MT

Since moving to WHitefish Montana everything is so exciting because it is all New. Finding a new crag to climb at was not very difficult when there is only one place everyone was telling us to go to. We were pleasantly surprised that we got on the rock in early the months of March and began ticking off many classic lines around the Lake. The routes are not the tallest, but they definetly pack a puch. Most have mixed protection and you will end up wondering how the route you are on could possibly match the grade given in the one guide book printed for the area. The cliffs are on both sides of the Lake so if its cold you can chase the sun all day and if its hot you can chase shade. I have climbed around 75 routes in this area so far this season and have only repeated a few times routes. The drive to the Lake takes about 1 our and fifteen minutes, so its not exactly in our backyard. We do manage to get over there to crush at least once a week and it has been helpful to stay in shape for bigger destinations this past summer.

Dan Koestler warming up at South Stone
                     Gae crushing some Classy lines at Hidden Buttress and Tanman Area

Smith Rocks State Park

I love visiting Smith Rocks! I have been making the trip to this unique climbing area for 4 years in a row. One of the main attractions I have to this area is visiting my buddy Todd Wook, who lives in his Van and cooks family style meals for the climbers in lot. I also enjoy sipping a tasty IPA from one of the 13 breweries in the town of Bend. Gaelen and I came this year on a paid vacation from our work to take a AMGA SPI course. Yeah we are pretty good at selling ourselves or working the system. We basked in the Spires towering above the Crooked River for 7 days, the course was 5 and we had 2 days of free climbing. The style of climbng at Smith is much different than any other destination. It takes a few visits to trust the delicate pebbles and flakes, but once you do you learn the possibilities found in this little corridor of Tuff.

I love Lot and whats beyond Lot at Smith Rocks
Indian Creekesque Splitters in the Lower Gorg

Sweet Face climbs!

Squamish, B.C.

How could we say No? Everyone we used to live with and climb with in SLC was going to be there. We spent two weeks there last year and figured out that there is no better place to be literally hanging out. The first night there after a quick lap on Exasperater, we made an Epic entry and surprised 4 friends that didn't know we were making the drive from Whitefish. It was a great start to a memorabe trip. We climbed everyday we were there, not repeating a single pitch we had done in the past. You can't go wrong with the impeccable granite cracks on and around the Stawamus Chief. This time we needed to get back to work so we had 5 days to soak up as much of the Good as we possibly could. By the end we were satisfied but not ready to leave such an amazing place. Squamish is a must visit climbing destination. I hope to be coming backs for years! 

This is the Classy final pitch of Rock On. In this picture you can see Katy belaying Stefan coming up behind Gaelen.

Stefan likes Squamish. This was both of our first multiple pitch climbs of the trip

Summit one of the Cheif
Cragging at Smoke Bluffs


What we do when we are not scaling 
Another stellar pitch!
St. Vitus Dance on the Apron

Washington Pass and the Northern Cascades

Shut down by the weather at Bugaboo Provincial Park for a consecutive year, we consulted NOAA and found out that just South of the border the weather was looking splitter for getting into the high country of the Cascades. Our new home base is only a half days drive from Mazama, WA and the gateway to North Cascades National Park. Last year we spent some time climbing on and around the Early Winter Formations and spotted another clutter of epic spires across the Valley and vowed to return to stand on top of them. Those feature are the Wine Spires! We backpacked in one evening just as a quick rain storm rolled over us and set up camp at the base of the NW side of the Spires giving us access to some exciting climbing. Waking up not to early the next morning we racked up and began the shlep up to the Base of the Paisano Piller. We climbed the 8 pitches to the top and walked over to the Burgundy SPire for another quality 6 pitches linking the 2 Spires in a single push. Super fun moderate climbing recommended for all! The next day we got shut down trying to get to the Juno Tower on the other side of the col. We accepted defeat in the new terrain and packed up camp. Adventures are endless in the Cascades and we are just that more familiar with the area for a return trip in the future.

Looking out at the vast mountains of the Northern Cascades from the top of Burgundy Spire
. Mt. Baker in the center, Shuksan to the Left and the Wash Pass Spires in the foreground

Gae leading on Paisano Piller
and sussing the link up to Burgundy Spire

Another Glorious Day in the Mountains with the Bad Ass Woman that I love!

Mt Fury

After leaving Wash Pass we had Big plans to traverse Mt Fury via the East Ridge. We figured we would get comfortable approaching on snow and climbing with heavier packs because that is exactly what we would be doing if and when we get to the Bugaboos. We packed up for another two nights in the back country and began the slog up 2,500 feet of dense forest and waterfalls. Before we could set up camp the last obstacle, crossing the torrent when the water was at its highest flood almost stymied us until we watched a Marmot jump across a narrow section. Giving us hope that this must be the way across.

With visions of anticipation I was ready the next morning before the alarm went off to get going. The skies were clear and the route looked long so we jumped to it after a cup of Java and a bowl of granola. After about an hour and half of hiking we reached the glacier and transfered to crampons and ice axes for travel. Gaelen had never walked on a glacier before and was hesitant with each step to trust her crampons and balance. I kicked the steps and she followed excited to get it over with so that we could get on the Rock. We were at the base of a Pillar that marked the more technical sections of the climb, so we stashed the crampons and mountain boots into out packs, flaked the rope and began swapping leads up and across this Amazing mountain. The route finding was a bit tricky and the rock a little loose, but we were standing on top of the summit by 1 p.m. eating PB and Jelly sandwiches among the Massive Boston Glacier and a string of mountains as impressive as anything I have seen. The down climb of the West Ridge was fun in itself because the rock was impeccable and the climbing mellow and fun. Getting off of the Ridge proper it got a little spicy and tricky descending a Huge slab, making our way back to the Glacier below. After a few rappels and a dropped number 3 camalot we were digging our mountain boots and crampons out of out packs in the blazing heat radiating off the snow. Getting back to our camp 12 hours after leaving we were happy to have a 22 oz. Ten Barrell IPA chilling in the creek. Life doesn't get any better than that!

Majestic Mt Fury and its long Ridge climb. Our route was up the West (lookers right) and down the East. Our descent was down the gnarly looking slab on the lookers left side

Gae getting comfortable with crampons and and ice axe
Mt. Johanson in the background 
Getting going on the ridge with the Boston Glacier below, guy.

Can you find the G-spot on the ridge

Gaelen running with the sharp end

Mt Fury Summit Cone. Half way Done.
"You promised me a PB&J sandwich up here"

Mt. St. Nicholas, Glacier National Park

Living so close the Glacier National Park we needed to experience what it was all about. There has to be some classic lines among the giant peaks of rock and glacier. We did some hikes and scrambles to familiar ourselves with the geography and rock quality and were surprised to come across some stellar rock in areas. As climbers we wanted more. We wanted to be clinging on more vertical walls having to bring with us more technical gear to make an ascent possible. This was found on Mt. St. Nick as the locals call it. This mountain is iconic to visitors of the Park. Its jagged summit is said to be the hardest one to reach, and its Northeast ridge was supposed to have a long route with solid rock, that much known we began the research of how to get on top. 

Since the winter Dan Koestler has been talking about St. Nick and its possibilities for climbing and skiing so he was definitely not going to let us go without him. Dan has climbed over 150 peaks in GNP so it was our pleasure to explore a mountain with him that he has yet to stand on top of. We began our trip crossing the Middle fork of the Flathead River at the Coal creek trailhead. We hiked in about 8 miles and set up camp along a creek that made it seems like it would be an easy enough approach and reach the base of the NE ridge. After an alarming wake up of no Alarm going off we were already 2 hours behind our planned schedule. Settling into our morning we bushwacked for a bit and got on an acessible ridge taking us to the rock scramble in just a few hours. The most daunting part of the day was crossing the North Face of St. NIck. It looked steep and loose. Step by step we followed an old goat path that brought us to the comfortable col below out intended route. I was excited to keep moving and quickly found out that the rock quality was Great, comparably for the Park. We moved efficient for a party of 3 and found solid belay ledges and anchors. Five pitches later we were unroping and marching for the summit. Dan couldn't believe the views we had from St. Nicks perch and it was his expressions that made Gaelen and I proud of our climb.

The rappells were not as bad or scary as anticipated and we were back at our alcove with plenty of day light for our descent to camp and then out to our car. Intimidated by the approach climbing we did we decided to descend the long couloir off the NW side of the mountain. This proved a Big mistake. Endless scree left our feet screaming for mercy. Back at camp we looked up at our days efforts and couldn't help think that it was all worth it.

 A full time job commitment has made us squeeze activities into a two day period that would be much more comfortably done in three, so we needed to bust back to our car that night. Luckily the trail was flat and as the sun was setting we kicked our was back to the River crossing and the road starting the car just before 11 p.m. The 16 hour push was satisfying but put a hurt on us that we felt for the next few days

This is crossing under the North Face, getting to the start of the climb and our base camp.

 This is the start of the route, climbing out of the col and onto the ridge. In the guidebook they say to stand on your partners shoulder to reach the first handholds. I freed it, no big deal.
What an Epic Day! The weather couldn't have been any Better.
Gaelen stepped up when Dan was feeling a little sick on the route and led a solid block of pitches

Marching to the Summit of Ol' St. Nicholas