Tag Archives: Ice climbing


(I’m behind on posting, welcome to catching up on the adventure)

A few weeks ago I met some people at the Bozeman Ice Festival that really know how to have fun.  Despite going to Australia this week (oh yeah, didn’t see that coming did you?),  a spontaneous visit to Salt Lake City was on order for Christmas weekend.  A huge thank you to Sarah, Peter, and Brit for being amazing hosts.  While Salt Lake is known for Mormons and the Wasatch front, elves are apparently a big deal too:

Cousins Peter and Brit show off the latest fashions.

Cousins Peter and Brit show off the latest fashions (exterior door shown for scale).

I rolled in on Saturday afternoon, and after a quick hike to check on ice climbing conditions, Sarah and I joined in the Santa pub-crawl mayhem.

Well... someone needed to step up and be Pimp Santa.

Well… someone needed to step up and be Pimp Santa.

Despite a great outfit, I bailed on the pub crawl relatively early with thoughts of ice climbing on my mind.  The ice was surprisingly poorly formed and thin, and while Sarah and I ticked 3 of 4 pitches on “The Great White Icicle” (WI 3, 4p), eventually my judgement won over, and we headed for Brit’s hot tub and a fun little jam session with a few other folks.

Thinner than it looked.

Thinner than it looked.

Sarah isn’t as into backcountry skiing as I am, but fortunately she’s got some great friends.  Matt C, Hasen, Tyler, and Matt X, thanks so much for letting me join the fun.  It was dumping powder in the Wasatch, and while that pushed us on lower angle slopes, we still had an amazing day of skiing.  Sarah had lunch on the table when we rolled home, and suddenly my cello was in hand while Matt C sang Talking Heads.

Doing due diligence in the avy pit.

Doing due diligence in the avy pit.



Christmas Eve finished cooking a stellar meal with Sarah, then a small gathering of friends hosted by one of her former professors.

My drive home featured dry roads, and clear skies, so the hours passed quickly. Even with all of the outdoor sports centered in Salt Lake, I’ve spent very little time there.  With friends like these, I suspect I’ll be back soon.

Somewhere south of Dillon, MT.

Somewhere south of Dillon, MT.


Despite a dismal forecast on Saturday, I coerced Ky into heading out to check on ice conditions in Finley Creek, just north of Missoula.  Last year, this area provided an important training ground for getting regular time on my tools.  It’s been really warm this fall and while I was hoping the north aspect would hold at least semi-formed climbs, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  The photos tell it all-


The black streak is where the GrainEater is supposed to be- taken yesterday December 2, 2012.

This is the GrainEater in early season, but fully climbable conditions- taken Nov. 27, 2011.

This was taken from the same vantage point (approximately), on Nov. 27, 2011.  While this is thin compared to what the climb would be, it was fully climbable at this point in the season last year.

There was almost no trace of ice in Finley Creek on Sunday- a few wisps of ice hinted at the location of the climbs, but nothing that even resembled a “route”.  It seems reasonable to say that we are 3-4 weeks behind last season in route growth.  We spent most of our time hiking in a 40 degree rain storm.  Ski conditions are marginal, and “unseasonably warm” almost seems like a misnomer because it’s hard to be sure what season we are actually in.  It sure seems like the planet is telling us something.


Several hundred vertical feet and a two miles up the canyon we finally found some semblence of winter, but only barely. I made it to the lake in trail running shoes.

Whether or not there is ice in the hills around Missoula in December isn’t alone an indicator of climate change- I won’t pretent that for a minute, but with plenty of other evidence around, it seems plausible there might be some connection to my little backyard ice playground.  The lack of societal concern about climate change is thoroughly frightening to me.

Last night I saw a I saw a short piece from the Rachel Maddow show that aired just after the elections last month (really, click the link).  I couldn’t agree with her more.  For all the junk science, and political posturing we’ve been exposed to, and which I’ll try not to propagate here, I think she hits the nail on the head- “There are real problems in the world. There are real knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there.”

(Ed. note- This was not the post that I had aspirations of writing, but I wanted to get the photos up.  More on this train of thought hopefully later this week)

Valdez – Prelude

After a healthy night of travel, sleep deprived ranting, and driving through more than a few avalanche zones, we’ve arrived safely in Valdez, Alaska. This place does not disappoint. Full photos will be included in the final trip report but today was a warmup. Two 90m pitches of WI2-4 provided an enjoyable introduction to the area. Perfect weather, partners, and place to crash in an unbelievable setting- not much more I could ask for… Tomorrow should be big.