March 31, 2008

Winter in the Lost River Range

Ten days ago, Scott, Mike and I climbed the Northwest Ridge of Peak 11,308. This peak sits just Southwest of Borah Peak and boasts a couple of the finest mixed lines south of the Canadian Rockies. The weather was clear and cold, and there was no mistaking the fact that Spring had NOT sprung in the Central Idaho mountains.
Although the ridge is not technically difficult, don't be lured into thinking it is an easy objective. The ridge requires mountaineering skills, knowledge of avalange terrain and conditions, route-finding skills, and the ability to negotiate the knife-edge ridge while maintaining your composure. The ridge is wildly exposed which makes it quite possibly the most aesthetic ridge climb I have ever done.
Views of Borah, Sacajawea and Mt. Idaho are impressive along the full length of the climb.
We encountered mixed conditions and spent an hour or more slogging through the sugar snow of the lower ridge. At times we were chest deep in the loose powder, and had to worm our way over steep steps and around gnarly trees that reached their branches toward us like something out of a J.R.R. Tolkein novel!
Once we attained the upper ridge (above tree line) the exposure became even more dramatic. Large snow bowls line both sides of the serrated ridgeline and hold HUGE amounts of snow, hanging precariously above gigantic avalanche chutes. At one point, we were forced to drop off the ridge for about 50 feet and ascend the very top margin of one such snow bowl. As we sunk to our waist in the soft powder, our hearts skipped a beat and tense moments ticked away to the rhythm of our punding hearts...we waited...hoping our footsteps hadn't triggered an avalanche. Then, clinging to the rock wall of the ridgeline that loomed above us, we pressed on and again regained the backbone of the ridge.
A series of false summits made it evident that we still had a long way to go. The summit view was definitely worth the effort and we spent an hour on top eating high fat foods and taking photos. When we couldn't stand the extreme cold any longer, we descended. The radiant heat beating off the limestone wall was a welcome sensation. We took 12 hours from car to car, a little slow given the length of the ridge, but not bad considering the depth of the snow.
Experienced mountaineers have wisely backed away from climbing this dramatic ridge. We felt a true sense of accomplishment in having reached the summit and, most importantly, getting back to the car safely.
Our hope is that the mixed climbing on 11,308 is in fat condition in another 2 weeks. Even if it's not, this trip marks only the beginning of great adventures in the gem known as the Lost River Range!

February 19, 2008

The Question is..."Why?"

Since man first started climbing mountains and rocks with the objective of getting to the top, the question has loomed, "Why do you climb?" I too have been asked that question countless times. My answer has always been the same. The difference between me and George Mallory, when asked why he attempted to climb Mt. Everest said, "Because it's there" is that I don't have a snappy one-liner to answer with.
I've climbed alot of things that are "there". And so have alot of other people. For me climbing has become a definition of who I am. I'm not a world famous climber and I certainly can't climb as hard as my good friend Dean Lords. But ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I'm a climber. Not just on weekends, but always. It's the core of who I am and it defines my life.
I returned Sunday from the Cody Ice Festival and had a few days of great times and got to do some great ice climbing. Ultimately, the trip reaffirmed for me the reason that I climb. There is a comradery that develops between climbing partners that is inexplicable. The collective drive to accomplish something great and the battle of men versus nature creates a condition that can't be explained, it can only be experienced.
Walking off of "Stringer" (WI 3+, 160 meters) on Saturday, I walked away from possibly the best lead climb I've ever pulled off on the ice. What made it so special was sharing it with my friends. Together we hiked endless miles in waist deep snow and scaled beautiful curtains of blue-green ice. The experience was the payoff. The journey was the reward. I climb because climbing offers an experience that can't be faked, can't be mimicked, can't be replaced.
Sharing the experience with friends is priceless! And this weekend was no exception.

February 11, 2008

I'm Finally Back!

Below "Right Ghost" Teton Canyon, Wy. (WI 5-)

It probably seems like I dropped off the face of the earth. In a sense I kind of did, at least metaphorically. Since climbing in Mexico, I've spent some time helping my buddies finish the construction of the climbing wall at Sticks & Stones; done alot of hoursework, and made yet another attempt to summit Diamond Peak's East Ridge during the winter.

My friend, Keith Larson, who has joined me on Diamond before, commented that after spending 2 days skiing 6 miles towards the base and six miles back out, "I now understand the difficulties of climbing in the Lemhis during the winter!"

Keith decided that making a winter approach in the Lemhi's was such a daunting task, that he needed to head to Norway and spend some time working as a dog sled guide to recuperate.

Three weeks ago I had a series of surgeries to fix my nose (from the multiple times it has been broken), drill out my sinuses, remove my tonsills and hopefully cure my affinity for strepthroat infections.

Although the surgery went well, I blew an artery in my throat that landed me back in the OR for another surgery to repair the broken artery. I lost nearly 1 liter of blood (that's 1/3 of my total blood supply) and the Surgeon attributed the fact that I didn't need a blood transfusion to my high-altitude climbing!

Now I'm back in the game, for the most part, and anxious to get back on the ice. The end of this week will find me climbing at the Cody Ice Festival in Cody, Wyoming with Dean, Scott, Mike and Chad. Stay tuned for updates and some cool photos.

Be sure to leave some comments and let me know what you do or don't like about the blog. If there's something you'd like to read about or see added, just let me know.

In the meantime, get out there and create your own ultimate expedition - life!

The Ultimate Expedition

We take many side trips during our journey through life, but remember, your life is unique and the outcome each day is up to you. Find greatness every step of the way as you undertake the ultimate expedition - your life!