Hyalite, Dec 15-19
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Hyalite Ice Climbing

December 15-19, 2004

After skipping Hyalite last season, I was determined to get back this year. I recruited early and hard. In the end we were a group of four: Fern, Kellie, Chris, and me.

The initial plan was to go December 8-12. Warm early season temps forced Barrel Mountaineering to move their annual ice festival, and of all weekends they chose December 11-12. Not wanting to endure the additional crowds, we bumped back one week.

We meet at my place on Wednesday the 15th. Fern drive down the night before, and Kellie and Chris were right on time. We drive away from my house at 8:28 AM.

Once again, the drive was painless, and even after stopping for dinner at McKenzie River Pizza in Missoula, we arrive at the Royal 7 Motel ten hours later, at 7:30 PM local time.

Gear is unloaded into the room and the alarm debate begins. We'd decided earlier to start on the two Upper Greensleeves climbs. Chris and Kellie had recently been to the Canadian Rockies, but Fern and I are feeling rusty and want to ease in.

The alarm wakes us at 5:00 AM. We through the gear into the car and head off to Perkins for breakfast. There we learn that a post-6:00 AM arrival would have allowed us to eat off the bargain menu. Fully greased-up and caffeinated, we head off in the dark to discover our fate with "The Road".

It is, thankfully, quite tame. But this means that it's still dark when we arrive at the lot. This doesn't help my standing with my partners, as I was the one campaigning for the early start. Still, by the time we make ready, it's dawn and we head up toward Genesis 1 and the Diversions. We find them to be in good shape, but continue over to Greensleeves anyway.

The last and only time I went to Greensleeves was my very first day at Hyalite. On that day we arrived too early at the lot and ended up standing at the base of a poorly formed G1 in the pitch dark. We ended up looking for, and finding, Greensleeves mostly in the dark. For this reason, I'm slightly worried about my ability to navigate back to it without meandering around. A slight track, and returning memories save us from mucking around and soon we're tromping up the gully to the base of the routes.

Fern and Kellie take the left side, while Chris and I go left. I feel GOOD swinging the tools again. Chris leads and takes the left finish, which I dub the "Tarzan" finish for the last 15 feet through trees, roots, and shrubbery.

We rap off and take a shortcut over to the left side, where we are promptly informed that our shortcut, which avoided a short approach step was "cheating". Duly admonished, we walk back to our side, scrog down, and then solo up to the tree just below the short, but steepish finish. Fern and Kellie are just rapping down when we arrive.

I take the lead, clip the fixed hear at the top, and Chris lowers me off. Then he takes a TR lap and lowers back to the tree.

"That was short but stiff, Loren."

"Yes. I hear that often."

And so began one of several jokes that threaded their way through the remainder of the trip.

We rap from the tree and arrive back at the packs before Fern and Kellie. Two other climbers come up from below.

"Is this Upper Greensleeves?"


"Oh, man. We climbed lower Greensleeves, and then traversed over too many gullies. We've been wandering around for a couple hours."

We swap some beta: They fill us in on Lower Greensleeves, and we help them sort out the Upper options. In short order Fern and Kellie arrive. Kellie had led the right-hand (non-Tarzan) finish- a nice stout first lead of the trip for her. We eat a bit and the downslofg the gully and walk back over to G1.

One party has two TRs setup already, and very graciously offers to share them with us. I trail a rope up a steeper line, and then drop it back down on a third route. Altogether we now have enough ropes to TR all the lines except those on the far right. We spend the rest of the day blowing out our forearms on tope ropes. I get a hard reminder of my current state of fitness and strength when I hang repeatedly on the "Curtain" route, which I TR'd cleanly two years ago. Oh-well, lots of room for improvement.

When we're all through trashing our upper bodies we make the short walk back to the car and abuse our livers with beer from the cooler.

Kellie whips up a killer pasta dish for dinner. We all agree that it's great, but there is some debate on pronunciation. The Americans in the group insist that it has a long "a", like "rah". The lone Canadian has the wild idea that it is supposed to be a short "a", like in "has". But we've had more to drink and shout her down.

With that settled we talk about the objective for Friday. "Dribbles" is chosen. We drift off to sleep early, after some quality TV selected by Fern, and some manic channel flipping courtesy of Chris.

For the second night in a row I am accused of snoring perhaps not quietly. Fern and Kellie both wake me up a couple times, though Chris snoozes right on through. Though that is, to 5:45 when I wake up to discover that I've slept through three alarms on my watch and the clock radio, which was mysteriously disabled. We quickly pack, though Fern is ready first, as usual.

Perkins, again. Coffee and grease. The Road. The walk in to Dribbles is not particularly hard, but also not short. Just below the route we are passed by two others. They arrive at the base less than five minutes before us, and are gracious:

"I'm really sorry. You can go first if you want."

Fern, Kellie, and Chris weren't quite there yet.

"Nah, you two will be faster than the four of us. And you got here first."

I'm a pretty firm believer that the first party to the route has earned the right to climb as they see fit. I've been passed a number of times in this way, and I passed other parties, too. I don't however, think this gives a party the right to bash the hell out of a route on TR when others want to lead. Just my opinion.

Anyway, we're getting racked up about the time they are ready to go, and they decide to walk around the first pitch. I am appreciative, and not disappointed.

Chris and I take the first leads. As I walk up to the ice I can't help thinking about Ben Manfredi, who came along on my first trip to Hyalite, and who I'd belayed on this pitch. Ben's natural climbing ability and fitness level were only outshined by his unbridled enthusiasm and his good-natured approach to people and life in general. Tragically, Ben was killed while kayaking in the Fall of 2003. Though I did not know him well, I do miss him, and just writing these words gives me the chills. Cheers to you, Ben.

The first pitch is two short steps with a walk between them. Of course, I can't help but shout out about two short but stiff sections. Beating an already marginal joke into the ground helps distract me from how hard this "easy" pitch feels. I'd already agreed to lead the third, crux pitch. Two years ago it was about my limit. In worse shape, I'm hoping for easier route conditions this go round.

Chris and I make screw belays and Kellie and Fern quickly follow. No one wants to lead the rock pitch that Dave led in 2002, so we take turns up the usual second pitch, with Kellie leading my rope. I follow up and quickly start taking gear so that I can start up the third pitch before I chicken out. I'm about ready to go when Fern's head pops up from below, leading the second pitch on the rope with Chris.

"Hey Fern, you want to strap this one on?"

My ruse fails:

"Maybe. But you can go ahead and go."

Okay, down to business. Thankfully, the easiest line is in, not open and spewing water like the last time. I start up and find decent ice and gear. It's not a give-away for me, but I'm not scared when I look at my harness after placing my third screw and see only three more, two of which I wanted for the belay.

"Damn. I don't have enough screws."

Kellie and Fern look up at me.

"I have a free screw here if you want it, Loren."

I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was tasteless. It serves to lighten the moment for me, and I continue up. I husband the last screw to the base of the last steeper section, then place it and gun for easier ground.

The team of two is just finishing up when I pull over the lip. Way runout, I walk carefully up to the base of the last short pitch, excavate some snow, and build a belay: Two screws with a sliding X, and a slung tool for a third piece. The sun is shining on me now.

Kellie follows in good style and joins me at the belay. Below her I can hear Fern starting up. Kellie takes what I have left of a rack and starts up the (again) short but stiff last pitch. She climbs smoothly and confidently up. Fern arrives on the 50 meter ropes and sets a belay just below me.

"Fern, that pitch was pring."

"Yes. It was very pring."

Then Kellie tops out and it's time for me to stop flapping my gums and climb. I pull the belay and follow up and off the route. Now that I'm no longer afraid of the third pitch I don't want the route to end. But it does. I join Kellie at the belay and we laze around until Fern, and then Chris join us.

Armed with the correct decent beta, we avoid the dead tree rappel followed by the nasty overhanging rappel from twig, and instead make two easy raps from large, stable, alive trees. I even score a booty biner along the way.

Fern is always ready first because her gear is smaller.
Chris hit by ice on day 1.
Lost leashes on my harness.
Fern: Beaver are known to be non-hurting creatures.
Mirror and target juxtaposed with exercising of left hand.
Day 3: Boys rope gunned by chicks with picks. G's down, Ho's Up!
We need to de-frizzle the windshizzle.
"Hey, is this supposed to be open?"
There goes Conrad.
One more swing, one more swing.

This page was last edited on Wednesday, February 23, 2005
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