Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!
Lift Served Water Ice at Snoqualmie Pass
December 31, 2000
Last day of the year. Last outing of the year. Aside from the climbing and getting pregnant (my wife, that is), I am not sad to see 2000 go. It has been a year of frustration, loss, and investment in the future.
But I digress. Today we were seeking a mellow end for the year. Well, a mellow approach anyway. Given the warm days and cool nights we thought that the ice along the Armstrong Express lift at Alpental would be in. As we rode the lift up Jens peered through the snow and fog and couldn't pick out any ice. Hmmm.
We skied down from the top of the lift to where we could see the ice (gotta love that five minute chair ride and three minute ski!). It was in, but thin. The column hadn't touched down yet and the slab was thin and partly snow covered. But we were determined, so while Jens chopped a nice ledge for us, I grabbed the rope and wallowed up the slope to set up a TR. The trees that seem so obvious from below aren't from above, but after some monkey business, I had lassoed a large cedar and put a directional on a smaller one just to the left of the main pillar. I inspected the route conditions as I rappelled down: Thin, wet, mixed, and overhanging in places. Except for the top few feet, the main pillar was beyond my abilities. Indeed, a few gentle taps on the way down loosed several six to eight foot sections that crashed onto the slab below. Jens encouraged me to minimize the destruction so that he would have something to climb and so that the meager pillar might have a chance to reach the ground this year.
I rapped the rest of the way down and Jens tied on for the first crack. He quickly discovered that the ice on the lower section of the slab, which looked thick and plastic, was really a thin yellow rain crust over snow. He persevered, though, and reached better ice. He kicked up the slab and took a nice rest on the first ledge.
Watching from below, I could tell that the rest of the route was challenging. Jens moved through it, with another rest of the upper ledge. At one point he called out that he was soaked, which I found odd, since I couldn't see any running water. Just as he was pulling to a stance at the top of the climb next to the directional anchor, he cut loose and dropped five or six feet. I hadn't been looking up, as the snow was coming down hard. I caught an unanticipated fall of his for the first time.
"I was there! I was there, just past the directional! I'm okay, I'm going to climb back up."
And he did, in short order. He couldn't close his hands when I lowered him back to our little ledge. A testament to how hard he worked the route.
Then it was my turn. I took a lower line and was able to avoid some of the rain crust on the slab. The climbing was fun: The low angle made it easy, but the thin ice meant that I had to think about placements. This wasn't swing-swing, step-step territory.
I also took a nice rest on the ledge, and even took off my tools to shake out a bit. When I turned to address the next moves, I could see I was in for a challenge. There was a thin pasting of ice in a few places, but not much. Two gentle swings and I started moving up, feet on rock. A nice dry hook with my left tool, a right placement in a hidden pool, and a couple grunts and I was back on the ice, in a lightly running waterfall. So this is where Jens got soaked! I decided to grin and bear it and continued to make deliberate, careful moves. I hooked my tools around opposite sides of a 14" free standing pillar and pulled around and onto the smaller upper ledge. I took a good rest here, tucked in behind the main pillar. Though it was large up that high, the ice was fluted. A couple tentative swings at it resulted in a sickening ringing sound and an unnerving vibration. The thought of the whole mess breaking apart with one of my tools stuck in it ran through my head. I decided to try the wet, drippy, smaller column to the left. The first move went fine, but then my right tool blew and took my feet with it. I calmly (thanks to the top rope) hung there by one tool and reset my right tool, then my feet. Up I went into the branches of the tree with the directional. With no room to swing I was reduced to hooking and groveling. I was able to pull up to a rest stance, then used my picks to make some hooking placements. I worked my feet down, then stemmed across to the large pillar. Left tool around the tree and a right placement into the frozen moss and I pulled up. Whew!
I lowered off and Jens reported that his pump was gone and he was ready to take another lap. And he did, cleanly and without resting on the ledges. The gauntlet down, I also took another lap, pulled the gear, and rapped off.
Two short pitches on TR and I was spent. And I want to climb Drury Falls this year?
We skied back to the car, Jens changed boots and I borrowed some dry gloves. We stopped for a quick hot drink at the lodge, then skied a few runs in Edelweiss Bowl. Then back to the car and home by 4:00. Another great day in the Cascades.
This page was last edited on
Wednesday, February 23, 2005