Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More slack than spray...

I have a confession to make -- of late, I have begun to question my resolve to spray. It seems that each post begins apologetically with regard to the infrequency of my blogging. Perhaps I am not quite the spraylord that I want to be...perhaps renewed dedication is required...perhaps the sidetrack of Facebooking my spray has stolen away from the blog before it even had a chance to pick up momentum. In the end, it's hard sayin' not knowin'...

For the moment, I will adopt a shotgun-style approach to catch up on some back-spray.

The summer season wrapped up nicely after a couple months of touch-and-go weather. I finally made my way back to a favorite hideaway, quasi-secret crag and put an unfinished project to bed. Sticking with the all-things-spooky theme, the latest addition to the Bat Cave is Morticia, checking in at 5.13. It's a short, bouldery affair that's all about power-thrutching and pain management with a climax of fantastic footloose swinging from one side of the cave's apex to the other -- love it.


So what better way to followup a fine, extended sport climbing season then with a shift to some alpine climbing and an early jump on winter conditions? The second week of October found me heading south to the Wind River Range with Craig Pope and gunning for a long-sought after line on the north face of Mount Helen.

The trip was a grand success and the beginning of an excellent partnership. You see, Craig and I had never actually roped up together before tying in half-way up the face. We had crossed paths many times over at the crags in Hyalite Canyon the winter before and had a couple of beers together at various festivals and backyard barbecues, but had never actually gone out as a team prior to this. Needless to say, there's some shared excitement for climbing new routes.

Our new line on Helen gains a little over 3,000' in total with the top 1,200' taking a fairly direct path up the center of the peak's north face. We simul-climbed most of the terrain through 55-60 degree black ice, snow and several m4-5 steps, then belayed a couple of cruxes that stretched the rope out and checked in at m6 and 5.9R.

To both of us, the real beauty in our ascent was relishing how casually we managed to pull it off: leaving camp around noon time and ambling slowly on the approach to shoot video clips, we set off with the intent to acclimate, scout and establish a bootpack on the initial slopes, taking an active rest day in preparation for an early start the following morning. With perfect weather and a fire inside, momentum built...before long we were soloing high on the face and quickly approaching the steep ground above.  The excitement continued to grow, as did our speed, and we road a slingshot of enthusiasm all the way to the top, just in time to catch the sun setting behind the Grand Tetons, as a perfect crescent moon rose in the southeast.

Wrapping up our time in Wyoming with a visit to the Wind River Brewery in Pinedale (highly recommended btw) for some well-earned burgers and beers, we suffered the classic postpartum effect of leaving the experience in the past. While there was much to revel in, our success came too easily and left a bittersweet taste of both joy and disappointment. Fortunately, the two of us are easily excited and the lubricating effects of strong microbrews only aided our stoke as a solution became clear -- this would be our first annual Wind River micro-expedition. Rest assured, we filed away many, many new route possibilities for the future.

Look for the short film La Mirada del la Gitana at bdel.com/journal in the near future for a full and entertaining account of the adventure.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on ticking you longterm project in the Winds Pete...now what?